December 5, 2021

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Can the Dallas Cowboys prioritize offense and win?

2 min read
Predicting 2020 All-NFC East defensive team


When the Dallas Cowboys finally signed quarterback Dak Prescott to a multi-year contract, it represented a commitment to offensive continuity.

Added to Prescott were the salary conversions of offensive linemen Zack Martin, Tyron Smith, and La’el Collins, the re-signings of wide receivers Cedrick Wilson, and Noah Brown, and the free-agent signing of swing tackle Ty Nsekhe.

Those offensive moves guarantee that the Cowboys look virtually the same as they expected the 2020 season to begin. It bets on the idea that Dallas already possesses one of the best offenses in the NFL.

That belief was shared by Pro Football Focus just ahead of the 2020 season. Prior to last season’s kickoff, PFF published their pre-season ranking of all 32 offenses. They ranked the Dallas Cowboys third.

It is almost certain that defense will now be the priority for the Cowboys in the 2021 NFL draft. The attempt to strengthen the defense in free-agency has followed the recent trend of an attempt at “value signings.”

Since March 9, Dallas has re-signed defensive linemen Ron’Dell Carter and Antwaun Woods, defensive backs C.J. Goodwin, and Jourdan Lewis, and added free agents Tarell Basham (OLB), Brent Urban (DE), Carlos Watkins (DE), and Keanu Neal (SS/LB).

The question that remains to be answered is whether such an approach can position the Cowboys as a Super Bowl contender? How formidable does the defense have to be if a team possesses a high-octane offense?

Recent history seems somewhat mixed on that question. Taking the most recent champion, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as an example,  it seems that very good AND balanced is the right recipe.

Taking points-per-game as the measuring stick, the Bucs finished second on offense and fifth on defense in the NFC. If total yards-per-game is substituted, they finished fourth on offense, and fifth on defense.

The previous year’s champion was something of a different story. It is a story that should give Cowboys fans some hope.

In 2019, the Kansas City Chiefs finished second in points scored, and fifth in points allowed in the AFC. However, they finished ninth in yards allowed, and second in yards gained. I think it would fair to say that they had a great offense and a pretty good defense.

If the Cowboys are correct that they have a very good offense (and I think they are), then the defense doesn’t have to be great for them to contend. But they cannot finish 14th out of 16 teams in the NFC in points allowed, or 13th in yards-allowed-per-game, which was their performance last season.

Super Bowl recipe: Can the Dallas Cowboys prioritize offense and win?