Dallas Cowboys: Is the Offensive Line and the Running Game Failing?


The Dallas Cowboys offensive line was supposed to dominate opponents and make the running game unstoppable in 2016. That’s clearly not happening…

The Dallas Cowboys offensive line isn’t living up to their bill as the best offensive line in football. Before the season, some were even calling it the best O-line since the Kansas City Chiefs from roughly a decade ago. You know – the one that dominated with Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson for so many years?

After losing their way in 2015, the Dallas Cowboys were supposed to get back to basics. With a talented runner and an all-star cast on the offensive line, the Cowboys were sure to rediscover the success of 2015. But things haven’t gone well for the Dallas Cowboys running game two games into the 2016 season.

With 101.5 rushing yards per game average, the Dallas Cowboys currently rank as the NFL’s 13th best rushing team. If we’re being honest, that’s not exactly where the Cowboys expected to be ranked at ANY point this season.

It’s not for lack of trying either. The Dallas Cowboys are averaging 30 carries per game which places them ninth in the NFL. It’s almost five more attempts per game as last season, but with a fraction of the results.

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Blame the Runner?

We’re going to dive deeper into the Ezekiel Elliott side of this argument later this morning, but for now just know that Zeke is not to blame. Solely, that is. Alfred Morris may look like he’s doing better than Zeke but his +.02 yards per carry average is still a career low for the Cowboys #2 RB.

Nope. Not much you can do when you run head first into a brick wall and that’s exactly what the Dallas Cowboys’ RBs appear to be doing.

The Problem

The problem is two-fold: The Dallas Cowboys offensive line isn’t quite as good as we thought they were and defenses have been effectively stopping them because they are pooling their resources to do so.

Defensive tackles are crashing with as much effort as we’ve seen and the normally passrush-focused defensive ends are playing with a fire to stop the run rarely seen in the NFL these days.

It seems opponents are a bit insulted as to how the Cowboys O-line has been prematurely anointed. Adding a rookie RB (#4 overall nonetheless) just adds insult to injury. Teams want to crush the best O-line in football and they’re playing like it.

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Fixing the Problem

Fixing the situation isn’t easy but it’s doable. Defenses are crashing on the line and daring Dak Prescott to beat them. Dak is making them pay but not nearly enough to make defenses change their gameplan.

The best way to beat defenses is to attack the areas they are neglecting – over and over again. That doesn’t mean to abandon the run or switch the runner. It means taking shots in the flat and deep down field. The Cowboys have done some of this by using play action to roll Dak out and pass on the run. Doing so exposes the crashing DEs and gives Dak a little more room to operate.

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If the Cowboys want to make those DEs pause, they’ll need to continue this and add in more. More play action and screens and passes to the flat to RBs and TEs will spread out the field and keep all of those defensive linemen from sucking into the middle.

Another area to attack? The long ball.

Besides Dez, the Cowboys have two somewhat-legitimate deep threats in Brice Butler and Terrance Williams. Both are largely going unused.

The offense shouldn’t move away from Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley but it should look to take advantage of the soft coverage shown Butler and Williams.

Looking at Sunday’s All-22 coaches film and you can see a few missed opportunities deep. There weren’t as many as I initially thought but there were some missed opportunities. At the end of the day, a deep shot at least shows defenses you’re looking.

Point of Attack

The Dallas Cowboys also need to find a way to win at the point of attack. The Washington Redskins defensive line exploded off the ball. It was almost as if they knew the snap count and the offense didn’t. This could be an effort issue or it could just be an anomaly that will disappear as quickly as it emerged.


The Dallas Cowboys offensive line is underachieving their ridiculously lofty expectations but they are not even close to failing. For one, they are still the best pass-protecting O-line in the NFL. Factor in they are playing with a rookie QB and it’s pretty understandable that they’re struggling to overcome dedicated run-stopping defensive schemes.

Next: Why Zeke Should Be The NFL Rushing Champ

A little fire in their bellies and some good counterattacks by Scott Linehan and the problem could over by this weekend. So if you have to worry about something, worry about the defense because this offense will be taking off shortly.