DALLAS - There's a lot to like about the Dallas Cowboys' offense entering the 2021 season. The return of Dak Prescott to the lineup ranks atop the list after his extensive rehab from a compound fracture and dislocation of his ankle.
Prescott, who is entering the start of a four-year, $160 million contract, was on an incredible pace before going down with injury last season. Having completed 151-of-222 (68.0%) pass attempts for 1,856 yards, nine touchdowns, and four picks, arguably no quarterback was playing at a higher-level.
Much of the focus has been placed on Prescott, and for good reason. He's looked great in practices and does not appear to be a player coming off a major injury, in the slightest. A substantial season is in store from him, but he needs to be healthy in order for that to occur.
To live up to lofty expectations many have for him, it's vital that Prescott able to stay healthy and have time to throw and that's what makes the offensive line the 'most important' position group, as the franchise-quarterback recently noted. Led by Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and La'el Collins, everything starts with them.
"They're the most important, if you ask me," Prescott said. "From the time that I got drafted until now, this offense is built off of those guys. They're the three most veteran guys on this team, and that's for a reason. Those guys are walk-in Pro Bowl guys when they're healthy, future Hall of Famers. Just to have those three guys lead the five guys up front, everything starts with them. The run game, that allows the pass game to open up. When you have those guys back healthy, energized, it's special."
The Cowboys' offensive line dealt with substantial injury issues in their own right in 2020 in addition to the retirement of Travis Frederick. Collins appeared in none of the team's 16 games last season after a hip surgery and Tyron Smith undergoing neck surgery after two outings.
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Martin dealt with a variety of ailments in his own right. He was limited to 10 appearances last season due to a concussion and calf injury. Between Collins, Smith, and Martin, the Cowboys' standout O-line trio appeared in just a quarter of the 48 combined possible appearances.
Each of the key cogs of the Cowboys' offensive line are expected to be a full participant in training camp when it begins next month. For a unit that lacked continuity last season, that could prove to be substantial for the position group and team as a whole.
"That's definitely a big thing, getting our O-line back, getting a lot of guys we didn't have -- a lot of key guys, like Pro Bowl O-lineman, you know, La'el Collins, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin," Tony Pollard said. "All three of those guys are big for us."
Whether it's Ezekiel Elliott on carries out of the backfield or one of the Cowboys' standout receivers making a big play, it all starts with the offensive line. Overall, the offense appears primed to have a highly successful 2021 campaign, as long as health goes their way.
If the Cowboys are to contend for a Super Bowl, receiving high-quality production from the offensive line will be essential, and Dak Prescott knows it.