Neville Gallimore & The Defense
If the Dallas Cowboys are to bounce back from a miserable 6-10 campaign — their first losing season in five years —they’ll need a drastic turnaround on defense.
Last season, the Cowboys allowed 473 points — the fifth-most in the league — and they ranked 23rd in total defense (6,183 yards). The makeover began with head coach Mike McCarthy bringing in Dan Quinn to replace Mike Nolan as the defensive coordinator.
The defense has already suffered one blow, with sophomore defensive tackle Neville Gallimore expected to miss over a month of action after suffering a dislocated elbow in the first preseason game (a 19-16 loss) to the Arizona Cardinals.
Gallimore, who was drafted 82nd overall by the Cowboys in 2020, appeared in 14 games last season. He had half a sack, one pass defended and 28 combined tackles.
Gallimore was penciled in as a starter for the Cowboys defense. Now that he’s sidelined indefinitely, the team will rely on rookie Osa Odighizuwa — the No. 75 selection — to fill the void.
The Cowboys’ hopeful improvement on defense will depend on the front seven. They didn’t re-sign Aldon Smith, and the linebacker corps has two new faces in Keanu Neal (signed as a free agent, transitioning from safety) and rookie Micah Parsons (drafted 12th overall).
Favorites In The NFC East
NFL betting sites list the Cowboys as the favorites to win the NFC East. Last year, the Washington Football Team won it with a 7-9 record.
The Dallas defense can at least reach a mediocre or above-average level, this team should be back in the postseason.
Dak Prescott suffered a season-ending ankle fracture in Week 5 against the New York Giants last season. If he played the entire year, the Cowboys would have likely ran away with the division — and they would have definitely given their Wild Card opponent a scare.
The Philadelphia Eagles are rebuilding with a new head coach (Nick Sirianni) and second-year quarterback (Jalen Hurts). The Giants have plenty of concerns on the offensive line, and they won’t go anywhere if Daniel Jones can’t cut down on the turnovers (22 interceptions and 29 fumbles in 27 games).
Washington is by far the Cowboys’ biggest challenger in the division. However, the team has a questionable quarterback situation. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kyle Allen and Taylor Heinicke aren’t long-term options.
But with a young, championship-caliber defense led by 2020 Defensive Rookie of the Year Chase Young and a brilliant head coach in Ron Rivera, the Football Team is in good position to build off a special season.
Still, it’s hard to bet against the Cowboys winning the NFC East. Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb round out one of the game’s most explosive offensive units. Tyron Smith and Zack Martin once again anchor a top-10 offensive line.
The defense should at least be good enough for Dallas to claim its first division crown in three years.
The Cowboys have the fortunes of playing in football’s weakest division. Not only that, but only the Eagles have an easier strength of schedule (.430) than Dallas, whose 2021 opponents combined for a .452 winning percentage.
The Cowboys have a tough two-game stretch to open up their season. They’ll visit the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Week 1 Kickoff Game before visiting the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 2.
Worst case scenario, they start 0-2. Dallas will then have a three-game homestand against teams with losing records from last season: The Eagles, Carolina Panthers and Giants.
The final five games will see Dallas visit Washington (Week 14) and the Giants (Week 15) before coming home for home tilts with Washington (Week 16) and the Arizona Cardinals (Week 17). The regular season will conclude with a trip to Philly.
This team is more than capable of winning double-digit games. But with a manageable schedule, Dallas probably only needs nine wins to claim the NFC East.
They probably won’t be in the running for the top seed and home advantage in the NFC, but Dallas will get to host at least one playoff game in 2021.