The Dallas Cowboys came out of nowhere last year to become one of the best stories of the NFL season. They went from 4-12 to 13-3 in just one season, being mostly led by two rookies in Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott.
It was a drastic turnaround for a team that lost its starting quarterback around two weeks away from opening day. The prognosticators did not have the Cowboys being very successful in 2016 and even after their record last season, they are predicting a step back in 2017. What that means for the team in the NFC East, or the playoffs in general, is obviously unknown right now.
So where has the bar been set for the upcoming season? The team brings back almost all of their offensive pieces, gets back some healthy players and brought in a rookie who has shown to be extremely adept at picking things up.
On the other hand, the Cowboys also bring a defense with about 50% of their starters returning and young pieces who will need to learn on the fly. Jaylon Smith, Taco Charlton, Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis are among them.
There is still too far to go to guess how good these Cowboys can be, but the bar has been set pretty high. When the Cowboys had success the year before, the hype train always seems to build. Winning the division would be nice and winning a playoff game would be nicer, but the goal appears to be aimed higher. It might not be Super Bowl or bust, but if the team doesn’t win a playoff contest or make it to at least the NFC Championship game, it will be seen as a disappointment.
That’s the way it feels as of now; and for good reason.
The emergence of Prescott as leader at such a young age is vital and Zeke’s dominance behind the offensive line has raised the bar. Those two players have already done enough to warrant the belief that the Cowboys can win double-digit games for the first time in back-to-back seasons since 1995 and 1996.
Dallas will win games because of their offense in 2017, just as they did in 2016, and the defense will have to do enough to pull their weight. In essence, not much has changed since last season. The defense is younger this year, though they have more athleticism. The hope is that it will be lead to more turnovers, which is key in Rod Marinelli’s scheme.
Last year was nice, but much more is expected in 2017. Just getting to the playoffs doesn’t seem like it’s enough, the Cowboys will have to win a playoff game or two for it to be deemed a successful season. Cowboys fans expect greatness, even more so when they’ve seen it the previous year, so there is more work to be done. Call it the Dak and Zeke effect.
We are way too far out to start making predictions, but the bar is set pretty high for the 2017 Dallas Cowboys. Check back in before the start of the season to find out if the expectations still exist after training camp.
Until then, most Cowboys fans will be reaching for the stars.
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