If the Dallas Cowboys had a game today, Dak Prescott would take the field as starter. That's music to the team's ears as it prepares to return to Oxnard, California, for training camp in mid-July, with the two-time Pro Bowl quarterback now 100% healthy after suffering a season-ending compound fracture to his ankle last October. The team's No. 1-ranked offense devolved into a clogged septic tank in the absence of Prescott, worsened by eventual injuries across the offensive line. In the end, the Cowboys capped a surge of hope in December with an implosion in the season finale -- finishing the year at 6-10 and without a playoff berth.
But with the return of Prescott and other key players -- i.e., Tyron Smith, La'el Collins, Zack Martin, and Blake Jarwin -- comes an air thick with hope and expectation for 2021. From an offensive standpoint, toss in a , an expected role expansion of rookie sensation CeeDee Lamb and the emergence of backup tight end Dalton Schultz as a capable NFL starter, and it stands to reason Prescott is all smiles heading into his sixth season.
this offseason certainly doesn't hurt, but his focus is on getting the Cowboys offense back to No. 1 -- where it was in 2019 and through the first five weeks of 2020 -- but in an even more prolific fashion.
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"Improvement, a lot of improvement obviously from last year to this year, but deeper than that from those first five games," Prescott told Newy Scruggs of NBC DFW. "Take those first five games and just say we're going to be better than that as a team."
The key word there is "team", because it won't much matter how potent the offense is if the defense can't improve over their franchise-worst ways from 2020. The special teams unit has already shown marked improvement overall under John "Bones" Fassel (a hiccup here and there notwithstanding), and recent changes continue to hint at a refusal to continue going anywhere but up, but the firing of defensive coordinator Mike Nolan was a glaring admission by owner Jerry Jones that the Cowboys made a defensive mistake that helped cost them the 2020 season.
For his part, Prescott said he expected the club to go heavy at defense in the 2021 NFL Draft, and he got his wish. And with OTAs and minicamp now in the rearview, it's time to turn up the heat in training camp. Newly installed defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is off to a roaring start in the locker room and on the practice field -- with a lot of sway in defensive personnel decisions as well -- and Prescott believes the Cowboys will finally be able to form a three-headed hydra this coming season.
"We're going to play more complementary football -- from defense to offense to special teams -- and then we're going to have a healthy team," he said. "We've all approached the offseason, we approached the season the right way. We're just excited. We're excited that hopefully we can stay healthy -- we can get good fortune on that end.
"Then, we can just put everything we've worked hard for together on all stages and all phases of the game. We're excited for this year. It's going to be very, very special for us and for Cowboys fans."
From Prescott noting how two-time NFL rushing leader Ezekiel Elliott is "in the best shape of his life" and telling rookie receiver Simi Fehoko the Cowboys are "going to light up the league" in 2021, a quarterback who's never lacked for confidence isn't going to suddenly start now, regardless of what took place several months ago. That's because eventually the sun has to break through the clouds, and Prescott believes that time is now for the Cowboys.
And he sounds ready to Rayne on everyone else's parade in the process.