The Dallas Cowboys offense continues to struggle, but why?

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports /

Ever since the Denver Broncos game the Dallas Cowboys offense has been relatively flat. Yes, there were some moments in there, but it has been flat more often than not.

Immediately, some fans pointed all of the fingers at Dak Prescott. A few have pointed to the offensive line as the biggest culprit. There are some looking at Kellen Moore, some at the wide receivers, and even some have pointed at the running game, the usage, and injuries at the position. So which one is it?

The answer for the Dallas Cowboys is probably a mix of all of them. But to understand it, you first have to be willing to listen. No one is above scrutiny, but there are also potential reasons that affect something else. We start with Kellen Moore and the offensive scheme. There are a few things here, but for the Dallas Cowboys, it has to start here.

The Dallas Cowboys offense continues to struggle for large parts of games, the answer why isn’t a simple one thing or person, it all starts with Kellen Moore.

Starting with Moore is an obvious choice, he calls plays, he schemes, he adjusts and coaches the offense. The first thing to look at is how the Cowboys are using motion. The Cowboys have one of the lowest at-the-snap motion rates in the league.

Adding this to a drop in pre-snap motion, the Cowboys are just not giving themselves extra opportunity to create separation. An easy way to help some of the issues in coverage, getting players moving opens up wide receivers to create better separation at the line since they are not getting pressed.

However, this is not the only issue. On one play against Washington (not the first time this has happened) two routes were run within five yards from each other. Now whether this was the design or the wide receivers, that falls on Moore. This could also add to what we have noticed with communication issues between Dak Prescott and the receivers. These are the first two things to look at, but not the exhaustive list.

Too often have we seen a run up the middle and not enough stretch or pitch plays. We have also seen screens on third and long, routes not being called to the sticks, and runs that feel too conservative for the situation.

But moving on, the next issue is Dak Prescott. Since the calf injury, Prescott has looked off. Now, there are some reasons for some of the issues we will get into, but let’s start with Dak specifically.

Right now Prescott is rushing his reads, and while some of this may be from offensive line play, it is causing him to miss open passing lanes and not see the whole field. At times when he does see it, his mechanics are a little off and he has been throwing some off the back foot or sees it a second late, or miscommunication occurs. I can’t say the calf is bothering him, but it would not surprise many to see after the season is over, it did.

The next group is the offensive line. While it was not awful against Washington, the line has been an issue. The left guard position is not locked down, players have rotated, and penalties have been racked up. The left tackle has been injured off and on and the replacements have been poor which has created issues in the passing game and even in the play-calling. The center has been a little better, but the shaky play has caused some pressure up the middle. The right tackle looked better with the backup until this last week but has not been steady for large parts of the season. The pressure created forced Dak to rush his reads and he looks shook at times, like when he throws off the back foot, expecting pressure.

The wide receivers are not exempt in this either. We have seen receivers (to include tight ends) stop routes short, turn the wrong way, end up in the same space as someone else, and missed games has not helped.

Yes, there have been some drops, but the more pressing issue is the lack of separation off the line. Some of this is lack of motion, but some is also a change from early in the season to how teams were playing the Cowboys. They have made plays, but something is going on with the routes.

The last group is the running back position. Ezekiel Elliott is banged up, Tony Pollard just missed a game due to an injury, and there isn’t a lot behind both of them. The lack of a threat to run and stubbornly running straight up the middle has allowed teams to play the Cowboys a little one-dimensionally.

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When the Cowboys efficiently use the running back they are way more deadly on offense, than they are trying to grind out the run. Back to Kellen Moore, more plays to the outside need to be mixed in, and the running backs have to make people miss and get the hidden yards.

While some want more Tony Pollard, I think using him efficiently for the carries is more important than volume, he is not built for volume. There is also a lack of using the running backs in the passing game, but due to the offensive line issues, keeping Zeke in to block has been a necessity at times.

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There are a lot of reasons the Cowboys’ offense has been sputtering, they can fix it, and should be able to fix it over the next few weeks. However, the defense has kept this team in games and winning games, so with the time left and the opponents left, it can afford the offense to work on itself. It all starts with Kellen Moore, but it goes much deeper and no one is above criticism right now.

  • Published on 12/14/2021 at 17:01 PM
  • Last updated at 12/14/2021 at 12:50 PM