LAST YEAR: Season with high expectations ended without playoff spot, leading to departure of coach Jason Garrett. Mike McCarthy, Super Bowl winner in Green Bay a decade ago, took over. Dak Prescott had career-best 4,902 yards passing and 30 TDs, but worst record in four seasons as starter. Prescott and defense didn’t perform well in clutch the way they did his rookie year in 2016 and two years later while getting another NFC East title, Prescott’s first playoff win.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: McCarthy, WR CeeDee Lamb, DT Gerald McCoy, DE Aldon Smith, DT Dontari Poe, S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, CB Maurice Canady, K Greg Zuerlein.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: CB Byron Jones, DE Robert Quinn, WR Randall Cobb, TE Jason Witten, S Jeff Heath, DT Maliek Collins, T Cameron Fleming, G Xavier Su’a-Filo.
PANDEMIC CHALLENGES: McCarthy hasn’t had any in-person contact with players while trying to implement new system. Particular concern is on defense with almost entirely new coaching staff, philosophy, scheme. McCarthy won Super Bowl with Aaron Rodgers, but hasn’t had chance to get to know Prescott face-to-face. Since coronavirus led NFL to order all teams to stay home for training camp, Dallas’ eight-year run in California ended.
CAMP NEEDS: Prescott, playing on $31.4 million franchise tag, back in camp with Ezekiel Elliott after RB missed all of preseason last year in holdout. They’ll need all time they can get with McCarthy, who decided to keep play-caller Kellen Moore from Garrett’s staff. New defensive coordinator Mike Nolan needs to get sense of what Aldon Smith can contribute after nearly five years away from game.
EXPECTATIONS: Cowboys still believe they have roster capable of contending for Super Bowl, but patience might be required based on circumstances. Pandemic kept new staff from engaging with players after nearly decade with same voice at top in Garrett. If Lamb lives up to promise as rookie after unexpectedly falling to Cowboys in middle of first round in draft, offense could be elite.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL