Dallas Cowboys’ Last-Season Performance
With quarterback Dak Prescott returning from injury and a revamped defense, the Cowboys had high expectations going into 2021. The team mainly lived up to them in the regular season, finishing first in the NFC East with a 12-5 record, however, the Cowboys bowed out in the Wild-Card Round of the playoffs.
Dallas lost its opener but then went on a six-game winning streak. The second half of the season wasn’t as smooth, however, as the Cowboys followed their six wins with three losses in four games.
The team ultimately made it into the playoffs, where Dallas fell 23-17 at home to San Francisco. While Prescott’s return offered excitement for 2021, Dallas’ defense ended up being the highlight of the season.
Dallas Cowboys Key Additions
The Cowboys’ offseason featured more players being released than joining the team. Dallas did acquire some players in free agency and the draft.
Dallas signed wide receiver James Washington to a one-year contract. Washington spent four seasons in Pittsburgh, where he recorded 24 receptions for 285 yards and two touchdowns last season.
On the defensive side, the Cowboys inked defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. and linebacker Anthony Barr to one-year deals. Fowler is coming off a season in which he recorded 4.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and 36 tackles with Atlanta, while Barr had 72 tackles, 2.5 sacks and three interceptions for Minnesota.
The Cowboys also drafted a few players who should expect to see the field early. Wide receiver Jalen Tolbert, defensive end Sam Williams and guard Tyler Smith should all get solid playing time in their first seasons with Dallas.
Dallas Cowboys Key Subtractions
The Cowboys saw many key players join other teams in free agency. Wide receiver Amari Cooper was one of the biggest losses as Dallas traded him to the Browns for picks. Cooper was one of Prescott’s top targets and finished last season with 68 receptions for 865 yards and a team-high eight touchdowns.
Wide receiver Cedrick Wilson Jr. also found a new home when he signed a three-year deal with Miami. Wilson recorded career highs last season with Dallas, finishing the season with 45 receptions for 602 yards and six touchdowns.
Dallas’ offensive line took a hit in free agency as well, as guard Connor Williams joined Miami, signing a two-year deal, while offensive tackle La’el Collins joined the Bengals on a three-year contract.
Linebacker Randy Gregory is the biggest loss for Dallas on the defensive side, as he was second on the team in sacks with six and also had one interception and 19 tackles. Gregory signed a five-year deal with Denver.
Safety Keanu Neal and kicker Greg Zuerlein also signed with new teams.
Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Analysis
Mike McCarthy heads into his third season as the head coach of the Cowboys and his 16th year as a head coach, as he previously spent 13 seasons with the Green Bay Packers.
During his tenure with Green Bay, McCarthy led the Packers to a 125-77-2 regular-season record and a 10-8 postseason record, winning the NFC North six times and the Super Bowl in the 2010 season. Among active NFL coaches, McCarthy owns the sixth-most wins and fourth-highest winning percentage at .618.
Since taking over in Dallas, McCarthy has led the Cowboys to an 18-15 record and an NFC East title last season. Though the roster went through some changes, the Cowboys will be looking to McCarthy to lead them to the playoffs once more.
Dallas Cowboys Injured Players at the Beginning of the Season
The Cowboys faced a slew of injuries in 2021 and appear to have some of the same issues heading into the 2022 season.
Last season, offensive tackles Tyron Smith and Josh Ball, linebackers Jabril Cox and Randy Gregory, defensive tackle Neville Gallimore, wide receiver Michael Gallup, defensive end Brent Urban and cornerback Kelvin Joseph all spent their fair share of time injured.
While many of those players have otherwise healed or moved onto other teams, the Cowboys continue to deal with other injuries.
Gallup, who tore his ACL toward the end of last season, is still recovering. The team plans to keep him off the PUP list to begin the season. Smith and Washington will be out for a while, as Smith has a torn hamstring to keep him sidelined until at least December while Washington has a fractured foot and is expected to miss 6-10 weeks.
Wide receivers CeeDee Lamb and Noah Brown, linebacker Luke Gifford, center Alec Lindstrom, offensive tackle Matt Waletzko, tight end Sean McKeon, cornerback Jourdan Lewis, quarterback Will Grier and safety Jayron Kearse are all questionable for Week 1.
The Cowboys also have a few players on injured reserve in tight end Jeremy Sprinkle and linebacker Devante Bond.
Dallas Cowboys Offense
With Cooper now gone, Lamb will be Prescott’s primary target in the receiving game. He should be fine stepping into that role, as Lamb led the Cowboys in receptions and receiving yards in 2021, finishing the season with 79 catches for 1,102 yards and six touchdowns.
Since Gallup is sidelined, tight end Dalton Schultz, who will be playing this season on the franchise tag, will figure to be a big part of the receiving game as well. Schultz had 78 receptions for 808 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
Running back Ezekiel Elliot will once again play a major role in the ground game, with backup Tony Pollard also looking to step into a larger role. Elliot led the Cowboys last season with 237 rushes for 1,002 yards and 10 touchdowns while Pollard added 130 carries for 719 yards and two touchdowns.
For the offense to do much of anything, however, Dallas will have to figure out its offensive line, as injuries have left the team struggling with depth.
Dallas Cowboys Defense
After the Cowboys hired defensive coordinator Dan Quinn ahead of the 2021 season, Dallas’ defense made major improvements. The team finished first in forced turnovers with 34 and seventh in points allowed with 21.1 a game.
Cornerback Trevon Diggs played a large role in the secondary, as he led Dallas with 11 interceptions, returning two for touchdowns, and also had 21 passes defended and 52 tackles.
He will be joined in the secondary by safeties Kearse and Malik Hooker, who both re-signed with Dallas in the offseason. Kearse led the Cowboys with 101 total tackles and had two interceptions while Hooker finished 2021 with one interception and 44 tackles.
The defense will feature linebacker Micah Parsons returning for his second year after a strong rookie season in which he led the team in sacks with 13, recording 20 tackles for loss and 84 total tackles. Defensive end Demarcus Lawrence also returns after he agreed to a new contract in the offseason. Lawrence, who had injury trouble in 2021, recorded three sacks and 21 tackles last season.
With most of Dallas’ top producers returning for 2022, the defense should be a strong point for the team yet again.
Dallas Cowboys Special Teams
Dallas had a decent special teams unit in 2021, putting together a solid showing in punting and kickoff returns, however its kicking remained in the middle of the pack.
Since kicker Zuerlein is now with the Jets, the Cowboys will look to Brett Maher to take over that role. Zuerlein finished last season going 29-for-35 on field goals and 42-for-48 on extra points. Maher spent last season with the Saints, where he went 16-for-18 on field goals and 10-for-12 on extra points.
Punter Bryan Anger will return for Dallas after signing a three-year deal in the offseason. Anger had a net punting average of 44.6 yards last season.
Lamb was the main punt returner last season, averaging 9.9 yards, and Pollard the main kick returner with an average of 28.8 yard. With both players playing a bigger role in the 2022 offense, the Cowboys are likely to find a new returner. That’s where wide receiver KaVontae Turpin comes in, who has had a strong preseason after joining Dallas following a successful stint in the USFL. In the Cowboys’ second preseason game, Turpin logged two return touchdowns, a kickoff for 98 yards and a punt for 86.
The Cowboys’ special teams should continue to perform at a solid level with Anger coming back and a new stud in the return game.
Dallas Cowboys Prediction for the 2022 Season
The Cowboys had a quiet offseason, and the loss of some key players may cause an issue in the upcoming season. With Cooper and Wilson gone, Lamb will have to be comfortable handling a high volume of reps, especially with Gallup and Washington sidelined for the beginning of the season.
Dallas should once again be competing for the top spot in the NFC East, although with the Eagles making moves in the offseason, the Cowboys will get some competition for No. 1.
Dallas Cowboys Final Thoughts
The defense was the pride and joy of the Dallas Cowboys last season, and for good reason. Quinn taking over as DC, along with many different players making an impact, allowed the defense to make improvements in 2021.
With many of those same players returning, Dallas should once again rely on the defense to help the team win games in 2022 as the offense finds its footing.
Dallas Cowboys Team Leaders
Dallas Cowboys Team Ranked Stats
Dallas Cowboys Team Scorebox
Dallas Cowboys Team Injuries
Dallas Cowboys Team Schedule/Results
Dallas Cowboys Team Standings
Dallas Cowboys Team Roster
Dallas Cowboys FAQs
Why do the Cowboys always play on Thanksgiving?
The Cowboys’ tradition of always playing on Thanksgiving began in 1966 because then-general manager Tex Schramm wanted to boost national attention. After the Lions started the tradition in 1934, Schramm signed the Cowboys up for the game in ‘66, and both teams have had the tradition since, with Dallas only missing two years, in 1975 and ‘77.
Are the Dallas Cowboys the most valuable NFL franchise?
Yes, at a valuation of $8 billion, Forbes listed the Cowboys as the most valuable NFL franchise.
Who owns the Dallas Cowboys?
Jerry Jones owns the Cowboys.
Why are the Dallas Cowboys called ‘America’s Team’?
The term came from an NFL Films highlight video in 1978, when Bob Ryan, the former editor-in-chief, noticed Cowboys fans would travel in great numbers to away games as well. He coined the term for the highlight reel and it caught on the following season.