Football Team

5 things we learned from the Cowboys' Week 1 loss to Tampa

Football Team
Dak Prescott

The Washington Football Team wasn't in action during Thursday night's NFL season opener, but there was still plenty for fans to take away from a matchup between the Cowboys and Buccaneers. 

Dak Prescott is back

Prescott's health concerns after missing most of last season with an ankle injury and all of the preseason with a shoulder strain were a major question mark for the Cowboys' season entering Week 1. If Dallas is going to have any hope at making the playoffs considering how bad their defense is, Prescott is going to have to more or less carry the team. 

He pretty much did that in his 2021 debut, completing 42-of-58 passes for 403 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He didn't look as mobile as he did before his ankle injury, but the shoulder looked fine and his ball placement was exceptional throughout the game. 

The Cowboys are going to go as far as Prescott can take them this year, and they have to be encouraged at how sharp he looked, regardless of the result. 

The beginning of the end for Zeke?

When Ezekiel Elliott entered the league with Prescott in 2016, the offense was built on the offensive line and running game. Now, it appears the script has flipped. 

Elliott only carried the ball 11 times Thursday night for 33 yards. He didn't seem to have the same burst or elusiveness fans had grown accustomed to, and the playcalling was clearly geared toward moving the ball through the air. After a disappointing 2020 campaign, Elliott hoped for a bounce-back year in 2021.

 

If it's not going to happen this year, it's fair to wonder if it ever will. He's 26 years old and has nearly 1,700 touches in his career.

This isn't the same NFC East

With Prescott injured, Washington's quarterback carousel, Daniel Jones turning the ball over three times a week and the Eagles completely bursting into flames offensively, the NFC East had the worst collection of offenses in the league last season. 

That allowed Washington, who had an elite defense, to win the division at 7-9. They made significant personnel improvements on offense over the offseason, but they won't be able to get away with such poor production again in 2021. The Cowboys look potent offensively, Jones is playing for his job in New York and there's literally nowhere for the Eagles to go but up on that side of the ball. 

Washington's defense won't be able to win the division on its own again. 

Mike McCarthy's game management: Not great

Seemingly learning nothing from the 2020 NFC championship game, Mike McCarthy played for a field goal in the closing minutes of the game, giving his team a one-point lead with time left on the clock for Brady. 

Tampa Bay then predictably put together a drive that set up the game-winning field goal. If this is what we can expect from the Cowboys' coaching staff, they'll lose a few more games they shouldn't before the season is over.

Amari Cooper and Ceedee Lamb will be a problem

It wasn't just Prescott making it happen in the Dallas passing game. Cooper and Lamb were extremely effective in making plays on the perimeter. Cooper caught 13 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns, while Lamb caught seven balls for 104 yards and a score including a beautifully executed delayed fade route down the left sideline. 

Having one receiver who can win on the outside is valuable. Having two makes your offense very hard to stop. How Washington's corners will be able to match up with Cooper and Lamb will be a major storyline once those two teams square off.