FRISCO, Texas – We've put some distance between ourselves and the end of the Cowboys' season, so it's easier to look back with some perspective.
Of course, it was a year that ended in disappointing fashion. But ending the ending, there's plenty that can be learned from a journey that started all the way back in May.
This week, the staff of DallasCowboys.com is looking back at their picks for the biggest moments and contributions from the 2021 season – for better and for worse.
Today, we'll address the biggest disappointment of the season – something other than just losing in the first round of the playoffs.
What player, coach or position failed the most to hit the expectations? So here's the picks from our staff:
David Helman: There are a lot of guys you could mention here – pretty much all of them on the offensive side of the football. And while it's fair to criticize Dak Prescott and this offensive line, I do wonder what Kellen Moore will take away when he assesses the second half of the year. The Cowboys faced a lot of adversity, as all football teams do. They had to juggle their offensive line, and they had to deal with the loss of several receivers, not to mention injuries to their running backs. Even still, this was an offense that had all of its primary pieces available down the home stretch of the season, and they weren't able to move the ball with much consistency. Amari Cooper at times felt like an afterthought until he asked for the ball. CeeDee Lamb was hardly targeted in a playoff loss. The same can be said for Tony Pollard. I still think Moore is a promising young coach, but it is disconcerting that he had so many dangerous players at his disposal and the offense still managed to look so disjointed for much of the back half of the season.
Nick Eatman: This is definitely going to look weird because there's another story on this website announcing that he's going to the Pro Bowl, but CeeDee Lamb was a tad disappointing. And maybe not him – because he did have 1,100 yards and nearly 80 catches. The Cowboys probably could've tried even more chances to get him the ball, especially in the playoffs. But I thought he was going to take that Year 2 leap that Trevon Diggs did. I thought he was going to have these Randy Moss-like catches every game like he did every day in camp. He had a good season, but he didn't just have a magical year. And right or wrong, that's what I was expecting.
Rob Phillips: The run game's decline. There was a four-game unbeaten stretch (Weeks 2-5) where the Cowboys averaged 201.0 rushing yards per game and 5.5 yards per carry and looked unstoppable. (Not coincidentally, quarterback Dak Prescott averaged a 119.6 passer rating.) After the bye week -- the final 12 games, including the wild-card loss to San Francisco -- the Cowboys averaged 100.8 yards per game and 4.0 yards per carry, including just 77 yards on 21 carries against the 49ers. A lot of factors contributed to that drop in production. Ezekiel Elliott deserves credit for fighting through a PCL injury for all but three games. Tony Pollard also missed time, and you can argue that his touches when healthy weren't enough. The offensive line had a lot of lineup changes and didn't win up front against playoff teams like San Francisco and Kansas City. As Mike McCarthy said the week after the playoff loss, "We need to be better (in the run game) because it's definitely a key building block for us to have success."