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5 biggest reasons Cowboys' 2022 season could turn south – Cowboys Wire

The Dallas Cowboys had one of the more interesting offseasons in the NFL. For a team coming off a division-winning campaign and with a quarterback in his prime, the ideal strategy would’ve been to go all in and get aggressive on attaining a Super Bowl.
If the Cowboys were anything like the champion Los Angeles Rams and had a general manager like Les Snead, they might’ve taken that approach. Alas, under Stephen Jones’ penny-pinching ways over the last decade the Cowboys shows they aren’t anything like the Rams.
The two teams view building franchises differently, very differently. The Cowboys of today covet cap space, draft picks and are rarely aggressive when it comes to signing veteran free agents. The Rams, on the other hand, say forget those picks (in more colorful language), manipulate the cap to its limit, and are always in on the best free agents.
It’s also well-known how the Cowboys make re-signing their best players an excruciating process, while the Rams are quick to pay their stars to keep them happy.
The differences are part of what make the Rams perennial contenders most years while the Cowboys haven’t had back-to-back playoff appearances in over 15 years. After a good season in 2021, the Cowboys don’t appear – on paper – to have improved enough to take that next step.
Some of the decisions could pay off for the Cowboys, but it’s hard to know before training camp opens. If Dallas doesn’t repeat their success from last year, here are the five likeliest things that derailed their season.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
The Cowboys didn’t have a perfect injury situation last year, and one could point to quarterback Dak Prescott’s calf ailment in Week 6 as one of the biggest reasons things seemed to fall apart in the second half of the year.
However, Prescott playing in 16 games was one of the main forces behind the Cowboys winning 12 games. Without Prescott, the Cowboys aren’t a team capable of winning the division or making a serious postseason run. Most teams are in trouble without their starting quarterback, so it’s no surprise that if Prescott missed time, the Cowboys would be sunk, but it’s not the only player who could ruin the team’s season.
An injury to linebacker Micah Parsons would be a crushing blow to a defense that probably cannot survive missing its best player. Much like with Prescott, Parsons is the quarterback on defense and his versatility is the key to maximizing Dallas’ potential on that side of the ball.
Other players who could ruin the season if they got hurt and miss an extended period of time include Tyron Smith, which makes for a number of moving parts on a rebuilt offensive line, cornerback Trevon Diggs, or wide receiver CeeDee Lamb.
 (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
Aside from injuries, this is the biggest concern with the Cowboys heading into camp. The offensive line will have at least two new starters to begin the season, but if Tyron Smith gets hurt it could make three new starters from last year’s unit.
The Cowboys’ offseason plan to hand over the right tackle spot to Terence Steele and draft guard Tyler Smith played a role in remaking the offensive line. If those changes don’t pan out, the offense could be in line for a regression and Prescott could be running for his life.
I don’t see how the Cowboys Offensive Line can be ranked #6 in the league.
Rookie LG that he never played the position.
Center position is up for grabs.
Starting RT will be his first year coming is as the day 1 starter.
How many games will LT Tyron Smith be available?
— ✭ Your_Guy_Nix ✭ (@Your_Guy_Nix) June 17, 2022

Dallas also still hasn’t upgraded their swing tackle spot, which is a vital role on the team, considering the veteran Smith’s recent injury history. The Cowboys seem to be fine banking on the improvement from some of their young offensive linemen, and expect Tyler Smith to step in and be an upgrade over previous LG Connor Williams.
There’s a good deal of faith in the plan at offensive line for the Cowboys this offseason, the hope is it doesn’t blow up in their faces.
 (AP Photo/Brett Duke)
The Cowboys’ defense led the league in turnovers last season. First-year defensive coordinator Dan Quinn led a great turnaround from one of the worst defenses in franchise history.
Quinn worked wonders, utilizing versatile pieces and molding the unit into one the real surprises in the NFL last season. Having a rookie lead the the way and becoming one of the best defensive players in the game certainly helped the improvement as well.
Live shot of Parsons and Dan Quinn.
— Pash (@TheAmir) December 12, 2021

However, turnovers are often fluky from one year to the next and no team has led the league in takeaways one year and come back to lead the league again the next season in the 2000s. The last time the Cowboys were near the top of the list, in 2014 when they were second in the NFL, the defense plummeted to last in the league at forcing turnovers the following season.
No one is suggesting the Cowboys will have such a drop in 2022, but in a league that adjusts so well from year to year to what teams do, don’t expect Quinn’s unit to create as many turnovers.
That doesn’t mean the defense can’t be better; stopping the run and not committing so many penalties would help, but a regression in the turnover department might be a reason the Dallas defense doesn’t perform up to the standards expected with Quinn at the helm.
 (AP Photo/Roger Steinman)
The Cowboys were among the best offenses in the NFL last year. The statistics will show they led the league in both yards and points per game.
However, most of that damage came in the first half of the season, when the Cowboys were scoring at will. Things were much different after the team’s bye week and aside from a few offensive outbursts against teams which weren’t really trying very hard, the Cowboys didn’t resemble the offense that was taking the league by storm.
Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore was pinned as the one to blame, but it didn’t help the offense that running back Ezekiel Elliott continued to play hurt or that Prescott was playing with an injured calf.
Now, the Cowboys enter the new season without wide receiver Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup expected to miss time, and the offensive line is arguably the biggest question mark on the team.
Dallas doesn’t have the same offense as last season, the unit doesn’t look as good on paper. If Moore can’t find the magic that made the Cowboys one of the best offenses in the league again, it could mean problems.
(AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
The Cowboys didn’t have a sure thing at kicker last season with Greg Zuerlein lining up the kicks. The veteran kicker did make some big field goals, but he also had the worst extra point percentage in the league and missed too many short attempts. Many of those misses came back to bite the Cowboys, who had to chase points.
Ridding themselves of Zuerlein was a good decision, but the team didn’t bring in an experienced NFL kicker. The Cowboys did add Jonathan Garibay out of Texas Tech as an undrafted free agent, and recently re-added Lirim Hajrullahu as competition for the kicking job.
Kicker Lirim Hajrullahu arrived in Dallas today. His signing is expected to become officially processed as early as Friday. Cowboys set for summer competition between Hajrullahu and undrafted rookie Jonathan Garibay.
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) July 7, 2022

However, neither have the look of a kicker the Cowboys can trust when the season starts. Hajrullahu has only made four NFL kicks and Garibay made 85.2% of his kicks in college, a percentage only slightly better than Zuerlein during his two year stint in Dallas.
The Cowboys need a better option, or at least better results, from their kicking game this upcoming season. The team cannot afford to leave points on the field if they want to improve on last year’s outcome.
Games in the NFL are usually close, having a strong and accurate kicker can be the difference in wins and losses. The Cowboys are playing a risky game at kicker and it could end up costing them.
You can chat with or follow Ben on twitter @BenGrimaldi 
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