The Dallas Cowboys had big dreams for the 2022 NFL season, but they came up short of achieving them. With their defeat at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday, Dallas heads into the offseason with an eye towards improving their team adequately enough to make a Super Bowl run in 2023.
Let’s take a look at a few things the Cowboys will look to address this offseason in preparation for next year.
Tony Pollard Hits Free Agency
It’s been an uncomfortable narrative for the organization to address the last couple of years, but it became painfully obvious to anyone who watched Dallas this year that Tony Pollard was the team’s superior running back. The former Memphis star possesses an electric burst of speed and elusiveness that Ezekiel Elliot just doesn’t have anymore.
Ownership loves Elliott’s contribution’s in the pass protection realm and in the locker room, and seems reluctant to admit that their former first round pick is in decline. However, it would do the franchise a large disservice to feature Elliott as the primary back next season, which is why they should make a concerted effort to bring Pollard back.
Unfortunately, Pollard suffered an ankle injury and a broken leg against the 49ers, but he should be ready to participate in team activities this spring and summer. Unless the team feels like the injuries will drastically set Pollard back, they should make his return a high priority.
A Coordinator Shuffle?
It’s one of the hidden costs of doing business after a successful season. Other teams around the NFL are interested in getting to the level that another franchise just achieved, and they want to obtain the personnel responsible for bringing up the level of certain aspects of the roster.
With that pattern in mind, the Cowboys have to prepare for the likely possibility that either or both of their coordinators may not be back with the team next year. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore has been highly regarded around the NFL as a young, bright mind, while defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has been the architect of a strong defense the last couple of years.
It feels like Quinn might be more likely to leave Dallas than Moore, but Cowboys ownership will need to accurately identify whether their replacements are in-house, or outside of the organization.
Leighton Vander Esch’s Future
As touched upon above, the Cowboys defense was one of the more disruptive units in the NFL this season. Their production was anchored by a strong performance by their front seven, who made their presence felt at the line of scrimmage.
One player who was instrumental in that area was linebacker Leighton Vander Esch. The 26 year-old finished the 2022 season with 90 total tackles. Vander Esch’s athleticism allowed him to fly to the ball and cause all sorts of problems for opposing offenses.
Vander Esch will hit free agency, and his profile is an interesting one. He had a sensational rookie seasons with Dallas in 2018, but battled durability issues for the next couple of years. In the last two seasons, Vander Esch has been available and productive. It’ll be interesting to see how valuable Dallas thinks he is when/if they negotiate a new contract with him.