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Cowboys Team Report: Is Pollard Ready to Hit the Ground Running?

There has been quite a bit of roster upheaval for a team coming off a 12-win season as the Dallas Cowboys fell short in the playoffs once again. Running back Ezekiel Elliott is among the departures, while receiver Brandin Cooks and cornerback Stephon Gilmore are key offseason acquisitions that made NFL news.

There are only a small number of players on the Dallas roster who were born the last time the Cowboys played in the Super Bowl. Is this the year when the success isn’t limited to the regular season?

Cowboys Team Report: Is Pollard Ready to Hit the Ground Running?
Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys - Henderson/Getty Images/afp

The NFL predictions have the Cowboys sixth in the odds to win the Super Bowl and fourth among NFC teams.

When looking at the NFL odds, quarterback Dak Prescott is 11th in the odds to win the NFL MVP award, with Micah Parsons the favorite for Defensive Player of the Year.

Top Training Camp Storyline

There will be plenty of eyes on Tony Pollard as he heads into training camp as the go-to running back after sharing the load with Elliott. Pollard posted his first 1,000-yard season and averaged 5.2 yards per carry compared to Elliott’s mark of 3.8, so the NFL picks could have lofty expectations for Pollard.

Without Elliott around to split the carries, the Cowboys brought in Ronald Jones. Jones won a Super Bowl with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2022, even though he had little to do with Kansas City’s run, with one carry in the playoffs and 17 more in the regular season.

Impact Rookies

The Cowboys added a 337-pound run-stuffing defensive lineman, Mazi Smith, in the first round as they continue to rebuild the defensive line. Smith had six tackles for loss in three seasons at Michigan, so don’t look for him to challenge for the NFL sack lead. However, playing in a division where the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles finished fourth and fifth in rushing yards per game, being able to stop the run is pretty important. The NFL betting lines list Smith with the 22nd best odds to win the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

Dallas selected back-to-back Michigan players in April’s NFL Draft, taking tight end Brian Schottenheimer. Seven of Schoonmaker’s 54 catches at Michigan went for touchdowns, and with starting tight end Dalton Schultz now in Houston, there could be an opportunity for Schoonmaker to get on the field early on as a rookie.

Offseason Moves That Turned Heads

The decision to move on from receiver Amari Cooper after last season impacted the offense more than the Cowboys expected, as CeeDee Lamb was targeted more than twice as often as any other wide receiver. With the hope of balancing things out, Dallas traded for receiver Brandin Cooks.

Cooks has gone over 1,000 yards six times in his career but had just 699 yards a season ago. The well-traveled Cooks will be playing for his fifth NFL team, and with three of Dallas’ top seven players in receiving yards no longer here, there should be ample opportunities for Cooks to produce.

Another move came when tight end Dalton Schultz headed to Houston, leaving Dallas without one of the two players with at least 50 receptions a season ago and a rather young group of tight ends: Jake Ferguson, Peyton Hendershot and Schoonmaker all 24.

Like it or not, the Cowboys will always be viewed as a team that can’t get it done when the lights are the brightest. Since winning three Super Bowls in four years in the 1990s, Dallas is 5-12 in the playoffs, with four of those losses coming at home. Dallas is just 4-5 in its last nine games when listed by the Las Vegas odds as the favorite.

Dallas did make some moves in its coaching staff. Brian Schottenheimer is the new offensive coordinator, Scott Tolzien was promoted to quarterback coach and Mike Solari was hired to coach the offensive line. That last hire could be the most important. Solari has been an offensive line coach in the NFL for 29 seasons. Dallas once had perhaps the best offensive line in football. It is a different story now, and Dallas will be without veteran offensive lineman Jason Peters as well.

Final Analysis

Is there a team coming off back-to-back 12-win seasons facing more scrutiny than the Cowboys? Prescott is drawing more criticism with each passing season as the Cowboys fail to advance deep into the playoffs.

Elliott, Peters, cornerback Anthony Brown, linebacker Anthony Barr, Schultz and receiver Noah Brown are among the players who have moved on.

With Lamb, edge rusher Micah Parsons and cornerback Trevon Diggs, there is some star power in Dallas. Will those changes in the offseason pay dividends?

Dallas is in a division featuring the defending NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles, a rising New York Giants team and a Washington franchise that should be better off now without troublesome owner Daniel Snyder.

Dallas jumps right into things with a road game against the Giants in the season opener.

Dallas Cowboys Odds

Training Camp Info

  • Coach: Mike McCarthy (fourth season with Cowboys, 17th season overall)
  • Training Camp Reporting Dates: July 25 (Rookies); July 25 (Veterans)
  • First Preseason Game: Aug. 12, vs Jacksonville Jaguars
  • Week 1: Sept. 10, vs New York Giants
  • Bye: Week 7

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