State of the Dallas Cowboys: Eye on the Enemy check-in

Last year, the Eagles won the NFC East and prevented Dallas Cowboys from doing something no team in the division has done since 2005.

Repeat as division champions.

Entering the 2023 season, it’s the Birds who are at the top of the pile, not only taking over as the alpha dogs of the East, but advancing to Super Bowl as conference champions, something Dallas has not done since 1995.

Now it’s the Cowboys who will look to return a favor.

OK, I suppose the Giants could be contenders too, but we’ll save those for another blog post. Checking in on Dallas here during the NFL’s Dead Zone, we have a pretty good sense of what this team will look like.

Here’s a look at their depth charts, according to Ourlads.

On a recent episode of Eye on the Enemy, I spoke with RJ Ochoa of Blogging the Boys about some of their most impactful moves so far this offseason.

Some of them have been added by subtraction. The release of Ezekiel Elliott and his 3.8 yards per carry. carry average was long overdue, though some Cowboys fans can’t really let go.

But you know it definitely made Jerry Jones shed a tear or two, and saying goodbye to Kellen Moore as offensive coordinator a year after he was hyped as a potential head coaching candidate is being hyped in Dallas as a way for the team to reinvent himself on attack.

They desperately needed to add another threat on the outside, and they did so by bringing wide receiver Brandon Cooks aboard for just a 2023 5th-round pick and a ’24 6th-rounder, a player Ochoa believes could be the No. 2 complement to Cee Dee Lamb they simply couldn’t find after trading away Amari Cooper prior to last season.

“He’s finally an answer, an admission that they were wrong. He relieves the pressure, not just on Jalen Tolbert, but on Michael Gallup, and now you’re another year removed from the Gallup torn ACL. And even if he doesn’t is a Super Bowl winner, he’s someone who’s done it and played with elite quarterbacks.”

The Cowboys pulled off another great trade trading cornerback Stephen Gilmore for just a compensatory 5th round pick. While not the mega-star he once was, Gilmore can still cover and, paired with Trevon Diggs, gives them perhaps the best cornerback duo in the league outside of Philadelphia.

“If you put together a depth chart, he’s CB2, but part of it is he’s the elder statesman. I’m well aware of his past, I wasn’t aware of the incredible respect he had in the NFL. When that trade happened , every Cowboys defender was over the moon and walking on water because this happened.”

Re-signing linebacker Leighton Vander Esch to a two-year, $10 million deal and safety Donovan Wilson to a three-year, $24 million contract secured two key spots on defense for not much money. And maybe the Cowboys aren’t done making a splash in free agency!

Most analysts found the Cowboys draft to be a “mixed bag,” although Ochoa notes that adding defensive tackle Mazi Smith in the first round will likely improve a shaky run defense.

“The hope and belief is that Mazi Smith is going to be that guy. He wasn’t somebody that any Cowboys fan thought was a realistic option if you looked at mock drafts. It was a bit of a surprise pick, but this is a team that who has talked for a year and a half about getting tougher. We all know how formidable the Eagles are running the ball, and you recognize that the top teams have a great offensive line and can run the ball, and Dallas just got by with defensive tackles, and they haven’t used a first round pick on a defensive tackle since 1991! This is finally their primary resource at the position.”

Dallas will try to ease the loss of tight end Dalton Schultz with Michigan second-round pick Luke Schoonmaker.

So where do things stand now? Pro Football Focus recently released their 2023 roster rankings and ranked the Eagles at No. 1, but Dallas wasn’t far behind at No. 6 overall, with the third-best roster in the NFC. The biggest weakness, according to PFF? The quarterback.

Dak Prescott suffered through arguably his worst season as a pro in 2022. He led the league in interceptions despite missing five games with injury. He posted a mediocre 68.2 passer grade for the year and made more turnover plays than big throws. Prescott was inconsistent when healthy outside of two standout performances against overmatched Chicago and Tampa Bay teams. Dallas lacked weapons last year, but Prescott needs to be better if the team is going to make a championship run in 2023.

Ochoa says Prescott may be respected by Philly fans more than his own home base.

“I think on the surface, trolling and all, Eagles fans like to hate Dak, but if you hooked everyone up to a lie detector test, more Eagles fans would respect Dak’s game than Cowboys fans. There’s just a number that don’t think he’s worth it. Heavy is the head that wears the crown at the Dallas Cowboys QB position, and that’s just what comes with it.”

As for the overall outlook, Ochoa believes Cowboys fans are in a better place now than they were a year ago.

“This time last year it was nothing but vitriol. Last year it was doom and gloom, nothing but ‘this team stinks, how could you do this?’ The Amari Cooper trade was the face of the dysfunction. Now I think people really feel heard as a fan base, the Cowboys made a number of acquisitions during the offseason that were met with plenty of approval not only among Cowboys fans and supporters, but throughout the NFL community (and perhaps among Eagles fans). I think Cowboys fans are really pleased. Considering it’s only June, people are about as happy as can be.”

We’ll see how long it lasts.

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