Things ain’t great in Cowboys Nation. If you’re a member of any Dallas Cowboys social media fan-group/network, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Discontentment and worry have been floating underneath the surface for months now, but after the 25-22 debacle against Arizona, it seems the fecal matter has officially hit the rotary impeller.
Panic is rampant and considering we’re 17 weeks into the season and things still aren’t figured out on offense, I suppose that’s a perfectly reasonable response from the Dallas Cowboys fanbase.
The Dallas front office and coaching staff don’t look confident in the Points Scoring Division of the franchise either. They didn’t even hesitate to say the starters would be playing to win on Saturday. Latest projections say Dallas only has a six percent chance of advancing their seed in Week 18. It stands to reason the Dallas Cowboys are using Week 18 as a way to “right the ship” more than a chance to defy the odds and move up in the standings.
It’s safe to say everyone on the Dallas Cowboys offensive side of the ball needs to improve
Some overly chill fans will point to the Dallas Cowboys overall offensive ranking for the season. In a very dog sitting in a burning room saying ‘everything’s fine’ kinda way, those fans are looking at all the wrong things.
Using total yards gained on the season is a poor way of evaluating an offense’s prowess just like using completion percentage is a poor way of judging a QB’s accuracy. It’s misleading at best and can’t see the forest through the trees as a result.
Since Week 9 (responsibly removing blow-out situations in which the win probability was >80% or <20%) the Dallas Cowboys are anything but the NFL’s top offense. They are actually the 12th offense in total offensive EPA (Expected points added). This isn’t as bad as the doom and gloom segment wants you to think it is, but it’s also a far cry from the No. 1 offense apologists claim it to still be.
Dak Prescott may be completing passes with 67.7% efficiency but at an average air yard distance of just 6.1 yards and no context regarding the difficultly of said passes, that number means exactly jack squat. His CPOE (completion percentage over expectation which measures difficulty) has him ranking 24th out of 30 qualified passers.
And his EPA and CPOE composite (not a flawless metric but one of the best we have) has him ranked 21st in the NFL since Week 9. But this isn’t to say Dak Prescott is a below-average or even an average passer. Just like how we said yesterday that Ezekiel Elliott isn’t the bottom-10 early down ball carrier that his stats indicate (link at the bottom of the article).
There are many factors that go into these numbers and individuals shouldn’t get all the blame (in many cases they shouldn’t even get the bulk of the blame).
The point of these numbers is to show there’s a problem and to show how big of a problem it is. The Dallas Cowboys offense has been average as of late. They are not the juggernaut they were earlier in the year. And for that we should all be concerned.
The greatest hope in rebounding lies in Offensive Coordinator, Kellen Moore. He’s very clearly holding some things back for the playoffs but how much exactly? He’s flashed creative and fun trick plays the past few weeks, if he was really holding back, why would he put a hook-and-lateral type play out there on film? Why would he throw a TD pass to an OT late in a blowout game?
The whole, “Kellen Moore holding back theory” is tough to believe in its entirety.
But that doesn’t mean the idea is complete garbage either. From a scheme and play-calling side of things, the Dallas Cowboys offense was doing things differently in Weeks 1-7 than they were after the bye. The zone busters, route combinations, and deception early in the year all indicate Kellen knows how beat defenses of all sorts (yes, even the 2-high/quarters/shells we’ve been seeing lately). Did he suddenly forget?
It stands to reason the Dallas Cowboys can right the ship if Kellen Moore just goes back to some of these concepts from before. With all of that said, Kellen alone can’t suddenly make everything sunshine and rainbows again at a moment’s notice.
Dak has to trust his receivers more downfield. We’re seeing hesitancy from No. 4 as of late (see also this clip) and missed opportunities downfield as a result. Speaking of trust, those “elite” WRs of ours need to start playing like it. The routes have been uncharacteristically ugly and inconsistent from both CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper. They’re play has been perhaps the most surprising and disappointing during this stretch of offensive stagnation. Cooper’s effort is specifically suspect these days.
The offensive line has been chronically overrated for years now but this season especially so. Even against 4-man pass-rushes, Dak is consistently under pressure. And as we discuss in the article below, Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard have not been given much to work with these days. The running lanes have been few and far between and even Zack Martin and Tyron Smith have been getting beat this season.
This all explains why the Dallas Cowboys are insisting on playing everyone in Week 18. Even if Kellen Moore is lulling opponents into a false sense of security, it won’t matter if the Dallas Cowboys players can’t do their jobs better.
Dallas Cowboys fans should be worried. There are multiple things that need to be fixed and I’m not sure they can just flip a switch to make it so. Everyone has to improve and that’s not a good situation to be in one week away from the postseason.
Yes, we should all be legitimately concerned right now.