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Three Dallas Cowboys That Must Step Up In 2022

With the NFL Draft over and gone and training camp on the way, it is time to decide which Cowboys players need to step up in 2022. Dallas faced another disappointing ending in the first round of the playoffs losing to the 49ers. Dak and company looked worn out and ready to go on vacation.

The Cowboys moved on from Amari Cooper, Connor Williams, and many more. This roster will look a little different this year. Whether that is a good or bad situation to be in, I do not know. However, with disappointment comes another chance to redeem yourself right? That being said, let’s break down which Cowboys need to step up in 2022.

Dak Prescott: 4,449 passing yards, 37 touchdowns, 104.2 QBR

I know this sounds crazy having Dak on this list but hear me out. 2021 was Dak’s bounce-back year from his horrific injury in 2020. Prior to Prescott missing the Minnesota game in week eight, he had an incredible 1,813 passing yards and 16 passing touchdowns. Prescott looked primed for his first MVP and Comeback Player of the Year. As all Cowboys fans know, Prescott would miss week eight with a calf strain and would never be the same.

Following his injury, Prescott was not the same player in the back half of the season. His completion percentage dropped dramatically and his production overall was not where it was. This hurt Dallas considering the season ended in a first-round playoff exit. Prescott has put himself into a category where he is expected to be an MVP contender every year. However, declining drastically and losing in the first round is not what wins MVPs.

Sure Dak has amazing stats but winning when it matters in the playoffs matters more. If Dak wants to avoid the playoff woes that his mentor Tony Romo had, 2022 needs to be the season we Dak take this team to their full potential. The roster might not be as loaded as last year but if Dak is locked in, so will everyone else. Dak is the leader and the troops will follow him, it just needs to happen now.

Offensive Line: 54 penalties total in 2021 (most in the NFL)

Next up, we have the entire offensive line for the Cowboys. I know this isn’t a specific player but when you include the whole set, it counts. The Dallas o-line was so heavily penalized that they would single-handedly end drives. They also struggled to create space for the running backs and lost most of their blocks in the trenches. They also were once again hit with the injury bug leading to inconsistent o-line groups. These problems have been stacking up for the past few seasons and now they are ruining the Cowboys overall production.

Dallas addressed their lack of depth by drafting Tyler Smith and Matt Waletzko. The left guard position is their weakest link and will need to watched closely this year. Ideally, Dallas needs to find their starting group. The early days of Zeke and even back to Demarco Murray showed that a consistent group up front leads to production. If plugging in rookie Tyler Smith over Connor McGovern leads to more success, then so be it. Figuring out this o-line problem should be priority number one to improve in 2022.

Leighton Vander-Esch: 77 total tackles, one sack and interception

2021 was the first full season for Vander Esch since 2018. His rookie year was his best season and Dallas looked to have a diamond in the rough. But then he would only play 19 total games between 2019 and 2020. Vander Esch lucked out with the release of Jaylon Smith because his role was to hold down the linebacker spot. With Micah Parsons at his side, Vander Esch should feel the pressure in 2022.

Dallas also drafted Damone Clark who will likely challenge the starters next year. Vander Esch signed a one-year deal so this will be his year to “put up or shut up”. Dallas faced what seemed like an impossible cap space but got it done. If Vander Esch does not step up this year, he will easily be gone. His number one priority is avoiding injuries but also earning another extension. I like Vander Esch because he still has great sideline-to-sideline speed but the linebacker position is one that can be changed quickly.

Which player on this list will step up the most this season? Comment below and join the discussion!

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