The Dallas Cowboys jumped out to a 2-0 start to the year and earned league-wide recognition as one of the best teams in the NFL. However, what many failed to recognize was those dominant wins came mostly due to the defense's incredible efforts.
With that side of the ball either not showing up against the Arizona Cardinals or being simply outmatched versus the San Francisco 49ers, that's put the pressure on the offense to perform.
Well, that unit has completely crumbled when the team has needed them most. Taking a closer look at the offense, head coach Mike McCarthy is dooming them with his current play-calling.
Data shows that McCarthy is being incredibly predictable with how he commands this unit. Twitter user Arjun Menon posted the tendencies of all 32 teams to start every series of downs with a run-run-pass cadence. The Cowboys are one of the biggest offenders at just over 10% of the time, which ranks seventh highest in the league.
Now, there's nothing inherently wrong about going run-run-pass. The 49ers are No. 3 in using this attack, while other winning teams like the Baltimore Ravens and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are above Dallas as well.
However, this does become a problem when you consider how ineffective the Cowboys' offense has been. Dallas is tied for the fifth-most third downs faced per game, and that's a category where bottom-feeders do rank highly. Uninspiring offenses like the New England Patriots (No. 2), Cleveland Browns (No. 4) and Pittsburgh Steelers (T-No. 5) are at the top, while explosive units like the Miami Dolphins (No. 32) and 49ers (No. 31) are on the other side of the spectrum.
With McCarthy relying on this crutch, that makes the opposing defense's job even easier. Without as much creativity as other offenses around the league, they can put a bigger focus on stopping the pass when they're in need of a stop. That leads to drives stalling and Dallas' juggernaut defenses being relied on even more.
It's not just in play-calling that opponents are catching on, though; it's also on the plays themselves.
Linebacker Fred Warner gave an in-depth breakdown of his sack on Dak Prescott after San Francisco's win. He said he knows the Cowboys "love" crossing routes, and he recognized it immediately on this play in question when they tried to pick him off. All he had to do was jump the route, and Dak Prescott was a sitting duck after that.
So it's not only the data that shows Dallas' offense has become predictable, but opposing players are saying the same thing. Even worse, Warner's intel -- plus his breakdown of how to stop these routes -- will circulate around the league. That clues in all other 30 teams if they haven't already caught on to the Cowboys.
This all falls squarely on McCarthy's shoulders after he took over play-calling for this season. There's no reason a unit with Prescott, Tony Pollard and CeeDee Lamb currently ranks in the bottom half of the league in yards per game. There's also no reason for Brandin Cooks, who is a perennial 1,000-yard talent, to become a complete afterthought on a passing unit that needs all the help it can get.
McCarthy can get away with being predictable if his game plan is at least productive. Right now he's full of the former and slacking on the latter, which needs to be fixed before it craters this unit even further.
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