The 2016 Dallas Cowboys’ 13-3 record harkened many back to the glory days of the early 90’s, with another trio of talented young skill players and a mix of savvy veterans leading Dallas to the NFC Playoffs.
Hopes of another Super Bowl were quickly dashed as the Green Bay Packers dispatched the Cowboys 34-31 in the divisional round, and left Dallas pondering what exactly happened.
As training camp and preseason get going the Cowboys will have many early questions to answer in order to get their 2017 season off the ground, and possibly make postseason dreams a reality.
Will Ezekiel Elliott be cleared to play in the season’s early weeks? Elliott’s domestic violence issue stems from an alleged July 2016 incident after being selected in that April’s draft. Elliott and the Cowboys have repeatedly made their case for a quick resolution to the league’s investigation.
While the police brought no formal charges upon Elliott, Commissioner Roger Goodell says that the NFL will leave no stone unturned in an alleged domestic violence case. A year since the alleged incident, and the Cowboys are still in the dark as to whether or not the league’s leading rusher will be in action in week one of the regular season.
Can Dak Prescott avoid the sophomore slump? Prescott’s surprising success was a boon for Dallas last year after Tony Romo’s injury in the preseason. The rookie threw for 3,667 yards and 23 touchdowns while only getting intercepted four times all season.
Prescott was named 2016 Rookie of the Year and was selected to the Pro Bowl in a storybook season for the former Mississippi State standout. The concern now for Dallas is can Prescott sustain his early success, and use it as a springboard as a perennial high-caliber quarterback? Will Prescott have a tougher time in his second pass through the NFC East? Prescott showed the poise of someone much older than his 23 years last season, and that trait could serve him well in 2017.
What kind of impact will Jaylon Smith have? The Cowboys were criticized for drafting the Notre Dame linebacker in last year’s second round after a devastating bowl game knee injury. Smith’s upside and potential are a gamble Dallas made a bet on, and the team hopes to see an explosive impact defender that could one day replace veteran Sean Lee. How will Smith’s nerve damage in his knee respond to 19 months’ worth of rehab? Will he regain the All-American form he showed in college? Answers to those questions may come soon.
The Cowboys will have many tests to pass for a team that was so successful one season prior. We will see if they come up with the right answers this fall.