Even before Dak Prescott suffered a gruesome injury in Week 5 last season, the Dallas Cowboys were already off to an inauspicious start to the 2020 campaign. Jerry Jones' club was 1-3, with the sole win earned in a miracle comeback against Atlanta.
Prescott's injury wiped out any hope of turning around the season, and the Cowboys went 6-10 in Mike McCarthy's first year with the team. The defense, in particular, was awful, which led to the early season stumbles even as the QB and offense put up record-pace numbers.
With Prescott and most of his injured teammates on the mend, a full offseason program in McCarthy's system, and new coordinator Dan Quinn, optimism is rising in Dallas.
Ahead of next month's training camp, Prescott told Newy Scruggs of NBC 5 DFW that he expects even better play than how the Cowboys opened the season.
"Improvement, a lot of improvement, obviously from last year to this year, but deeper than that from those first five games," Prescott said. "Take those first five games and just say we're going to be better than that as a team. We're going to play more complementary football from defense to offense to special teams, and then we're going to have a healthy team. We've all approached the offseason. We approached the season the right way. We're just excited. We're excited that hopefully, we can stay healthy, we can get good fortune on that end. And we can just put everything we've worked hard for together on all stages and all phases of the game. We're excited for this year. It's going to be very, very special for us and for Cowboys fans."
Injuries are always the trickiest unknown every season. At least one potential contender is knocked out each year by unforeseen issues.
On offense, the Cowboys boast a trio of playmaking wide receivers (Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup), a duo of dangerous backs (Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard), and an offensive line with multiple Pro Bowlers returning from a rash of injuries. With Prescott also healthy, no one questions whether Dallas will score points.
The question is whether Quinn and the defense can turn around one of the worst units in the league.
Dallas hasn't generated a deep postseason run since winning the Super Bowl in 1995 -- when Prescott was two years old. Since then, they've made 10 playoff appearances, losing in the Wild Card round four times and falling in the Divisional Round the other six tries.
For this season to be "very special" for Cowboys fans, Prescott must carry them deeper into the postseason than they've been in the past 25 seasons.