No NFL roster is without a few question marks, especially in June.
Today, the Dallas Cowboys look like contenders on paper.
The team has some extreme strengths, such as interior DL, and offensive weaponry. There are also some unsure or unproven units, like offensive line and secondary respectively. Again, every NFL team has some shaky areas in the pre-training camp.
Some teams never find solutions for said issues, but championship teams get major contributions from players who hadn’t previously been large pieces of the puzzle.
These new or returning Cowboys look to be primed for the type of “breakout” seasons that could put the Cowboys over the top.
Tony Pollard // RB
Is Tony Pollard the most exciting player on the Cowboys offense? Amari Cooper is pretty electric when his body and mind are in good order, but seriously, Tony Pollard brings the juice by the gallon. Elite start/stop skills, balance, breakaway speed. Tony Pollard is the type of player who really draws you to the edge of your seat every time he touches the ball because he is a legitimate threat to the house that thing on any play. 562 scrimmage yards on 101 offensive is a pretty solid bang of the gavel as far as making a case for more snaps in 2020.
Good news for Pollard. New HC Mike McCarthy has a history of playing two-back sets, and the Pollard/Elliott combo proved to be pretty troublesome for defenses in 2019 when deployed. The goal has to be to increase Pollard’s touches, as he has proven to be a huge asset to the offense when utilized. Steal snaps from Zeke, steal a few from the slot guys. A 75% increase in snaps for Pollard ought to have him around the 800 scrimmage yards range, and if they want to just go ahead and double his 2019 snap count, this blogger is all for it.
If given the opportunity, Pollard could be the spark plug for this high-powered Cowboys offense.
Blake Jarwin // TE
Blake Jarwin being such a big-play threat, and playing such a low number of snaps in 2019 was felonious. Gone now is the buddy system (hopefully) that allowed Jason Witten to boat-anchor the offense to the tune of a gaudy 845 snaps (I seriously cannot even type that without shaking my fists at the sky).
Jarwin is TE1 now, and should easily log 700+ snaps after just playing just 434 (38%) a year ago. No, Jarwin is not a great blocker, but neither was the golden year’s version of Jason Witten, and honestly who cares? Plenty of teams, even those with powerhouse offenses operate just fine without a slightly undersized tackle masquerading around in the ’80s numbered jersey.
Keep Jarwin on the field, throw him the football, and let his speed, length, and after catch abilities give seam defenders the blues. If the Cowboys do that, they could very seriously be looking at a Pro Bowl-caliber tight end.
CeeDee Lamb // WR
Strange to put a rookie on a list of breakout candidates, but a player as talented as CeeDee may very well skip the under-the-radar stage and come crashing right through the door. CeeDee Lamb has a skill set possessed by no other player on the Cowboys offense. CeeDee Lamb is a plus athlete, but also a certified tough guy, and the Cowboys haven’t had one of those since Dez Bryant.
In his mind, the ball is his personal possession, and the endzone is home. CeeDee Lamb will tear you apart to get his football and go over, around, or through Godzilla, Thanos, and the Cloverfield monster to get his football home. He’s also a team player who takes pride in getting his nose bloody blocking for his comrades.
Randall Cobb and Tavon Austin are gone and vacate 1,024 offensive snaps. Ventell Bryant and Cedrick Wilson are still with the team, but frankly, they don’t matter. Those two combined for 98 snaps. CeeDee Lamb can have all of those. He won’t log 1,100 snaps, but the point is, they are available. Michael Gallup and Amari Cooper both came up just short of 850 snaps.
Randall Cobb, the Cowboys WR3 last season logged 720. The target for CeeDee Lamb should be somewhere between those two figures. Sprinkle in some special teams electricity, and CeeDee Lamb could have a monster rookie campaign.
Connor McGovern // OL
We don’t know a great deal about 2019 3rd round pick Connor McGovern (missed season with torn pectoral) but we are about to learn quite a bit in a hurry. LG Connor Williams’ late-season ACL tear and C Travis Frederick’s somewhat unexpected retirement put McGovern in a weird 4-way battle with Williams, Joe Looney, and rookie Tyler Biadasz for two spots (LG, C).
The door is wide open, and simply claiming and maintaining a starting job would be a sizeable “breakout” for McGovern.
Dorance Armstrong // DE
Armstrong played just 24% of the Cowboys defensive snaps in 2019 (2 sacks). You can see flashes occasionally, but Armstrong has failed to put it all together to date, and is facing sort of a make or break training camp.
One of the main issues as far as finding snaps for Dorance Armstrong has been that he compares so similarly to Cowboys’ top returning pass rusher Demarcus Lawrence. In Rod Marinelli’s defense, the ends have very distinct and contrasting roles, and the body types sort of have to correspond. Armstrong and Lawrence are much more power/technique rushers with just adequate quickness, whereas the opposite end is expected to be a twitched up corner-turner. Maybe in Mike Nolan’s defense, the focus will just be to get the best 11 players on the field. If Armstrong can prove he is one of the 11, maybe this can be his breakout campaign with extended playing time.
The best thing Armstrong has going for him is a lack of competition. His main competition for snaps opposite Lawrence is two guys who albeit talented, have not played much football in recent years (Randy Gregory, Aldon Smith). The scenario for Armstrong is likely to break out or ship out.
Donovan Wilson // S
Hauling in 4 interceptions and mixing in a few highlight collisions, rookie Donovan Wilson was the darling of the 2019 preseason. An ill-timed high ankle sprain was a major setback, Wilson never got going on defense, and when all was said and done, he finished the year having played under 2% of the team’s total defensive snaps.
In terms of potential playing time, the Cowboys did Wilson a few favors this offseason. The team spent zero draft capital at safety and added only low-cost free agent Haha Clinton-Dix in free agency. The Cowboys also hired defensive backs coach Maurice Linguist who spent time directing Wilson at Texas A&M.
We still don’t know a great deal about Wilson, but the door is wide open for him, and familiarity is on his side.
The Dallas Cowboys have a legitimate shot to make a serious run in 2020, but they will need some production from some unexpected places to turn potential into tangible success.
Featured Image: ---