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Mailbag: How Close Are The Cowboys To Contention?

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Coming off a 6-10 season, without a franchise QB under contract long term, and with so many holes to fill, how far are the Cowboys away from a rebuild? I remember in the Dave Campo years, us faithful were always like, "We're just a few players away from competing for a Super Bowl." A little delusional on our parts. — GARET TANAKA / WAILUKU, HI

Nick: I don't think the Cowboys are far away at all from being able to compete. Then again, I don't think many teams are too far away from that. That's what the NFL is designed to do – create parity and give teams a chance to rebound quickly. I think you have to count on the offensive line being back to solid/good again. If that happens, it'll help Zeke and Dak. This team needs help on defense, and they're going to have to draft the right guys to help right away and maybe some free agent additions – something that didn't happen last year. So yeah, teams are always just a few players away. But on the flip side, teams are also a few players or injuries away from being on the opposite side. And we saw that this year, too.

Rob: Something Urban Meyer said at his Jaguars press conference a couple weeks ago stuck with me. He said the league is designed for everybody to be .500. It's true. Nobody's ever that far away from contention, but it doesn't take much to slip below that threshold. That has happened here. I will say the current roster has a lot more talent than those 5-11 teams you mentioned, particularly on offense. The biggest difference from those days is Dak – having a productive starting quarterback. I know this quiet time has fueled a lot of speculation about his future in Dallas, but let's just see what happens before assuming the deal won't get done. The Cowboys don't even know for sure what the salary cap level is yet. Obviously Dak is priority No. 1. Next is how new DC Dan Quinn reshapes the defense. If they're solid (not great, just solid) and the offense is healthy and productive again, the Cowboys will be back in the playoffs. That's the glass-full approach. Glass-empty? If a lot of stuff goes wrong like it did in 2020, from injuries to lack of production at key spots to scheme issues, then it very well could be another rough year. That's kind of what makes football great, though. Every season you're not really sure what's going to happen.

Do you think we will see Neville Gallimore get the nod for a more prominent/starting role next season? He seemed to be the Cowboys' best interior defensive lineman down the stretch. — J.M. SMITH / SAINT CHARLES, MD

Nick: I can't see anyone in his way from stopping that. He had a good season, especially at the end of the year and you could see his development. I think the Cowboys are exciting about pairing him with Trysten Hill on the inside. That's a couple of big, but very quick interior players. It's hard to know exactly what Dan Quinn is going to want for the inside players but I would imagine there's not only a role for Gallimore, but he'll likely be at the top of the list.

Rob: I think he's a great fit for Quinn's scheme, or what Quinn has done in the past, anyway. He's an explosive, up-the-field tackle. Trysten Hill fits that mold, too. It'll be interesting how both players are utilized, but yes, the Cowboys believe Gallimore can be really good. He got better as the year went on. Don't forget about Antwaun Woods, too. He gave them some quality snaps inside, but he's set to be a restricted free agent.

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