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Tuesday, November 29, 2022
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Dallas Cowboys 2021 Season Review | Part 1 – Offseason Moves and Training Camp


Dallas Cowboys before NFL wild-card game. | Image by dallascowboys.com

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The Dallas Cowboys 2021 campaign ended in a bizarre and frustrating way for fans and players alike. Though mired in controversy, the final play of the game — and the resulting elimination of the Cowboys from playoff contention — does not overshadow the progress the Cowboys made this season.

By most metrics, the 2020 Cowboys season was an unmitigated disaster. The Cowboys ended the season at 6-10 and had one of the NFL’s worst defenses. The team lost star quarterback Dak Prescott to a fractured ankle in Week 5 and never found a solution.

Then-first year head coach Mike McCarthy cleaned house in the offseason in preparation for a rebuilding campaign in 2021.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones uncharacteristically went hot for defensive players, bringing in eight of 11 draft picks and several key free agency acquisitions that reshaped the face of the franchise. 

Perhaps the most significant offseason move was bringing former head coach Dan Quinn on board to operate the defense. His impact on the success of the 2021 season cannot be understated. 

Quinn’s revamped defense started with the 2021 draft. The Cowboys took Micah Parsons, a linebacker from Penn State, with the 12th overall pick in the first round. In the second round, the team selected cornerback Kelvin Joseph out of Kentucky. The third round selections were all defensive players; defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa from UCLA, defensive end Chauncey Golston from Iowa, and cornerback Nashon Wright from Oregon State. 

With the 115th pick and the first for the Cowboys in the fourth round, the team selected Jabril Cox, a linebacker from LSU, then made their first offensive selection with Marshall’s offensive tackle Josh Ball. Dallas had only one selection for the fifth round and took Simi Fehoko, a wide receiver from Stanford. 

Round six featured two more defensive selections for Dallas. First, they took defensive tackle Quinton Bohanna, who played for Kentucky, then doubled down by selecting South Carolina cornerback Israel Mukuamu. In the seventh round, the Cowboys’ final pick went to Nebraska guard Matt Farniok. 

Then, in free agency, the Cowboys acquired safeties Keanu Neal, Damontae Kazee, and Jayron Kearse, defensive end Tarell Basham, defensive tackles Carlos Watkins and Brent Urban, offensive tackle Ty Nsekhe, and long snapper Jake McQuaide on one-year deals, as well as re-signed special teams and cornerback C.J. Goodwin for two years and cornerback Jourdan Lewis for three.

A special offseason treat for Cowboys fans was the decision by HBO to follow training camp with the Cowboys for the much-heralded series “Hard Knocks.” The series introduced fans to the newly drafted and signed players and gave a fantastic inside look at the preparation that goes into the season. 

Shortly after the beginning of training camp, Prescott suffered a rare-in-the-sport shoulder injury that prevented him from throwing during much of the camp. Prescott signed a potential six-year, $160 million contract in the offseason. 

The Cowboys made numerous roster moves as the team cut to 53 players. Special rules involving COVID protocols allowed the Cowboys to evaluate many of the less-experienced players while retaining players they were likely to keep. 

The most shocking roster cut before the season was quarterback Garrett Gilbert. Gilbert was widely considered the top pick to back up Prescott, but instead, Cooper Rush won the competition. Ben DiNucci became the third-string quarterback and was signed to the practice squad. 

In the next Cowboys Season Review, we will recap the beginning of the season through the bye week, highlighting the stars and spectacular moments of the Dallas Cowboys 2021 season.

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