Getting To Know The Dallas Cowboys
The Los Angeles Chargers kicked off their 2021 season with a victory against the Washington Football Team. There were several positive takeaways, which you can read about from my colleagues on this site. This week, the Chargers take on another NFC East team in the Dallas Cowboys. This time, the Chargers will be at home for their first-ever regular-season game at SoFi Stadium WITH fans in the stands. It should be an electric atmosphere and game. That being said, let’s dive into the Chargers’ week two opponent.
2020 Season In Review
The Cowboys 2020 season was one marred by injuries and resulted in the team winning just six games, despite playing in the worst conference in the league. While fans of the Cowboys will get no sympathy from Chargers fans, the reality is that no team in the NFL is truly capable of dealing with the kinds of injuries Jerry Jones’ team did last year. Dak Prescott, Tyron Smith, La’El Collins, and Travis Frederick all sustained season-ending injuries pretty early on in the season.
Losing your starting quarterback, left tackle, right tackle, and center before you even got to your bye week would cripple every team in the league. Smith’s backup Cameron Erving also sustained a season-ending injury early in his season, as did tight end Blake Jarwin. Injuries got so bad at one point for the Cowboys’ offensive line that All-Pro guard Zack Martin had to kick outside to tackle.
All of this is before we get to their hiring of Mike McCarthy and trying to get his culture and systems in place amidst a national pandemic. Needless to say, the Cowboys season was a disappointment, but there were some good moments at the start of the year. Particularly from Prescott who looked like he was going to shatter the NFL’s record for most passing yards in a season. Obviously, the Cowboys will hope that they are able to stay healthier in 2021.
Key Additions And Departures
The two biggest departures for the Cowboys from last year’s team are Frederick and veteran linebacker Sean Lee, both of whom retired following several injury-plagued seasons. Outside of those two, they really only lost depth pieces such as backup quarterback Andy Dalton, cornerback Chibode Awuzie, safety Xavier Woods, and their swing tackle in Erving. They also released defensive end Aldon Smith.
There weren’t any earth-shattering free agency deals for the Cowboys this year, which makes sense given the premium contracts of their core players. Keanu Neal was the biggest name and he is making a bit of a position change for them, as he’s been taking on the safety/dime-backer role for them. They also signed Malik Hooker, who is still working his way back from injury, and Jayron Kearse to provide depth on the back end.
Linebacker Micah Parsons, corner Kelvin Joseph, defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa, defensive end Chauncey Gholston, corner Nashon Wright, and linebacker Jabril Cox make up the core of their 2021 draft. Parsons is the lone starter right now, but the rest of that group should see a lot of time this year for a defense that was one of the worst in the league last year.
The biggest addition the Cowboys made this offseason was to bring over Dan Quinn as their new defensive coordinator after he was fired mid-season by the Falcons. Quinn is another Pete Carroll disciple and was the defensive coordinator the year the Seahawks won the Super Bowl. As such, he will be bringing a scheme to Dallas that is rooted in the Cover Three principles that Chargers fans are very familiar with from the Gus Bradley days, although Quinn is not afraid to blitz. The Cowboys will (likely) be without their two best edge rushers this weekend, which means we could see Parsons line up as a blitzer even more than we did against the Buccaneers.
The Cowboys are already being hit by injuries and have had their fair share of Covid cases, but as long as Prescott is able to stay on the field the Cowboys should be considered the favorites to win the NFC East. I thought Washington had a legitimate chance to repeat this year, but now they’ll be without Ryan Fitzpatrick for the rest of the season.
The defense will take its lumps again this season, but Quinn is a legitimate upgrade at defensive coordinator and at the very least should have his unit playing fast and sound fundamentally. Parsons and Trevon Diggs are the future of the defense and their development will be the key thing to focus on this season now that Lawrence is out for quite a while with a broken foot.
They have tough road matchups with the Chargers, Patriots, Chiefs, and Saints but other than that their schedule is fairly manageable. Even with all the issues, the defense will have this year, Prescott and company should be able to keep the team afloat in the win/loss column.
History Against The Chargers
Much like with the Washington Football Team, there isn’t a huge history between the Chargers and the Cowboys. They have only played each other eleven times, with the Cowboys holding the edge with six wins. The Chargers have won the last three matchups, however. The last one coming on Thanksgiving Day four seasons ago, a game Chargers fans are sure to remember fondly.
Keenan Allen put on an absolute clinic that day and dominated with 11 catches for 172 yards, and a touchdown. The Chargers’ defense frustrated Prescott all game long, coming away with two interceptions – one of which was returned for a touchdown by Desmond King. The Chargers won 28-6, moving them to 6-6 on the season.
— Chat Sports (@ChatSports) November 23, 2017
This is a matchup that I have had circled for a while simply due to the high-profile nature of it. Although it’s not a national broadcast per se, it is CBS’ game of the day with Tony Romo and Jim Nantz on the call. There will be a lot of eyeballs on this game, and it’s a great opportunity for the Chargers to really show the country what they are made of on a big stage.
Brandon Staley and company know the Cowboys’ offense presents some unique challenges, and while I have faith in what the Chargers are building defensively, this will be a big test for them. I felt like this was a matchup the Chargers would be able to win even before the news came out that Randy Gregory and Lawrence weren’t going to play, but Prescott will be able to keep things very close. I’m taking the Chargers in this one, 31-27.