There are head coaches who enter the 2022 NFL campaign with pressure to win and there is Mike McCarthy.
Despite finishing with a 12-5 record in his second season in Dallas, McCarthy and the Cowboys were eliminated early in the Playoffs and that left Jerry Jones, owner of the franchise known as “America’s Team,” none too happy.
“I want to be very clear, (McCarthy) wouldn’t be sitting here today if I didn’t think he was the guy who could take this team to a Super Bowl. I wouldn’t be, and I have options. And I don’t mean to be insensitive to anybody. It’s a fact,” Jones said at the start of training camp in Oxnard, Calif.
One of those options is Sean Payton, who this season will be an analyst for FOX, a job that could last exactly half a year. Because if McCarthy doesn’t lead the Cowboys to at least the NFC Championship, Jones will be using his eighth head coach since 1994, following a divorce with Jimmy Johnson, with whom he won two Super Bowls in the early 1990s.
Prescott, however, will try to replicate those numbers without Amari Cooper, his most reliable target since the middle of the 2018 season, when the Cowboys obtained the wide receiver in a trade with the Raiders.
Cooper departed via free agency to Cleveland and now CeeDee Lamb is the WR1 in Dallas…and so far the only wide receiver following injuries to Michael Gallup and Michael Washington.
The Cowboys backfield will be key to the team’s success this season, and that means Ezekiel Elliott must step up.
Since coming to the NFL in 2016, his yards per game average has gone from 108.7 to 58.9 in 2021. “Zeke” stopped being that dominant running back and is now more of a complement to Tony Pollard, who set a personal best last season with 1,056 combined yards.
The days when Dallas’ offensive line was one of the best in the NFL are a thing of the past and that’s not good news for Prescott.
Rookie Tyler Smith, a first-round pick in the 2022 Draft, is a tackle but is projected to be the starting left guard, in the spot left by Connor Williams. Center Tyler Biadasz was inconsistent last year and tackle Tyron Smith has missed 20 games due to injury since 2020.
Defense, the hope
On the other side of the ball, there are high expectations in Dallas.
Parsons led all rookies with 13 quarterback catches and three forced fumbles and was third in the league with 20 tackles for a loss of yardage.
Trevon Diggs was the other bright spot on the Cowboy’s defense. In his second year in the league, the cornerback led the way with 11 interceptions, the most for a single player since 1981.
Sam Williams, a second-round pick this year, could play opposite DeMarcus Lawrence following the departure of Randy Gregory.
The rest of the defense has no names to highlight beyond linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, a 2018 first-round pick who signed a one-year contract extension.
Special teams are in good hands with KaVontae Turpin, the USFL MVP, who had two returns to the diagonals in the preseason game against the Chargers.
.@KaVontaeTurpin said LET'S TURN IT UP❗️#DALvsLAC on CBS11/NFL+#DallasCowboys pic.twitter.com/Osqw2u6EOQ
— Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) August 21, 2022