ARLINGTON — Slowly but surely, the Dallas Cowboys have built themselves into one of the youngest, most dangerous teams in the NFL.
First, the offensive line was rebuilt with the selections of tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederick and guard Zack Martin. Then, Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott were drafted to do extensive damage behind Dallas’ great wall.
Last season, the Cowboys traded for stud wide receiver Amari Cooper, giving themselves a “Triplets 2.0” template. And just for good measure, Jason Witten — one of the greatest tight ends in football history — rejoined the mix just in time for 2019.
But it’s not just the offense that is loaded with Pro Bowl-caliber talent.
Defensively, Dallas possesses perhaps the top linebacking corps in the NFL with veteran Sean Lee and young standouts Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. The combination of athleticism and intelligence among that trio is staggering, to say the least.
The Cowboys also have an elite pass rusher in DeMarcus Lawrence, who was signed to a five-year, $105M deal in the offseason. Dallas also brought in veteran defensive end Robert Quinn to add depth to the D-line, which is rotated heavily by Rod Marinelli in order to keep players fresh.
Coming off a season in which the Cowboys qualified for the playoffs and fell to the eventual NFC champion Rams, expectations in the DFW area are sky high. With Frederick set to return from his bout with Guillain-Barré syndrome, the O-Line looks to return to form as one of the NFL’s top units.
Coaches have also displayed plenty of excitement regarding veteran WR Randall Cobb, who was signed to replace Cole Beasley’s contributions in the slot. Young wideout Michael Gallup is also expected to take on an expanded role after a solid rookie campaign.
Elliott remains one of the few legitimate bellcow backs in the league, but Dallas added depth by drafting Tony Pollard out of Memphis and Mike Weber from Ohio State. Pollard is seen as the perfect complement to Elliott given his pass-catching ability and quickness in the open field.
There are, of course, a few question marks surrounding the Cowboys. How will new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore fare in his role? How many snaps will Witten play? Can the secondary be as effective as it was in 2018?
Those inquiries will be answered in due time, but one of the main focal points will be finding a way to create more turnovers. The more often Dallas has the ball, the more likely it is that the Cowboys will be able to wear out defenses with a steady diet of Zeke, Dak and play-action passes.
Still, it won’t be easy. While the AFC has been viewed as the league’s “JV conference” on occasion, the NFC is comprised of a minefield of solid teams.
The NFC East appears to be a two-horse race between the Eagles and Cowboys for the time being, but the Giants and Redskins have the potential to make noise quickly with youngsters like Saquon Barkley and Dwayne Haskins on the rise.
If Dallas wants to give Witten the storybook ending he deserves, the time to strike appears to be now. Apparently Jerry Jones agrees, as oft-criticized head coach Jason Garrett was not given an extension in the offseason. It looks as though 2019 will be a pivotal year for America’s Team.
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