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Five Storylines for 2021 Dallas Cowboys Season of 'Hard Knocks'

Ryan Phillips
New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys / Tom Pennington/Getty Images
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The Dallas Cowboys will be the focus of Hard Knocks for the third time in the show's 16 seasons. Lucily for NFL Films and HBO, there are plenty of storylines to follow when it comes to "America's Team."

Here's a look at five threads we want the show to dive into during its return to the Big D.

Dak Prescott Returns

Dak Prescott is the center of the Cowboys' universe and he'll be back after suffering a devastating compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle in 2020. He's fresh off signing a four-year, $160 million contract extension (with $126 million guaranteed) as well.

Focusing on Prescott's mission to come back from that awful injury and his secure place as the franchise's centerpiece now and in the future will be a source of endless content for the show. Prescott's backstory, his journey with the Cowboys and where he stands now are all great stories. Expect him to be heavily featured.

Dan Quinn's New Defense

Former Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn was hired as the new defensive coordinator in Dallas and is tasked with turning around the NFL's 23rd-ranked unit. The Cowboys also ranked 28th in points allowed (29.6 per game) and were a huge reason for the team's 6-10 finish.

Quinn was a huge part of helping Pete Carroll build the Seattle Seahawks into a defensive powerhouse on their march to a championship at Super Bowl XLVIII. He moved on to become the head coach of the Falcons and wound up taking them to Super Bowl LI, where they blew a 25-point lead to the New England Patriots and lost in overtime.

Quinn's mission to rebuild Dallas' defense and his past successes and failures will undoubtedly be a great source of content.

Mike McCarthy's Future

Mike McCarthy was a puzzling hire for the Cowboys when he was announced as their new head coach in January of 2020. His first season confirmed much of what his detractors believed as Dallas went 6-10. The offense was unimaginative and his faith in defensive coordinator Mike Nolan was completely misplaced.

If McCarthy can't turn things around this season and reach expectations, his tenure in Dallas could be short. The Cowboys still have a lot of talent and another finish below .500 could be all she wrote in Dallas for the 57-year-old. Examining McCarthy's status on the hot seat would be an excellent thread.

Can Ezekiel Elliott Bounce Back?

In September of 2019, Ezekiel Elliott signed a six-year, $90 million contract extension to become the league's highest-paid running back. In 2020, he did not live up to that contract.

Elliott finished the season hitting career-lows in rushing yards (979), yards per carry (4.0) and touchdowns (six), while posting a career-high in fumbles lost (four). The 25-year-old former first-round pick has to be better this season.

Following Elliott as he attempts to bounce back from his terrible 2020 campaign would be interesting. Has he changed his training habits or diet? How is he approaching things differently in his second season under McCarthy?

Micah Parsons In His First Training Camp

The Cowboys may have scored a huge steal when Micah Parsons fell to them at the 12th pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. The linebacker out of Penn State opted to skip the 2020 college football season (due to COVID-19 concerns) and focus on the draft, but it didn't really wind up hurting him.

Parsons was a consensus All-American as a sophomore and one of the best defensive playmakers in the nation. He'll likely line up as a starter next to Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, giving Dallas one of the best linebacker groups in the NFL.

There are a ton of stories to dig into with Parson. Hard Knocks always focuses on rookies making their transition to the NFL and he's a good place to start. Diving into his decision to sit out of the 2020 season and his adjustment to playing real football again after a year off training for the next level could be fascinating.

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