Training camp isn't the only thing in full throttle around the NFL., and they vary from team to team, but there's no mistaking what the expectations are for the Dallas Cowboys heading into the 2020 season. This isn't the same club as years past, with Jason Garrett out and Mike McCarthy in, having taken but a New York minute to install a new free agency and draft philosophy to make the roster OP (that's overpowered, to the layperson). But with the hype comes a ton of pressure, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic kept McCarthy from being able to jump things off with his new team on April 6, so he's already playing catch up as the regular season barrels down the pike.
By all accounts, the new-look Cowboys have hit the ground running and certainly look like the best team in the NFC East, and potentially in the NFC -- at least on paper. The games aren't played on stationery though, and so when September 13 does roll around, they'll have to prove the hype is real. There's no reason as of yet to believe it isn't and, with that, let's get into some predictions.
Extra bold. Extra spicy.
1. Cowboys win Super Bowl LV
Yep, I said it.
It's easy to dismiss this possibility as nothing more than a pipe dream and that's fair, considering how long it's been since the team sniffed a Super Bowl. Their last appearance in the NFC Championship game was on the back end of a 12-4 season in 1995, which is also not so coincidentally the last time they went to [and won] the Super Bowl. So, you're right to be pessimistic, but you'd also be justified in objectively looking at what's occurred this offseason and allowing optimism to have a seat in the forefront of your mind. In one fell swoop, the Cowboys parted ways with Jason Garrett after a near decade-long coaching relationship and hired Mike McCarthy -- a Super Bowl winner who has already shown signs of a promised evolution in his already proven abilities.
Up next came sweeping changes to the coaching staff but the retention of Kellen Moore as offensive coordinator, after he flipped the club from worst to first on offense in a single season. , waved goodbye to an aged Jason Witten in favor of an athletic playmaker in Blake Jarwin, and signed four All-Pro pass rushers to play alongside the incumbent All-Pro, DeMarcus Lawrence. Granted, they're now without Gerald McCoy, that includes Everson Griffen, Tyrone Crawford and Aldon Smith (Randy Gregory?), along with former second-round pick Trysten Hill and rookie third-round pick Neville Gallimore.
From there, it's a matter of figuring out the secondary, but that's made easier by the drafting of Trevon Diggs and signing Daryl Worley in free agency. And, to be quite frank, quarterbacks can't make throws when they're eating grass -- which is to say if the pass rushers can bully QBs in 2020, the secondary will be better by default.
Yes, the challenges facing McCarthy in Year 1 are daunting (e.g., COVID-19 pandemic, lack of a preseason), but other teams are up against the same. With the weapons they have -- particularly offensively -- and Dak Prescott still playing to position himself for a record-setting contract, all things considered, there's not much more the Cowboys can have working in their favor motivationally as they head into 2020.
, and he's not waiting until Year 4 to secure another ring.
2. Dak Prescott takes home NFL MVP award
My 2020 forecast in Dallas? A 100 percent chance of Rayne.
Allow me to first get this much out of the way: Dak Prescott is already an MVP caliber quarterback. He was very much in the race for the honor in 2017 before the wheels fell off at left tackle in the absence of Tyron Smith, as evidenced in the "Burning of Atlanta" that saw him sacked eight (!!) times in a single game. From there, he was simply not the same over the remainder of the season but still finished with comparable production to his Rookie of the Year season from the year prior. He'd improve in 2018 but truly break the ceiling in Year 4 -- falling just one yard shy of tying Tony Romo for the team's single-season passing record (4,903), while throwing only 11 interceptions to 30 touchdowns.
And he racked up those numbers with a receiving unit that led the league in drops.
Operating in his second consecutive contract year, by virtue of the franchise tag, Prescott is looking to again prove he's the man of the hour. Those who think it's farfetched to presume Prescott can be a leading contender for this award are either not paying attention or simply want to be argumentative, because the Cowboys offense is absolutely stacked with weapons, and you can't stop everybody. From Amari Cooper to Michael Gallup, from CeeDee Lamb to Blake Jarwin, from Ezekiel Elliott to Tony Pollard, Prescott has a treasure trove of talent surrounding him and he still has two future Hall of Famers protecting him. When Patrick Mahomes won league MVP in 2018, he did it with 5,097 passing yards and 50 touchdowns.
No one's saying Prescott will get 50 touchdowns, but is 40 out of the question, with his armoire of weaponry? And while he won't rush for 1,000 yards like Lamar Jackson did en route to winning MVP in 2019, he doesn't have to, because he has a two-time NFL rushing champ standing in the backfield with him; along with the ability to dump the ball off to him and other YAC beasts like Lamb, Jarwin and Cooper. In all, I could easily project Prescott to finish the season with 5,250 (+/-100) passing yards and 38 touchdowns (+/-2) -- particularly if the Cowboys do deliver three 1,000-yard receivers.
Hell, that's at least 3,000 passing yards right there.
And as far as the aerial assault goes, mix in around 700 yards for Jarwin, 600 yards for Elliott, 400 for Pollard -- so forth and so on -- and you'll quickly get the picture I'm painting, canvas and all. McCarthy is a known QB whisperer, and Moore has taken Prescott to a new level offensively. All he has to do is take the next step forward, and the Cowboys will not only find themselves fighting for a Super Bowl appearance in February, but he'll land his very first MVP honor. That would make him only the second Cowboys player to win league MVP honors, and the first quarterback to do so in franchise history.
Bold enough for you?
3. Mike McCarthy wins Coach of the Year
Oh, but of course.
Let's think about this for a minute. Assuming my first bold prediction comes true, and even if they fall just shy and land in the NFC Championship game, how could McCarthy possibly walk away without having won COTY honors in 2020? Jason Garrett won it in 2016 after leading the Cowboys to a 13-3 record after replacing an injured Tony Romo with a rookie in Prescott, and [eventually] replacing a departed DeMarco Murray with another rookie in Ezekiel Elliott -- en route to what was a dominating year for Dallas. But, for all of the regular season accolades and records set, both at the team and NFL level, the club lost in the divisional round when the Green Bay Packers and... guess who?
That being the case, it stands to reason if McCarthy can lead the Cowboys deep into the playoffs, and in Year 1, he has to be a lock for this award. There isn't a more pressure-packed situation to place a coach in, which includes lack of minicamp and preseason to assess his new roster, and those of you who rolled your eyes at my first bold prediction simply make my point -- in that the expectation from many outside the organization is that this is all nothing more than offseason hype that will end in disappointment.
So, if it doesn't, fire up the crow kabobs.
Leading a team to the Super Bowl is a feat. Doing it in Year 1 is hardly ever a thing over the course of NFL history. Achieving it in Year 1 despite suffering through a pandemic offseason would be a magical ride. Accomplishing all of this to also put an end to a 25-year drought for the most valuable team in all of sports?