With sports getting back in full swing, the NFL is right on schedule to begin their season on time. There might not be fans in the stands initially, but we are going to get football on Sundays very soon. That being said, this new series here at Last Word on Pro Football will be focusing on three faces of every NFL franchise. These faces do not include anyone in the front office or coaching staff. Rather, these are the players who are either the best on their team, make the most impact as a leader, or are a fan favorite of the franchise. As the 2020 season approaches, these are the three faces of the 2020 Dallas Cowboys.
Faces of the Franchise: 2020 Dallas Cowboys
The hardest position to play in American professional sports is quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. This undoubtedly makes Dak Prescott the true face of Dem Boyz. He is fresh off signing his franchise tag tender worth $31.4 million. Just a tad more money than the $2 million he made last year. Without signing a long-term contract though, the 2020 season will be another “prove it” year for Prescott.
He will need to mesh with new head coach Mike McCarthy to sustain the type of success he achieved last season. He led the Cowboys to the second highest passing yard total in the league as well as the sixth most points scored. With quarterback guru and offensive mind McCarthy at the helm, look for Prescott to take a step forward. His play should propel him towards the top tier quarterbacks in the NFL, even with a new head coach.
Although Jason Witten is gone, Blake Jarwin will serve as a receiver with potentially better upside in the passing game. He is younger, faster, and a decent route runner. Another upgrade in the passing game will be adding first-rounder CeeDee Lamb to an already talented WR group. Randall Cobb had a down year last season and replacing him with Lamb is more than an upgrade. Lamb has the potential to leapfrog a great player in Michael Gallup and become the #2 option for Prescott. I would not be surprised if throughout the season, Lamb and Prescott develop enough of a rapport where he out-targets Amari Cooper at times.
Prescott will also need to rely on center Joe Looney stepping up because replacing Travis Frederick is near impossible. He played alright when he stepped in for Frederick in 2018 but there was certainly a drop in talent level. With the upgrades on the offensive side of the ball Prescott will have a bevy of different options to choose from. As the true face of the team, the pressure is on Prescott to get the 2020 Dallas Cowboys to the promise land.
As the big money man on the team, and the most talented positional player, Ezekiel Elliott is another face of the Cowboys. Elliott brings energy, intensity, and unrivaled talent to a team that is not short of great players. When Elliott is playing well, it is hard to stop the Cowboys offense.
Having new creativity being inserted by coach McCarthy, look for Elliott to have another good year. When McCarthy was with the Green Bay Packers, he was known to have a pass-first offense. A player like Aaron Rodgers can convince a coach that a pass first mentality is the right option. With a player like Elliott though, McCarthy should change his tune. Great coaches take advantage of the players they have and put them in the right positions to succeed. That is what will happen with Elliott leading the backfield. Even if he sees around the same amount of ground touches, he will be utilized more out of the backfield.
Coming off a somewhat down year, Elliott will be looking to bounce back and thrive this season. Last season, in games where the Cowboys found themselves trailing early, obviously, Elliott could not be used as much. He would still became more active in the passing game, surpassing six or more targets in five separate games. This strategy did not bode well for the Cowboys though. They lost four of those five games. This is evidence that in the past, as Elliott goes, so goes the Cowboys. Maybe some of that will change with a new coach, but it has been proven that Elliott is a key cog in the Cowboys success. If Prescott is the face of the team, Elliott is right behind him as the face of this offense.
Moving over to the defensive side of the ball, Jaylon Smith will wear the green dot helmet and lead the defense to, hopefully, a better year than last season. The Cowboys found themselves competitive in almost all their games but their competitive nature was in spite of defensive play though, not because of it. Dallas was very leaky in the secondary, giving up deep passing plays often. They were also prone to give up chunk plays on the ground. Even though the defense was ranked 11th statistically, they gave up big plays at inopportune times. That is mainly where Smith will need to step up. Smith was one of few bright spots from the 2019 team. He needs to be the face of this defense and repeat his Pro Bowl level play.
Jaylon Smith led the team in tackles by far last season. He will need to keep that up and more for the defense to be successful. He will have some help from DeMarcus Lawrence, young standout Leighton Vander Esch, and Sean Lee. Other newcomers in Gerald McCoy, Ha-Ha Clinton Dix, and Rookie Trevon Diggs should bolster positions with significant losses in free agency.
If Jaylon Smith can lead this defense to a better year than last, the Cowboys have a real shot at making a deep playoff run. A focus needs to be getting teammates in the right pre-snap spots. If he is able to do a better job of this, there will be less gashing plays and more “third and longs.” Smith is the true leader of this defense, even with the other studs mentioned before. If Smith helps the defense play better, and the offense stays prolific, once again, the Dallas Cowboys will be scary.
Embed from Getty Images