It was a season to forget for Cowboys fans as they missed out on the playoffs for the second year in a row. Coming into the season, the Cowboys were the overall favorites to take the division and even make a run to the Super Bowl.
Also, with the signing of Super Bowl head coach Mike McCarthy, he brought in new defensive coaches to try to help the issues of the Cowboys’ defense from the season before. With injuries all throughout the team plus players being forced to sit out due to COVID-19, the Cowboys had a bad season which led them to miss the playoffs.
Many factors went wrong for the Cowboys this season. From losing their star quarterback, to defensive struggles, to key starters struggling to perform, a lot went wrong for the Cowboys this season that need to get fixed before the start of next season.
The Defense Needs Improvement
Though the Cowboys’ defense slightly improved during the last few games of the season, it struggled for most of the season. The defense ranked 10th in yards allowed per game with 386.4 and fifth in points allowed per game with 29.6.
New defensive coordinator Mike Nolan did not fix the defensive woes from the previous season. Brought in by McCarthy, many players were not happy with the way Nolan was running the defense. However, it took the defense almost until the end of the season to get used to the new adjustments made by Nolan. Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence spoke about the changes Nolan has made and how he respects the changes he has made to the team.
“I respect Mike as a man because he looked himself in the mirror and he changed some things to make us play faster and helped us play better,” Lawrence said to Inside the Star. “I mean, it was later in the season, but we started to see improvements, and I think it really shined a light on the type of players we are.”
Lawrence also mentioned how it has been a rough season for the whole defense and it was not just Nolan to blame.
“We went through some tough battles at the beginning of the season. Not me personally with Coach, but I’m just saying, in general, as a defense we went through tough battles. When you’re playing with young guys on defense you have to take into consideration that some things that are easy for me won’t be easy for the next person” said Lawrence.
Even when Andy Dalton was getting the hang of things as starting quarterback, the defense still seemed to lose games for the Cowboys. The Cowboys cannot afford to keep losing games because of their defense, When Prescott threw for 502 yards and four touchdown passes against the Browns, they still lost the game because the defense gave up almost 50 points.
Mike Nolan’s future with the Cowboys is still yet to be determined. Sports Illustrated reported that McCarthy will conduct exit interviews with both players and coaches in the following week. From then, we will know if Nolan and other coaches and players on the defense will still have a job with the team, or if they will be let go.
The Offense Did Not Show Their Full Potential
The Cowboys have plenty of talent on their offense that was not shown enough throughout the season. When back-up quarterback Andy Dalton first took over as starting quarterback after the Prescott injury, he was pretty rusty. However, he got the hang of things but struggled to put better numbers up because the lack of help from his offense.
The wide receiver trio of Michael Gallup, Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb were too inconsistent. Ezekiel Elliot also had a poor season while struggling to play without Prescott and with injuries. During the Cowboys four game losing streak, they only totaled 41 points with only two touchdowns.
Each of the three wide receivers only had five touchdown catches each. Between dropping passes and not being able to find the slots for Dalton, neither receiver showed their true talent this season. CeeDee Lamb especially had opportunities to made huge plays that he did not complete.
When the Cowboys offense gets hot, they can be very dangerous. The games against both the Bengals and the 49ers were the Cowboys’ best games for their offense. Andy Dalton got very hot during end of the season, which led him to win three games in a row for the Cowboys.
Th future is still bright for the Cowboys offense. Tight end Dalton Schultz had a great year with four touchdown catches and running back Tony Pollard did a good job filling in for Elliot when he was hurt, ending the season with four rushing touchdowns. The wide receiver trio also began to perform well during the last weeks of the season and they hope to continue that form for next season.
Injury and Contract Negotiations with Dak Prescott
The biggest loss for the Cowboys this season was losing Prescott to a season ending ankle injury during Week 5 of the season against the New York Giants. Dalton then took over and this is when the struggles for the offense began for the Cowboys.
Because of the injury to Prescott, it makes his new contract renewal harder. The Cowboys will have to figure out how to give Prescott a deal while still having enough money in their salary cap to invest in better defensive players.
Everyone would like to see Prescott back in Dallas, especially how horrible it was witnessing the injury to his ankle a few months ago. McCarthy shares details of his rehab recovery as he is making good process after his surgery in October and expects to continue to work with him come next season.
“I’m definitely looking forward to working with Dak full time,” McCarthy said to the Dallas Cowboys. “He’s here every day going through rehab. He’s making progress, and just as you’d expect, he’s going after it full speed. As far as the timeline, I don’t have the specifics on when he’s going to be doing on-the-field work and dates and things like that. I don’t have that for you. But I do know based on the plan for his surgery and what he’s supposed to be doing and where he is, everything is right on course.”
Last summer the Cowboys missed the deadline to give Prescott a deal, as both sides did not come to an agreement in time. This led to Prescott to playing only on a franchise tag of $31.4 million. The Cowboys can again put Prescott on a franchise tag, it just depends if he can make offseason workout and determine how healthy Prescott will be heading into the new season, ESPN reports.
It is safe to say right now it is too early to determine what kind of team the Cowboys will be next season. They can still easily take the division if their defense improves and their offense show their true talent. A lot of work will have to be done by Mike McCarthy to see who will stay on the team, who will leave, and who he would like to bring onto the team to make the playoffs next season.