Many teams in the NFL are attempting to build quality supporting casts around their quarterbacks to ease the pressure on their passers.
The Philadelphia Eagles added A.J. Brown to lead a deep and well-rounded receiving crew for Jalen Hurts, the Las Vegas Raiders acquired Davante Adams to finally give Derek Carr a true superstar wideout, and the Miami Dolphins dealt for Tyreek Hill to boost the outlook for Tua Tagovailoa.
The Dallas Cowboys, however, did not do the same for Dak Prescott. They got rid of Amari Cooper and only added James Washington, who never met expectations with the Pittsburgh Steelers and was fully unreliable. They’ll continue to lean on the oft-injured Michael Gallup – who may miss the beginning of the 2022 season as he recovers from a significant knee injury – so there could be pressure on rookie Jalen Tolbert to step forward right away. Dalton Schultz – a primary established target at tight end – has been embroiled in a contract dispute as well.
All of these setbacks have lowered the Cowboys’ postseason odds as they aim to reach the playoffs for the second year in a row.
Changes Loom If Dallas Disappoints Again
Lamb and Pollard Could Be Key Performers
Prescott – who has one career postseason win – is expected to lead Dallas back to the playoffs and potentially carry them to the Super Bowl. He is being paid like a franchise quarterback, and so the expectations for him are higher. Unlike Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson, however, he was not able to take his team to glory when he was on his rookie contract.
The Cowboys have not made it past the Divisional Round since winning their last Super Bowl in early 1996, muddling through a quarter-century of underachievement. Dallas fans are losing patience, so there’s a lot of pressure on Prescott and co. to engineer postseason success this year.
Mike McCarthy and his top staffers are on the hot seat, as Sean Payton or Dan Quinn could replace him in 2023. This may also be the final season in Dallas for Ezekiel Elliott, who’s also under the spotlight to regain his better form. Tony Pollard is expected to play a larger role in the backfield this year but is also a free agent after this season. If Prescott does not get the required support from the running game, the team could decide to head in a new direction at RB next season.
Realistically, while Prescott has posted some impressive regular-season numbers in his career, he has not demonstrated that he can hoist the Cowboys to much postseason success. Elliott seems to be past the point of challenging defenses as a true superstar running back, but Pollard could provide more of a spark this year after averaging 5.5 yards per carry last year. If he does, it’s possible he could return as a starter next year, if not the featured running back.
The path has also been cleared for CeeDee Lamb to be the team’s top receiver this season. While he’s just 23 years old, the front office obviously has a lot of confidence in him, and he could be headed for a stellar campaign. He made true progress last year by exceeding 1,000 receiving yards for the first time. He’ll need to find the end zone more frequently after managing just 11 touchdown catches in his first two seasons combined, but his arrow is certainly pointing up.
The Cowboys May Still Not Be Able to Avoid Change
The offensive line is not nearly as good as Cowboys fans have been accustomed to, but it’s adequate, as is the defensive line. The linebacking crew looks strong, of course, and the secondary can be even better if Trevon Diggs does not give seemingly as much as he takes away.
How far Dallas goes in 2022, however, ultimately rests with Prescott. There were no major moves made to improve the team’s outlook in the offseason, and it’s on him and his most important playmakers to elevate the Cowboys to new heights this year.
A run to the Super Bowl seems unlikely, but franchise quarterbacks are hard to find in the NFL, so Prescott will likely be back for Dallas in 2023, regardless of how things turn out this year.
If it proves to be another season of disappointment, however, we could see the supporting cast and coaching staff change around him in significant ways.
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