The NFL Draft and free agency are in our rearview mirrors. There is very little day-to-day NFL news aside from random minor transactions across the league and conversations about where/when this star or that future Hall of Famer will be traded. The NBA and NHL playoffs are in full swing. Baseball is gearing up for a long, hot summer. The dog days of Summer are upon us. But that doesn’t mean we can’t look down the line at what else the coming summer months hold for us: NFL minicamps and Training Camp.
This leads us to a new feature here on The Grueling Truth – The State Of The League. We will be going over all 32 teams, division by division: their offseason player personnel moves, coaching changes, and projected preseason depth charts. Between the beginning of June and the 3rd week of July (Dallas and Pittsburgh can report to training camp as early as July 21st; Tampa Bay can report as early as July 24th; the rest of the league will be reporting on July 27th), new team reports will be released every few days until the start of training camp. It’s been a crazy offseason, so let’s dive right in with the NFC East, and the Dallas Cowboys.
Dallas Cowboys Pre-Training Camp Projected Depth Chart
|QB||Dak Prescott||Cooper Rush|
|RB||Ezekiel Elliott||Tony Pollard|
|WR1||Amari Cooper||Simi Fehoko|
|WR2||CeeDee Lamb||Noah Brown|
|WR3||Michael Gallup||Cedrick Wilson|
|TE||Blake Jarwin||Dalton Schultz|
|LT||Tyron Smith||Josh Ball|
|C||Tyler Biadasz||Connor McGovern|
|RG||Zack Martin||Mitch Hyatt|
|RT||La’el Collins||Ty Nsekhe|
|DE||DeMarcus Lawrence||Bradlee Anae|
|DT||Neville Gallimore||Osa Odighizuwa|
|DT||Trysten Hill||Dorance Armstrong|
|DE||Randy Gregory||Chauncey Golston|
|LB||Leighton Vander Esch||Tarell Basham|
|LB||Micah Parsons||Jabril Cox|
|LB||Jaylon Smith||Keanu Neal|
|CB1||Trevon Diggs||Nahshon Wright|
|CB2||Jourdan Lewis||Anthony Brown|
|CB3||Kelvin Joseph||C.J. Goodwin|
|FS||Damontae Kazee||Reggie Robinson|
|SS||Donovan Wilson||Israel Mukuamu|
|P||Hunter Niswander||Bryan Anger|
|KR||Tony Pollard||Rico Dowdle|
|PR||CeeDee Lamb||Cedrick Wilson|
Dallas Cowboys 2021 NFL Draft Class
R1 (12th overall): LB Micah Parsons, Penn State
R2 (44th): CB Kelvin Joseph, Kentucky
R3 (75th): DL Osa Odighizuwa, UCLA
R3 (84th): DE Chauncey Golston, Iowa
R3 (99th): CB Nahshon Wright, Oregon State
R4 (115th): LB Jabril Cox, LSU
R4 (138th): OT Josh Ball, Marshall
R5 (179th): WR Simi Fehoko, Stanford
R6 (192nd): DL Quinton Bohanna, Kentucky
R6 (227th): CB/S Israel Mukuamu, South Carolina
R7 (238th): OL Matt Farniok, Nebraska
Dallas Cowboys Free Agent Moves
Dallas Cowboys Offseason Review
Dallas came into the offseason needing to re-sign QB Dak Prescott and upgrade a defense that was unable to stop anyone in 2020. Mission accomplished on both fronts. Dak Prescott and the Cowboys agreed to a four-year, $160 million contract with $126 million in guarantees ($95 million fully guaranteed at signing) back in March. This was the top priority for the franchise, as Dallas was not in a position to draft a rookie quarterback who could make an impact this season (no disrespect to Justin Fields), and Prescott showed just how valuable he is to this team when he got injured and Dallas went from a potential contender to completely irrelevant – in what turned out to be the worst division in NFL history.
New defensive coordinator Dan Quinn (former ATL head coach) will have his work cut out for him this season. He brings a new scheme and fresh approach after Mike Nolan was fired following a very mediocre season on that side of the ball. With the defense needing reinforcements, Dallas signed a bunch of veterans to low-risk 1-year free-agent deals who fit the new scheme and used their first 6 picks of the Draft to bolster the defense at all three levels. Neal and Kazee have been injury-prone, but bring familiarity in Quinn’s scheme from their days in Atlanta, and could find themselves playing key roles throughout the season.
The veteran additions of Basham, Watkins, and Urban in free agency add rotational depth to the front seven, while draftees Parsons, Odighizuwa, Golston, and Cox add youth, athleticism, and versatility. Parsons was the key addition to this defensive rebuild, however, and should step in immediately as an upgrade to a talented, but inconsistent linebacking group. Parsons is big (6’3, 245lbs) and his athleticism is truly elite (4.39 40 yard dash, 34-inch vertical, and bench pressed 225 pounds 19 times). Even though he opted out of the 2020 season, his 2019 tape showed a player with immense potential, sideline to sideline playmaking ability, and scheme versatility to play inside or outside. If healthy, Parsons/Smith/Vander Esch could be one of the best young linebacking corps in the NFL.
Dallas needed to add a starting-caliber corner in the worst way, and their intentions to select Patrick Surtain II in the first round of the Draft was one of worst kept secrets of the offseason – with many online mock drafts (mine included) slotting the former Alabama standout to the ‘Boys at 10th overall. Those plans changed when Surtain got selected by Denver one pick ahead of Dallas, forcing them to trade down a couple of picks and regroup. Parsons isn’t a bad consolation prize, but Dallas also missed out on versatile safety Trevon Moehrig in the second round, forcing them to go with plan B again and select athletic cornerback Kelvin Joseph from Kentucky. He is very raw and had some off-the-field concerns coming into the Draft from his days at LSU, but at Kentucky’s pro day, Joseph put his athleticism on display when he ran a 4.34 40-yard dash, logged a 35-inch vertical and a 10-foot, 8-inch broad jump. Dallas hopes he can shore up the outside spot opposite last year’s 2nd round pick Trevon Diggs.
All in all, it was a solid yet unspectacular offseason for the Cowboys. Re-signing Prescott absolutely had to be done, but we shall see if the additions to Dallas’ terrible defense will be enough. The individual talent is there at all three levels of the defense, but the talent wasn’t the issue last season; will reinforcements and coaching/scheme change fix the problem? I’m sure Dallas would’ve loved to add more talent on the offensive line and add more premier defensive talent, but the NFC East is definitely winnable, and they have one of the best offenses in the entire league. The offense will carry this team, but how much this rebuilt defense improves will be the difference between a playoff run and another disappointing season.