Measured optimism for 2022: Dan’s defense and Dak’s acid test

It's been a bottle of rinse and repeat more often than not for the last 25 years. Each new season seemed like futility wrapped in hope and spin.

Such may be the case yet again, but at least this time the packaging feels a bit different than the past few years anyway.

For too long, Cowboys football has relied on happenstantial defense. Turnovers and punts too often were mere products of the other teams mistakes and inadequacies, not anything Dallas was doing. Defense here was the Texas Lotto, looking for luck with nary a plan.

But now the "other side of the ball" suddenly carries the glean of a brand new ride, and with it any hopes that this season can be any more than another mediocre season. The schedule sets up nicely with a disheveled Tampa team, followed by a gritty Cincy and a then largely a run of non-descript teams only interrupted by the Rams and Packers.

For that schedule advantage to matter, this defense has to matter in a big way, and I really like a couple of the moves Dallas made on that side of the ball.

First, keeping Quinn was a huge move that we have to give Jerry credit for. (God only knows the wink-wink promises that may have been made to Quinn.) I fully trust him, and I haven't looked forward to watching defense here in forever.

Second, the Anthony Barr signing was more impactful than most understand. He will allow Micah to be the most unpredictable defensive player in the NFL, not just the best. Barr can watch the fort while Micah lines up any damn where Quinn pleases. Goody goody gumdrops.

Losing the unreliable lack of integrity known as Randy Gregory was an unintentional stroke of luck, and Sam Williams will be a more complete player than Gregory on Day 1. (Man, I'm glad that worthless SOB is gone.) And suddenly, DaRon Bland already looks like a much better option than Lewis already as well. The safeties – OMG we have safeties! – are in line with what Quinn likes. The corners look more than adequate, too.

The whole defense looks primed and ready, and you know they're excited to go after people for a change.

As 2022 begins, the offense looks much the same but with different issues, poised to put up early numbers against the weak and the injured, but not when it matters after Turkey Day. Such will remain the truth until they bother to prove otherwise. Some key changes and challenges, sure, but it's not like the previous lot was effective late in the season anyway. Changes are needed and good, and players like Cooper and Collins were VASTLY overrated. Good riddance, both of them.

So what does all this mean in terms of season success? It means they had better figure out a way to get into the playoff or McCarthy is bye-bye. At least the NFC East provides a clear path. The offensive line needs to settle out early, which I think they will to an acceptable level by October.

Ultimately, this season is in the hands of Dan's defense and how Dak performs down the stretch in the clutch. Could be 6-11, could be 11-6.

Because of that defense, I'm going to lean a bit higher than I was 3 months ago. I think 11-6 wins the East and Dallas can become the first team in 17 years to win back-to-back in the division.

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