OXNARD, Calif. — It's the question we love every year. It's the question we hate every year.
But inevitably, you can't really have any conversations with anyone - good friends, family members, coworkers or even people you randomly meet - without getting asked something to the equivalent of "How's the team gonna be this year?"
I love the question because it means football season is finally here.
I hate it because we really don't have the first clue.
And that's pretty much true for every team. Even the defending world champs, with arguably the greatest quarterback to ever play, surrounded by 21 other returning starters, they can't say with certain that 2021 will be another great year.
It's the beauty of this game that draws us back in every time. And all 32 teams have some kind of optimism at this point, with the hope that things will fall just right this season.
For the Cowboys, they have to feel this way. Nothing really fell right last year and they still entered the final game of the season with a chance to win the division.
So how does it fall their way this year? Sure, I heard you ... "stay healthy" or "keep Dak upright."
Yep, that's a good start.
For me, I'm looking for one thing to really get this team over the hump, and it probably starts with the things you just thought to yourself about keeping the best players healthy.
But personally, I'm looking beyond that.
For the Cowboys to be a great team, something, literally has to be great.
You can't really have a great team if you don't have a single aspect that is great. Two goods don't make a great.
And we've seen, that even a really good offense or defense doesn't always lead to success. But if the Cowboys can be great at one thing, like truly great, then I think that's what they need to get over the hump.
I think we all know the best way for that to happen is for the offense to live up to expectations.
I'm not breaking news here when I say the offense has a chance to be great. Honestly, I think it could seriously be even better than that.
If things fall into place - and that starts with the offensive tackles being healthy enough to play and excel, coupled with Zack Martin being in the lineup all year, this offense can truly be dynamic, even magical.
There really is no weaknesses. You've got a running back who looks like leaner and meaner than before. He's probably heard every negative thing written or said about him and it looks like it fueled him in the offseason. Now, does that newly-defined body going to keep him from fumbling, which was a problem last year, we'll see. Something tells me Zeke is about to have a huge bounce back season.
The wide receivers are stacked higher than any other trio in the league and Blake Jarwin returns at tight end to compete with Dalton Schultz, who had a 60+ catch season in his place.
Oh yeah, and Dak probably has more to prove than anyone else, ready to show the world he's worth the $40 million a year contract and that he's fully recovered from the ankle injury.
If there is a hole on the offense, for me it's at center where there's just no experience. But the Cowboys don't seem too concerned in Tyler Biadasz, giving him really no competition for now.
As long as that spot is secured, the Cowboys have a chance to be special on offense. We didn't even get to backup Tony Pollard, who will most certainly have a bigger role. That's just another piece to the puzzle, and yet another player defensive coordinators have to worry about.
Dak said when we got out here to California that he wants to have the No. 1 offense in the league and that's what really needs to happen.
People ask me about the defense, and I keep pointing to the offense. Sure, Dan Quinn has been asked to fix this and he's got a few new pieces to work with. I think the defense is going to be better anyway.
But for this defense, just getting to average would be an improvement.
The defense can be even better than that, if the offense does what I think it will.
If this offense is truly great, the Cowboys can be a great team. Great teams have great chances to succeed in the playoffs and make some noise when they get there.
But that can't happen if they can't find a way to be "great" at something. I'm counting on seeing some greatness from this offense. If that happens, we'll see how it trickles down to the rest of the team.