After several glowingly positive articles regarding the Dallas Cowboys, it’s time to look at the alternative.
I mentioned it Sunday but it bears repeating. During this offseason, I’ve been overwhelmingly positive when it comes to my outlook on the 2020 Dallas Cowboys.
Maybe it is due to the breath of fresh air that comes with having a new coaching staff in charge. Part of it, absolutely, is how good the talent is at some very important positions. Knowing how close this team has been a few times over the last five to six years doesn’t hurt either.
Unfortunately, if 2020 has taught us anything, it is that this year does not care about your plans or best intentions. As such, it would be wise to prepare for a doomsday scenario because that would so be 2020, right?
So, what does a worst-case scenario look like for the 2020 Dallas Cowboys? Three things immediately come to mind.
The first is obviously injuries. I’m not going to mention specific injuries but clearly that is one way to quickly derail any hopes for a big year. Oddly, an injury to the starting quarterback, usually a death blow to most teams, would not automatically end the Dallas Cowboys season.
For just the second time in twenty years or so, the Dallas Cowboys have a legitimate backup quarterback. Trust me, absolutely no one wants Dak Prescott to miss any time but if he does, you could do much, much worse than Andy Dalton.
Dalton owns the most passing yards for any active quarterback drafted in 2010 or later. Only Russell Wilson has more touchdowns than he does in that same category and time frame. He is also responsible for 70 wins as a starter in this league.
No, the position that would likely be most affected by an injury would be the offensive line, specifically the interior of the line. Already having to deal with the retirement of center Travis Frederick, another starter missing time along the interior might be too much to ask for the Dallas Cowboys.
Two guys who have never played a snap in an NFL game will be competing to replace Frederick. I don’t think anyone wants to see one of them having to fill in by default for an accomplished starter.
The second thing that could possibly go wrong for the Dallas Cowboys is, ironically, the change in coaching. This team has been doing the same thing offensively for more than a decade. While last year’s offensive coordinator Kellen Moore resumes that role this season, things will be different.
Will this team, with an abbreviated training camp and no preseason games, be slow to adjust to the differences? With the Rams, Falcons, and Seahawks up first, two of which occur on the road, could a slow start put the Cowboys in too deep of a hole to come out from?
I truly believe in Mike McCarthy and his ability to bring out the best in an offense. It is a legit concern though that the offense, reliant upon rhythm and timing could be affected by this adjusted preseason. This, of course, leads us to the final and most legitimate concern.
If there is a likely worst-case scenario for the 2020 Dallas Cowboys it would be the defense failing to hold up the end of the bargain. There certainly are a lot of situations one can come up with that are not far-fetched by any means.
What if Dallas does not find someone else besides DeMarcus Lawrence to consistently pressure the opposing quarterback? What if Leighton Vander Esch does not return to his 2018 form? How does the defense look if Jaylon Smith has plateaued or regresses? What if the secondary struggles and, coupled with a lack of a pass rush, get abused by the plethora of good quarterbacks on the schedule?
If any or all of the above occurs, the pressure on the offense to perform would only intensify. This is truly the most realistic worst-case scenario for the Dallas Cowboys. Even so, it would be hard to imagine this team hitting a complete rock bottom in 2020.
The bottom line is that this team is too talented and the coaching staff is looking to prove a point. There are definitely possibilities for things to go wrong but it less than likely than the alternative. Still, it is 2020, so any optimism feels necessary to be tempered.