The Dallas Cowboys are winning games, not because the offense is putting up gaudy numbers, but because the defense is holding teams and creating turnovers, and the special teams are special. The offense has been a bit of a mystery this season, and a large part of that was Dak’s injury. But the issues may stem a little deeper and until it finds its true identity the defense is going to have to carry this team.
I know, I know, but Dan, the Cowboys are winning. Yes, they are and that is an outstanding thing. But the Dallas Cowboys want to get into the playoffs and make some noise, which means they have to figure out the offense sooner or later. To find an identity the first person to look at is Kellen Moore, he is where the identity will come from.
The Dallas Cowboys offense needs to find its identity, and with seven games under their belt, there are some clues to the direction they should head.
Just a simple first watch of the games should tell most people the strengths and weaknesses of this offense. Now that Dak is back you have one of the more accurate passers in the NFL again, but the issue with going pass-heavy isn’t due to Dak, it is the offensive line is vastly better in run blocking than pass protection.
However, it only starts there, as the wide receivers have struggled to get consistent separation, there have been some drop issues, and defenses are still playing a shell defense. The mix of these issues starts to push the offense in a single direction.
Now before we go down the heavy run route, let’s pause a moment and really look at the run game. At the moment the Cowboys are only fourteenth in rushing yards per game and twelfth in total rushing yards (three teams above them also already had their bye week).
Tony Pollard has a better average and more broken tackles than Ezekiel Elliott, but they play two distinctively different roles in this offense. But to sum it up, the running attack hasn’t been lights out either.
That means Kellen Moore has to figure out the direction of this offense and while it may not always be the most efficient, it is going to have to start with the rushing attack, with the intent that it breaks teams out of a shell coverage. If the Cowboys can threaten teams enough with the rushing attack (we are including screens here) it might start pulling teams out of a shell to allow more man coverage on the outside.
The threat of a run is as good in this era. That means if teams believe you can beat them on the ground, they start to respect the run and this allows play-action to work in your favor. This works really well with teams playing shell defenses as it can draw the safeties down to support and potentially allow receivers to get behind them or find a soft spot as the safety vacates their normal assignment. Either way, it starts with the fear of the rushing attack.
When Tony Pollard has been the running back this year, he’s done some of the most damage. He has better yards before contact per attempt, average yards per carry, more broken takes, and in 42 fewer carries has almost the same number of yards before contact and only twenty fewer yards after contact than Zeke.
This isn’t a Zeke hate article, but perhaps it might be time to adjust the usage and roles a little more. Zeke is great for pounding teams, short yardage, wearing down a defense, blocking, and occasional chunk play. Rotating the two in more often, finding ways to really get both on the field and active in a play, and perhaps even a dash of KaVontae Turpin to get some speed on the field.
This all falls onto Kellen Moore. He has to find ways to generate offense and with the way this team is currently built it has to start finding its identity through the rushing attack. It doesn’t have to stay there, the eventual goal is to open up play-action and create space for a consistent passing attack.
Right now the Dallas Cowboys don’t have an identity one way or the other, they have ten more games to figure it out, and until then the defense should be able to keep them in every game until they do. They still control their own destiny, but the offense has to get better.