Kellen Moore can fix the Dallas Cowboys offense if…

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

The Dallas Cowboys are struggling on offense. Yes, the offense that rates No. 1 by multiple metrics this season, is actually struggling. The running game has become one of the worst in the NFL and the passing attack is a shell of its former self.

Over the last six games the Dallas Cowboys have rated just 28th in EPA per game. That means there are only four teams worse than the Cowboys in expected points added (one of the very best scales of success in football).

The Dallas Cowboys offense is a mess – can Kellen Moore fix it?

First of all, we have to acknowledge the elephant in the room – players aren’t performing up to expectations. From Dak Prescott to Ezekiel Elliott to CeeDee Lamb to the entire O-line, player error is big reason behind the current struggles. It’s not just those mentioned above, it’s multiple players across the offense. Missed blocks, incorrect routes, misread assignments, etc… All it takes is a simple error and we an see a significant point swing on a single play.

Player error isn’t always avoidable so today we’re going to focus on the coaching staff. Particularly what the coaches can do to help minimize player error and put the team in the best position to succeed. We look at Kellen Moore.

Step No. 1: Motion

Why Kellen Moore doesn’t use more motion is hard to understand. By the numbers it’s one of the most impactful things a play designer can do to maximize the results of a play. Add motion to a play and you get more output. That’s hardly breaking news to the NFL community yet some coaches are resistant towards it.

Kellen Moore has been one of the biggest offenders in the NFL (Mike McCarthy was an offender in Green Bay too, in case you were wondering). Not using motion is like not investing in your 401k when your employer matches funds. It’s leaving profit on the table. A true headscratcher…

Step No. 2:  Early down play-calling

Kellen Moore has always had a curious approach to early-down play-calling. When everything was working, his run-heavy approach was no big deal. But now that things have cratered, it’s time to focus on the issue: too many early down runs up the middle.

Over the past six weeks the Dallas Cowboys have been near the bottom of the league in early down success rate. Running the ball has worked 27.3% of the time and passing the ball 44.2% of the time (adjusting for non-garbage time situations). Both numbers are abnormally poor but passing is clearly the better call to make.

Comparing early down runs to passes, the running game is still 17 percentage points less in success rate and over .10 behind in EPA

Unfortunately the Dallas Cowboys currently rank 16th in the NFL in early down run-rate. That’s an ok proportion if you have a dominant running game that’s producing similar success rates as the passing game, but the running game is still 17 percentage points less in success rate and over .10 behind in EPA (a pretty significant amount if you’re not familiar with EPA).

Why is Kellen still trying to run the dang ball?

Step No. 3: Profit

This isn’t really a step as much as a result of steps 1 and 2. Players obviously have to do their part but if all things just remain equal, we’ll see significant improvement if Kellen Moore would do what’s suggested above. This isn’t really an opinion rather it’s expected results based on play tracking and historical facts.

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The Dallas Cowboys need to play better on offense in order to stand a chance in the postseason, but there are things this coaching staff can do to make it easier on themselves. Sadly there’s no indication they want to do it, leaving the onus on the players alone.