Dallas Cowboys: 5 players that must step up in 2021

Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /
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Damonae Kazee, Atlanta Falcons
Damontae Kazee, Atlanta Falcons (Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) /

1. player. 123. . . . Damontae Kazee - S

Finally, the Dallas Cowboys put their money into a safety. It has been far too long since America’s team had someone reliable on the back end. While Xavier Woods did look promising, his poor mentality prevented him from progressing.

To combat the poor play and Woods leaving this offseason, Jones signed two safeties familiar to Dan Quinn. They are Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee.

Both are safties that played under Quinn with the Atlanta Falcons. Both have thrived, with Neal repeatedly eclipsing 100 tackles and Kazee leading the NFL in interceptions once. It is the latter that has a more difficult task at hand and must exceed expectations.

The Cowboys are prone to giving up big plays. That was due to the aggressive scheme last season and the sub-par play in the secondary.

Woods struggled mightily in deep coverage, as did Donovan Wilson. Kazee enters Dallas as the go-to deep safety in Quinn’s cover-three defense.

The Cowboys lost one of their top cornerbacks in Chidobe Awuzie, making covering overtop that much more complicated. Adding a corner early in the NFL Draft is likely, but rookie corners don’t always pan out right away. Look at last year’s third-overall pick, Jeff Okudah.

Then again, Kazee didn’t have much help in Atlanta, yet he played well. Maybe he thrives on more responsibility. He will certainly get that with the Cowboys.

The 27-year-old was held to only four games last season with a torn Achilles. While that is a brutal injury, he was healthy enough to get through a workout before signing his one-year contract.

With Kazee stepping up, we won’t need to worry about wideouts Terry McLaurin or Kenny Golladay streaking downfield. If the new Cowboys doesn’t step up, then it will be a long season.

Hopefully, the safety will be able to return to his 2018 form that saw him pick off seven passes and knockdown ten. The turnovers would go a long way on a defense that forced only 22 turnovers last season.

Things are looking bright in the 214. Changes were needed, and the Cowboys made them. Now, it is up to Quinn to pull the defense together, the trainers to keep the players healthy, and those five players to step up.

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A Super Bowl win is within reach. Will this finally be the year Dallas pulls everything together? There are only 25 weeks until we see the start of the 2021 regular season. Get excited, and stay optimistic.