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NFL Draft

Dallas Cowboys Hard Knocks Episode 1: What We Learned

  • The Draft Network
  • August 11, 2021
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Dallas Cowboys Hard Knocks Episode 1

The debut of the Dallas Cowboys on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” had a little bit of everything. From an in-depth look into Dak Prescott’s gruesome injury last fall to Ezekiel Elliott learning how to wrap presents, the debut of the show officially welcomed one thing: the start of football season.

While opinions were aplenty regarding the timetable of Prescott’s injury, the intricate delve into his process of recovery, road back to the gridiron, and how he’s dealt with a set snap count and practice limitations have presented the football world (outside of Dallas’ training camp home of Oxnard, CA) with a vivid look into just how cautious Jerry Jones and the Cowboys’ brass have been toward their franchise quarterback.

“I sat out enough,” Prescott said as Dallas transitioned into the team period of practice. “I’d let you know if I was sore.”

Infuriated would be putting it lightly when scoping Prescott’s current emotions toward Dallas’ training staff, as the Cowboys currently monitor both Prescott’s mobility on his ankle and a nagging arm strain that has put Prescott on a pitch count just weeks away from their opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

On the other end of the spectrum, however, the premiere provided a glimpse into Dallas’ 2021 first-round selection Micah Parsons and how his grace period of adjustment from Penn State to the pros has come without a hitch. An exciting blend of speed, power, and size, Parsons has been dominant in camp, flying from sideline to sideline. Fellow linebacker Leighton Vander-Esch has quickly become aware of Parsons’ knack for making plays.

“You’re trying to make all the plays,” Vander Esch said during the Cowboys' loss to the Steelers in the Hall of Fame game. “You’re trying to make every play. You gotta know when it’s your play to make.”

Parsons’ play style isn’t one for the faint of heart. A downhill, rangy linebacker with a nose for the football, one word stood out of many when teammates caught a glimpse of No. 11: fast.

Fast. Fast. Fast. While Vander-Esch’s statement could in fact be correct, as it’s not Parsons’ job to complete all of the Cowboys’ under-performing linebackers’ duties, however, it is a nucleus defender’s job to stick his face in the mud wherever he can, create chaos from play-to-play, and do exactly what the Cowboys expect out of a top-15 pick in the core of Dan Quinn’s defensive structure: everything.

The Cowboys represent one of the more intriguing stories as we head into Week 1—but let’s be real, when do they not? After all, they want you to believe they are “America's Team,” despite just one conference title game appearance in the last 25 years. But, this year is in fact different. With Prescott’s lingering injury issues, an aging offensive line, and a defense simply unimproved despite a switch at coordinator and an allotment of eight of their 11 overall draft picks to the defensive side of the football, Dallas is a one-trick pony heading into the fall. 

Prescott’s health under center could serve to be the single most valuable trait on any given team in football, outside of Kansas City and Tampa Bay. Similar to last fall, with a healthy Prescott, Dallas will stay in games—and if their defense can manage to hold teams under 30, the Cowboys will have a shot on Sundays; it’s that simple. Behind an explosive offense, all the tools are there for Dallas to challenge the Washington Football Team and New York Giants for the division crown… with Prescott on the field. Without him, it would be far-fetched to see Dallas win more than a handful of football games.

As we move through the preseason and we begin to gather further information on the timetable for Prescott’s full return, the Cowboys’ projection for 2021 will begin to become transparent. As light-hearted and comical as Hard Knocks can be at times, the information provided in the show’s premiere has presented an entirely new plate of topics to discuss for the Cowboys in Mike McCarthy’s second season as head coach.

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