Even though the Dallas Cowboys have had some roster turnover, a lot of key pieces are still in place for the 2022 season, and they’ve addressed some of their holes through the draft. They remain poised to make another run at the NFC Championship and push towards the playoffs once again.
An Offseason of Change
After a Divisional Round loss to the 49ers ended their 2021 season, the Cowboys lost several starters, including WR Amari Cooper, WR Cedrick Wilson, OT La’el Collins, and OG Connor Williams on the offensive side, and DE Randy Gregory, S Damontae Kazee, and LB/S Keanu Neal on the defensive side, to name a few.
They haven’t done too much in free agency except sign a few players to fill some of the gaps. They signed WR James Washington, DE Dante Fowler, and most recently LB Anthony Barr. The Cowboys will also look to use their rookie class, including OL Tyler Smith from Tulsa and DE Sam Williams from Ole Miss, to step into some key roles.
But enough players have returned to keep the Cowboys a division contender. Dak Prescott returns to lead what was one of the top offenses in the league once again last season, with some of his top-targeted weapons in Ceedee Lamb and Dalton Schultz back. The Cowboys are still powered in the backfield by the duo of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard.
Receiving Room Gets a New Leader
With the departure of their previous No. 1 receiver in Amari Cooper and two receivers still looking to get healthy in Michael Gallup and now James Washington, Dallas should look to get back to its dominant running ways and further utilize the electric Pollard, especially early in the season. The Cowboys are going to rely on their veterans to maintain an efficiency to an offense that finished fourth in the league in EPA per Play and had 40 passing TDs and 15 rushing TDs.
However, last year’s Cowboys had some trouble with penalties that would often derail drives. The biggest contributor was Connor Williams, who led the league with 12 holding calls in 2021. Pair that with the six false starts by Tyler Biadasz (T-2nd in the NFL) and the Cowboys were moving backwards a lot more than they would have liked. With Williams gone, the Cowboys have been looking to fill the hole with first-round draft pick Tyler Smith from Tulsa who, coincidentally, led all of the FBS in holding penalties (12) last season. The Cowboys’ front will need to clean this up to maintain a proper rhythm this season.
Playmakers Headline the Defense
Looking on the defensive side of the field, we saw a true breakout star LB in Micah Parsons, who showed his ability as an all-around backer. He was able to generate a ton of pressure when rushing, as well as show his range against the run and his ability in coverage.
Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has shown that he can mix around his players to get pressure on the QB. The inclusion of rookie Sam Williams, Dante Fowler and now Anthony Barr, along with a healthy Jabril Cox in Year 2, will allow him to scheme up his defensive weapons.
The Cowboys also return their three starting CBs from 2021 in Trevon Diggs, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis. Even though Diggs led the league with 11 interceptions, he also allowed the most yards per game with just over 57. The Cowboys are still looking to tighten up their back end and limit the yards allowed, as that has been their weakness over the past few seasons. We’ll see just how much that holds them back in their quest to get back to the postseason.