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Offseason | 2021

Spagnola: Watch Out With The Gang Coming Back


FRISCO, Texas – Here is a glorious sight for worried eyes.

Spotted on the rehab/conditioning field on Thursday at The Star was the quarterback, Dak Prescott, continuing to do his thing without a hitch in his giddy-up following his season-ending ankle surgery.

A tad later, here comes the starting tight end, Blake Jarwin, continuing his rehab, running strong, following his season-ending surgery to repair a torn ACL.

And now for the very best part, most encouraging, following head coach Mike McCarthy's recent rave review.

Alongside the quarterback, alternating drills on the resistance cord being held by Cowboys associate trainer Britt Brown, head rehab guy, looking trim and running as well as the quarterback was the starting right offensive tackle, La'el Collins, showing no residual signs from his season-ending hip surgery.

Out there with the conditioning guys, working shirtless, was the best looking 310 pounds you've ever seen, starting left tackle Tyron Smith, fit and trim and showing no signs from his season-ending neck surgery.

And as if all that were not encouraging enough, out there was the starting Pro Bowl right guard and emergency starting right tackle, Zack Martin, also attached to the resistance cord, looking totally recovered from his season-ending calf injury.

Oh, and let's not forget the guy who had taken over at center last year, erstwhile rookie Tyler Biadasz, basically knocked out of the final eight games of the season with a hamstring injury, running hard with the rest of the conditioning offensive linemen.

Think about all that, all of 'em numbering six starters missing from an offense finishing 14th in the NFL last year, still totaling 5,949 yards (371.8 a game), seventh most in the franchise's past 37 seasons – a time period including quarterbacks Danny White, Troy Aikman and Tony Romo.

Think about doing all that with four-fifths of your offensive line starting just 16 of a possible 64 games, with 10 of those starts belonging to Martin; your quarterback starting just five games but finishing just less than three-quarters of the fifth; your tight end basically having just a cup of coffee in the opener; and your two starting tackles with only Smith's two starts.

Those six starters, just more than half your starting 11, making only 22 of a possible 96 starts in what turned out to be a sorry 6-10 season, yet the Cowboys still scoring at least 30 points in eight games, accounting for all six wins, and averaging right at 32 points a game in the final four.

This and having to start four quarterbacks, two of them making their first NFL starts.

Rather astonishing numbers.

Rather 2021 encouraging, no?

No wonder the Cowboys spent eight of their 11 draft choices this past week on defensive players, the three offensive players a tackle in the fourth, a wide receiver in the fifth and a guard in the seventh, then in veteran free agency a backup offensive tackle and backup tight end. That's just about it for offensive additions.

And to think there were some wondering why the Cowboys passed on offensive tackle/guard Rashawn Slater with the 12th pick in the first round in favor of linebacker Micah Parsons, banking on him, along with cornerback Kelvin Joseph, linebacker Jabril Cox, defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa, defensive end Chauncey Golston and some 327-pound nose tackle Quinton Bohanna, along with veteran free agents Keanu Neal, Damontae Kazee, Carlos Watkins, Brett Urban and Tarell Basham to maybe help this team give up less than the 29.6 points a game of last season.


At some point, the Cowboys have to win their first game since beating Seattle, 24-22, in the 2018 NFC Wild Card game without having to score at least 30 points.

So for an offense that has just about everything, save an experienced/established backup quarterback (they were bringing in veteran QB Jeff Driskel for an interview Friday) and figuring out just who the backup swing tackle will be, the absolute best offensive move has been re-signing Dak to his four-year, $160 million contract, complete with two option years to reduce this year's and next year's salary-cap impact.

Then, too, considering what the offense was able to accomplish this past season with nearly half the starters tied to injured reserve but all expected to return physically sound, this could be a record-breaking, epic season when adding those guys back to the likes of Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb.

No wonder back during his contract-celebrating press conference when owner Jerry Jones was asked if the Cowboys are the best team in the NFC East, Dak basically told the boss, I got this, not hesitating one iota to say, unequivocally, "Yes!"

Followed by COO Stephen Jones piping in with "Absolutely."

A case of blustering?

False hope?

A tad bit cocky?

Look, with the additions of new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and a few hole-plugging free agents, along with sprinkling in some top-notch defensive draft choices, maybe this defense can at least become average. Heck, even marginally better than last year's bunch giving up the most points in franchise history might do.

Why then, with this offense …

"As I said," Dak repeated during his March press conference, "there's expectations that I have that I don't think anyone can match. I have huge ones for our offense."

Considering last year, what was missing, what was accomplished and what I've been seeing, me too.

And wasn't watching the other day with rose-colored glasses.

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