As training camp draws closer, optimism is springing all over as fans try to justify why their team is going to hoist the Lombardy Trophy in February. The typical Dallas Cowboys fan is no different as they hope that a better defense, a healthy offensive line and a refreshed Ezekiel Elliott will help catapult the Cowboys back on top. While there are things to be excited for, the Cowboys still have a lot of question marks, especially on the offensive end. Here are the top-3 reasons the Cowboys’ offense will struggle in 2018.
The front-office made quite the gamble this off-season by overhauling the entire receiving corps. First, the release of All-Pro Dez Bryant, a move not welcomed by many fans, left the team without a true number one target. Then signings for players like Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson really didn’t do much to get excited for. The team did draft some talented players like Michael Gallup, but a rookie isn’t expected to contribute immediately, it will take some time before he has an impact. Then factor in the sudden retirement of Tight-End Jason Witten, who served as a security blanket for Dak Prescott for the last two years, now you have a problem. The reasoning behind this was to get players in here that work well for Prescott, but there isn’t anyone that jumps out that says they can make plays. The one veteran on here is Cole Beasley who is coming off a bad year himself. Maybe Prescott can make this work by spreading the ball efficiently, but for now this seems to be a huge hole for the Cowboys offense.
One thing on offense that hasn’t changed is the coaching staff at the top. Head Coach Jason Garrett and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan are still here and they haven’t shown us any signs that they are willing to coach football in 2018. One of the biggest problems with the offense is the lack of strategy in the game plans. The idea is to win each individual battle using hard work and talent. That might work facing a inferior team, but when it comes to playing teams on a equal or greater talent level, you need to start using better schemes. Another aspect that the coaching staff fails at is in-game planning, which they constantly get out worked every week. Adjustments are hardly made, if at all and it leads to a lot of second-half meltdowns. The front-office has still yet to address this problem, instead giving more power to Linehan this off-season. This is the make or break year for this offensive duo, Garret and Linehan have to prove they can adjust in today’s NFL or get ready to look for a new job at the end of the season.
One thing that former quarterback Tony Romo did well was mask the warts of Garret’s offensive schemes. He was a veteran quarterback that had the ability to change the calls inside the huddle and practically could command almost all the playbook. Dak Prescott isn’t there yet at all. For Dak, he listens to what the coaches tell him to run and he does it. While he has improved, he still can’t do what Romo did. One thing that Dak needs to master is the ability to make throws down the field. What is that? Basically plays where the ball goes 20 or more yards. Those big time plays that are like home runs and really energize a team. A Cowboys writer for Bleacher Report, Marcus Mosher, put out this chart of the Cowboys explosive plays every year. Take a look below.
— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) July 6, 2018
You can clearly see here when Romo left and when Prescott took over. Something to notice is that even during the marvelous 2016 season, the Cowboys still had a relatively low play count down the field. If Dak wants to grow as a quarterback he needs to get better at making more of these explosive plays and that means getting more accurate at throwing down field. As for Garrett and Linehan, this too is a make or break season for Prescott. He needs to prove that he is quarterback for this team and he is worth the massive pay increase coming his way.
While I do think the Cowboys can still overcome a lot of their offensive issues this season, these should worry Cowboys fans coming into 2018.
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