It's easy to glance at rosters and coaching staffs and swing your take wildly toward pessimism or optimism, but sometimes it's simply justified. When it comes to the Dallas Cowboys, even when microanalyzing the minutae and scuba diving into nuance, it's difficult to view them as anything but a contender in 2020. Shedding a stale coaching regime and for a proven head coach has the locker room as hopeful as it's been in more than a decade. That's the same locker room absolutely bursting at the seams with talent on offense following the addition of CeeDee Lamb, and a defense that suddenly boasts one of the best fronts in the entire NFL.
Add to the fact all of that talent is coached by Mike McCarthy and a band of merry men who have each caused some level of destruction in the league at their respective posts and, yes, the Cowboys look quite formidable. Obviously, the games are played on the field and not on stationery, and that's going to be the team's Achilles Heel in 2020 -- proving all of these changes aren't simply to pacify a mentally fatigued fanbase.
With training camp practices now concluded, by all accounts, the Cowboys aren't simply a threat on paper. They're one in real life, and not simply to regain the NFC East crown. McCarthy said recently it's Super Bowl or bust for the Cowboys, and he didn't mean at some point down the road of his five-year contract. He means this year, and he's not accepting excuses from anyone, be it player or coach.
With that, yes, the Cowboys are in position to win Super Bowl LV, and here's three reasons they probably will.
Dak Prescott is playing to blow the roof off
If you thought you saw a motivated Prescott in 2019, hold onto your knickers, because it might soon pale in comparison.
Despite the team finishing with a disappointing 8-8 record last year, Prescott had the best season of his young career as an NFL quarterback -- falling just two yards shy of surpassing Tony Romo for the franchise single season passing record (4,903) while throwing 30 touchdowns to only 11 interceptions. He achieved the feat despite his receiving corps leading the league in drops, which also makes his 65.1 accuracy percentage that much more impressive, and in an offense that still hadn't completely figured itself out yet in Kellen Moore's first season as offensive coordinator.
Moore now has a year under his belt and Mike McCarthy guiding him -- a known QB whisperer who might also take Prescott to an entirely new level -- and the personnel changes they've made on offense further put the two-time Pro Bowler in position to challenge for MVP honors. The No. 1 offense in the NFL just added CeeDee Lamb and shipped out an aged Jason Witten to promote playmaking tight end Blake Jarwin, with Amari Cooper expecting the club to field three 1,000-yard receivers this season. If that comes to fruition; and if Jarwin adds another 700-800 yards, Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard become added threats in the passing game along with a now-healthy Cedrick Wilson and Noah Brown, Prescott will end up blowing past 5,200 passing yards and possibly 40 touchdowns.
Did I mention the Cowboys failed to get an extension done in the waning moments ahead of the NFL deadline, Aaron Rodgers into a legend and future Hall of Famer?, and with more weapons and a more proven head coach who helped turn
I mean, there's also that.
The Infinity Gauntlet
There's no other way to describe the Cowboys offense going into 2020.
As I've mentioned, they grabbed CeeDee Lamb in a scenario where he shouldn't have been available at all, waved goodbye to Witten and promoted Jarwin, and now have McCarthy overseeing the arrangement of the Infinity Stones like Thanos. Both Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup are coming off of 1,000-yard seasons, and Elliott has been doing quite a bit of work on running routes in training camp, which includes sometimes lining up as a slot receiver. It is a foregone conclusion Pollard will get more consistent reps as well, now that Moore understands how to now peak-and-valley him to death -- a problem attributable to growing pains in the first year as an NFL coordinator -- and .
Want to know exactly what I mean? Hit that link, but know it's so potent you might need some NARCAN when you're done.
The Cowboys offense isn't bulletproof, though. The retirement of Travis Frederick opened up a hole at center, but Joe Looney played very well in 2018 when tasked with doing the same that season. They also drafted another Wisconsin legend in Tyler Biadasz, who likely won't beat out Looney as starter for Week 1, but could very well do so before the season is out and, in the process, reveal himself as the future at the position. The biggest concern is left guard, with both Connor Williams and Connor McGovern returning from injury and the latter having yet to take a snap in the NFL after redshirting his rookie year with a torn pec. Look for Williams to get the start, and if he plays as well as he did in Year 2 before the late season injury, the Cowboys will be in good shape left of center.
That's essentially it, to be honest, as far as offensive questions go. If Looney continues to be Looney and Williams doesn't take a step back, and assuming Tyron Smith plays the majority of the season with La'El Collins serving up pancakes like it's an all-you-can-eat special at IHOP, the offensive line -- anchored in the middle by Zack Martin -- will hold up nicely. It's also key to note they won't have to protect long, given McCarthy's penchant for West Coast philosophy, so don't get too concerned about them having to protect Prescott for six seconds; and especially not with the weapons he has.
All Thanos has to do is snap his fingers, and the team on the other sideline will flake away.
Mike McCarthy still has something to prove
The guy has a Super Bowl ring, so there can't be anything left to prove, right? Wrong.
McCarthy's departure from the Green Bay Packers was toxic and left a bad taste not only in his mouth, but those who wondered if he still had the juice to be a Super Bowl-winning head coach in the future. In response, he didn't take a coordinator job somewhere in 2019 to stay in the game and work his way back up to being someone's HC. He didn't entertain outright becoming anyone's HC either, which undoubtedly could've happened. Instead, he opted to sit out an entire year and not to play golf or watch reruns of Three's Company, but to build a team of coaches that met nearly every day with the goal of evolving himself and his approach to football. That doesn't sound like an old dog unwilling to learn new tricks. It sounds like one desperately seeking them.
Enter the Dallas Cowboys.
in a more unpredictable schematic mind in Mike Nolan as defensive coordinator, hired former Packers defensive back Al Harris to coach his secondary, and signed up defensive line guru Jim Tomsula -- who then convinced them to sign a now-reinstated (and 2020 camp terror) Aldon Smith. With McCarthy forcing a paradigm shift, they also broke out of the decrepit free agency model and added big names like Dontari Poe and Everson Griffen, the latter signing adding after losing Gerald McCoy to injury., but retained at least two people who were responsible in helping his new franchise quarterback reach new heights in 2019, namely Moore and Doug Nussmeier (moved from TE coach to QB coach). He shipped out Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard and shipped
From there, the only thing left to do was address the abysmal special teams unit, so McCarthy added ace coordinator John "Bones" Fassel to lead that unit, who now has Lamb as a return option and what looks to be a healthy Greg Zuerlein on the roster.
Still not convinced McCarthy is evolved? Well, he's also embraced analytics after once shunning it, and he's allowing Moore to call the offensive plays; which is something McCarthy has done himself for years. That's a massive nod to the aptitude of Moore, a second-year coordinator whom McCarthy is allowing to steer his maiden voyage offensively in Year 1. There's not much more evidence one should need to convince themselves McCarthy has not only brought himself into the 2020s, but that he's also got a chip on his shoulder the size of the Golden Nugget.
COVID-19 complications aside, it's a perfect storm of talent, motivation and opportunity for the Cowboys this season. If they win the Super Bowl and you walk away stunned, it means you weren't paying attention in the first place.