Writer: Jameson White
Dallas Cowboys fans, including myself, have been saying for what seems like an eternity, “this is our year, we’re gonna win the Super Bowl this year.” With such an illustrious history as a franchise, for reasons such as numerous Hall of Fame players and coaches, tied for the league most with eight Super Bowl appearances, incredible plays and moments, to having it become the most valuable sports franchise in the world, this statement is said rightfully so. However, in recent years, mediocrity and infamous moments have consistently led the Cowboys to first round playoff exits or not making the postseason at all; Dallas hasn’t sniffed the NFC Championship game in over twenty years. This year, though, feels different.
1. Dak Prescott has emerged as a should-be MVP candidate. He is playing absolutely out of his mind right now, as he has gone over a month without throwing an interception, and in that time has passed for five touchdowns and ran for another two scores. Dallas’ receivers are there for explosive and safe plays, with multiple reliable targets. If Dez ever gets back to the Dez that earned him such a large contract prior to the 2015 season, watch out. More importantly, however, with Dak showing a natural ability leading this offense, it will help ease burden in the backfield, now that Ezekiel Elliott has been suspended again.
2. The Offensive Line is back to their dominant ways. After a slow start to the season, Dallas’ vaunted offensive line has been back to their fearsome ways. Travis Frederick is the best center in football, and it helps tremendously having a smart leader of the O-line that can make calls for different defensive fronts, taking some pressure off of a young quarterback like Prescott. Zack Martin has to be a top two guard in the National Football League, as he has been since his first professional season in 2014. Tyron Smith, the 6’5” left tackle who has vines for arms can instill fear in any opponent; the dude is 320 pounds and looks as though he was chiseled out of granite. In the last couple of seasons he has still been an All-Pro blindside protector, however he has had constant issues with his back. As long as he can keep this under control, the Cowboys still have one of the best in the business watching Dak’s back. Jonathan Cooper and La’el Collins have both been very solid in their new positions, and the continuity of keeping them in the starting lineup has helped the entire chemistry of the offensive line. With them being so dominant, it has allowed Dallas as a team to rush for over 130 yards in each of their last five games.
3. With Elliott’s suspension, he will be back in time for the playoffs. If Dallas can survive these next six games without Zeke toting the football, he will be back and fresh in time for the postseason. This will be crucial, as having a smash-mouth football team can be taxing. However, if the focal point of that offense is well rested, he can be back and making those home run plays in the games that matter most.
4. There are finally players that can strike fear into an opposing offense. What has seemed to hold the Cowboys back year after year has been their defense. Even with a great defensive coordinator like Rod Marinelli, who consistently gets the best out of his players, talent was needed. That talent however, has come from their own players. You could make a case that Dallas has the best defensive line in all of football, as they have the players to have a “war daddy” rushing from different spots along the defensive front. Demarcus Lawrence is only a sack behind the league lead in that category and has been crushing offensive tackles since the first game of the season. Until this last week against the Chiefs, he had at least one sack in every game, and in the game against Kansas City he was being double teamed, yet still wreaking havoc on the Chiefs offense. David Irving has been a monster since rejoining the team from suspension, as he has 5.5 sacks in three games. Tyrone Crawford, at the start of the season, was moved out to defensive end and has been among the team leaders in sacks. Even after having such an intimidating front four, there is still a key player that hasn’t been mentioned yet; that player is Sean Lee. He is the heart and soul of the defense, and when he remains healthy, there is not more than two or three ball-hawking linebackers in the entire league that are better than him. He reads plays in a generational talent type of way, and he makes the entire defensive squad better. The Cowboys also have a young but athletic secondary, and even though the defense as a whole is not dominant, they have players and a unit who, after all these years, can carry their own weight.
It remains to be seen how Dallas will manage without their work-horse running back for the next six games, and how the rest of season plays out with their other division opponents. If they can overcome this adversity to make it to the postseason, the Cowboys could be in for a DEEP run. They have the talent on both sides of the ball to win games, and finally be their year.