Entering the 2020 NFL season, the Dallas Cowboys had great expectations and lots of potential. After a disappointing 8-8 finish and missing the playoffs in 2019, Jason Garrett’s head coaching tenure had finally ended and the Dallas management cleaned house of the entire coaching staff with the exception of offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. Unfortunately, 2020 was a heartbreaking disappointment and Dallas finished 6-10 and again missed the playoffs.
The team was plagued by injuries. Dak Prescott suffered a gruesome ankle/foot injury in Week 5 against the New York Giants putting him out for the season. Ezekiel Elliott‘s performance was anything but acceptable and above all else, the Dallas defense was the team’s biggest frustration, allowing a franchise record of 473 points this season. On top of that, for the first time since 1989, there were no Cowboys voted into the Pro Bowl.
On January 8th, Dallas fired defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, as well as defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. The Cowboys defense only had 31 sacks and forced 23 turnovers. DeMarcus Lawrence only had 6.5 sacks and with the amount of money Dallas is paying him, it’s unacceptable. Allowing an average of close to 400 total offensive yards per game really hurt the team and killed their chances of winning.
What Went Right
CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper were fun to watch. A combined 2,049 receiving yards with five touchdowns each. Michael Gallup and Dalton Schultz both put up respectable performances, although Gallup had a bad habit of dropping too many passes. Despite not having Prescott, Dallas’s offense had nearly 6,000 total offensive yards this season. Andy Dalton was able to throw for over 2,000 yards and finish with 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions. In Dalton’s case, he was finally on a team that was able to provide with an arsenal of weapons.
Surprisingly, Dallas’s passing offense finished in the top ten. Also, the defense’s 23 turnovers allowed them to also finish in the top ten. In addition, Greg Zuerlein‘s 34 field goals made allowed him to finish 3rd in the league. In this particular scenario, despite the team being terrible overall, there was still some positive within its vicinity.
What Went Wrong
The offensive line was a major problem. Tyron Smith played only two games after deciding to have season-ending neck surgery. La’el Collins missed the entire season due to hip surgery. Zack Martin battled various injuries throughout the season, including a stinger, calf, and concussion issues. The injuries to the offensive line left the running game as well as quarterback protection at serious risk.
Elliott’s season was very disappointing. Despite playing 15 games, he failed to rush for over 1,000 yards. On top of that, he fumbled five times, four of which were lost. In addition, his average of 4.0 yards per carry this season is a career-low. Not long ago, Elliott was given a massive contract and since then he has failed to live up to expectations. It’s rumored that the Cowboys could be looking to trade Elliott.
Dallas’s defense had a habit of getting torched on the passing game. They had a hard time getting to the opposing quarterback and could not put pressure. The passing defense’s allowing of 34 touchdowns ties them for third worse in the league. In addition, the defense’s allowing of 2,541 rushing yards put them 31st in the league. Also, the defense had a terrible habit of committing costly penalties.
Team Award Winners
MVP- Amari Cooper
Cooper truly was committed and dedicated to giving the Cowboys his very best despite all the issues going on. He received his large payday last March and this year gave Dallas a respectable performance. Cooper did not make excuses and when he made a mistake, he would find a way to rectify it. He never quit and didn’t stop trying. Unfortunately, his stats don’t put him in any top ten categories this season. However, for the third year in a row, he has been Dallas’ leading receiver. He’s had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and has led the team in catches over the past two seasons.
Offensive Rookie of the Year- CeeDee Lamb
Although he did struggle with drops, Lamb’s rookie season was impressive. The highlight of his rookie season has to be his amazing touchdown catch against the Minnesota Vikings. He played in all 16 games and finished with 74 catches for 985 yards and five touchdowns. He broke the record of most receptions by a Cowboys rookie receiver, which was previously held by “Bullet” Bob Hayes.
Defensive Rookie of the Year- Trevon Diggs
Although he would miss time due to injury, Diggs’ three interceptions were the team-high this season. He was selected in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Six cornerbacks were drafted before he was. Surprisingly, his three interceptions are more than all six of those cornerbacks combined. Diggs finished the season with a 54.2 completion percentage. He even managed to register one sack and force one fumble.
Biggest Surprise- Aldon Smith
After not playing a single snap since 2015 and being suspended for four seasons, the world was convinced that Smith’s career was over. However, much to everybody’s surprise, the NFL reinstated him and Dallas signed him to a one-year deal. The bigger surprise is that he was able to make it through the entire season and playing all 16 games. The stats he put up are the biggest surprise of all.
In Week 1 against the Los Angeles Rams, he had a team-high 11 tackles, including one sack. In Week 3 against Seattle, he managed to sack Russell Wilson three times. Against Cincinnati, he recovered and returned a fumble 78 yards for a touchdown, the longest fumble return for a touchdown since 1999.
Smith would finish the season with five sacks, two fumble recovers, and 48 tackles. His respectable performance is enough for Dallas to sign him to a new deal.
Biggest Disappointment- Jaylon Smith
Another player who got a massive payday and has failed to live up to expectations. Since his amazing season in 2018, Smith has been on a decline and has lacked consistency.
He did lead the Dallas defense in tackles this season, but his habit of getting beat on the field speaks for itself. In addition, his huge lack of discipline has affected his playing abilities. At this point, he’s a liability and Dallas has to do something about it.
His inability to make a strong impact on the defense resulted in fans and critics losing faith in him. It won’t be surprising if he and the Cowboys part ways this off-season.
One Burning Question
Will Ezekiel Elliott Stay In Dallas?
All the talks about Elliott being shipped off are merely rumors. Nothing serious has come out of it. More than likely, Elliott is staying in Dallas and if he does, then 2021 will be a very important season for him. He has a lot to make up for. He needs to prove to the world that he deserves what he’s making because last season he proved that he doesn’t. He’ll need a healthy offensive line that can create open spaces for him to run through. However, he’s going to have to figure out a way to cease the fumbling issues.
If Elliott is able to run the ball effectively and cease the fumbling habit, then he’ll be on the right track. Coming into the 2021 season, Elliott is a player that Dallas fans will have their eyes on, provided he’s not released or traded.
Follow Alex Al-Kazzaz on Twitter @BearManOfTX
Main Credit Image: