Cowboys: Can the Offense Improve?


The Dallas Cowboys offense is struggling. Is this as good as they get or can the offense improve?

No Dez Bryant.

No Tony Romo.

Not even Lance Dunbar (don’t laugh — he’s the leading receiver by a sizable margin).

It’s really no wonder the Dallas Cowboys offense is struggling this season. They are without the briefly-dubbed “Triplets” from 2014 and are forced to move the ball without their two most valuable players on the field.

Since losing Tony Romo and Dez Bryant the first two weeks of the season, the Dallas Cowboys have lost two consecutive games. Both contests were winnable affairs that were likely penciled in as “W’s” before the season began. Both have raised serious concerns about what this offense can do without its leaders.

What good is a strong competition percentage if it doesn’t get 3rd downs converted?

The Dallas Cowboys offense hasn’t been horrible without Tony and Dez, but it hasn’t been getting the job done either. As we looked at yesterday, the Cowboys offense is well below league average in nearly every key category. If things continue the way they are trending, the Cowboys could be out of the playoff picture before Romo gets back on the field.

Is this really as good as it gets for the Dallas Cowboys offense?

That sad truth is, “yes”, this is about as good as it gets for the Cowboys offense. Unless they change the way they approach opponents, they are destined to continue their sub-par play. That doesn’t mean they can’t still turn it around, but it will take a shake-up, either at QB or in the play-calling, to get this offense back on track.

The biggest problem with the Cowboys offense is quite simple — Opponents don’t fear or respect the Cowboys deep or on the outside. Opposing defenses are sucking into the box and crowding the line of scrimmage, leaving outside receivers in single coverage with Cover 1 or Cover 0 over the top.

Both Atlanta and New Orleans beat the Cowboys by bringing 8 and even 9 players into the box and daring the Cowboys to beat them deep or on the outside. Sadly, the Cowboys not only struggled to beat them deep or on the outside, but the Cowboys very rarely even tried. Why would anyone play the Cowboys straight-up?

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The offensive line hasn’t regressed, they’re just outmatched. Successful running games need a passing game to keep opponents honest. If the defense stacks the box and leaves outside receivers in single coverage, the offense needs to take advantage of that single coverage. Even if it doesn’t work out every time, it at least shows that the offense is willing to attack.

When coach Jason Garrett was asked if starting QB Brandon Weeden had the power to audible out of a run in these situations, Garrett said this,

"“[Weeden] has freedom. We have a number of different ways to get ourselves into the right play and Brandon certainly has complete control over all those operations.”"

Recognizing these advantageous situations is usually pretty easy. Teams aren’t really disguising their intentions as they “tempt” the Cowboys timid offense to beat them through the air. Sure Brandon Weeden completes passes at a high percentage, but those are passes the defense allows him to complete.

As we looked at yesterday, the past three games the Cowboys have been #31 in the NFL in 3rd down conversion percentage. One of the very most important categories and the Cowboys are less than 1 percentage point from last in the league.

What good is a strong competition percentage if it doesn’t get 3rd downs converted? If Brandon Weeden has the freedom to audible out and start passing against eight-man fronts, then someone should probably tell him because it just ain’t getting done.

Whether it’s play-calling itself or it’s Brandon Weeden specifically, the situation needs to be fixed because it’s very clear what opponents are doing to the Cowboys and it’s very clear the Cowboys are scared to fight back.

The Cowboys players aren’t suddenly going to improve. The running game isn’t going to suddenly take off and carry the team on its own. If the Cowboys have any hope of improvement, they need to start using the entire field because right now there’s nothing forcing defenses to play honest.

Next: Cowboys success depends on these two things

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