I don't know where you stand, but I'm finding it really hard to watch the Dallas Cowboys so far this season, especially their offense. They look downright clueless and even anemic this year and it's way past time for some changes. Luckily, I think I may have a few solutions, at least in the short term.
Today, I want to share with you just three quick fixes that I think could help jumpstart the Cowboys putrid offensive productivity. Yes, I truly believe that these three small changes could help improve things for the better. Sometimes the best solution is the most simple one.
Let's get started…
Ezekiel Elliott's Hungry, Feed Him!
I think the most obvious quick fix to help jumpstart the Dallas Cowboys anemic offensive productivity is to get Running Back Ezekiel Elliott more carries. Through the first three weeks of the 2018 season Zeke is only averaging 16 rushing attempts. I'm sorry, but that's just unacceptable!
A workhorse back like Zeke should be receiving at the very least 20 rushing attempts a game. This entire offense is built to run the ball. In fact, the best way to help the Cowboy struggling offensive line is to let them pin their ears back and open up running lanes. Everybody knows offensive lineman would rather run block then pass protect. Sounds like a win-win to me, right!? Your killing two birds with one stone.
Of course, giving Ezekiel Elliott a heavier workload should also help open up the passing game. Opposing defenses are already stacking the box, but getting Zeke going forces them to key more on the run and hopefully distract them just enough for the receivers to gain just a little bit more separation. It truly baffles me #21 isn't getting fed the rock more so far this season.
Get Tavon Austin More Involved
There are quite a few of you around the Cowboys Nation who laughed at me when I suggested earlier this offseason that Wide Receiver Tavon Austin would be the Dallas Cowboys best playmaker not named Ezekiel Elliott. Well, through the first three weeks of the 2018 season, Austin has proven to be just that.
Austin may be small in stature, but he can make some big things happen when he has the ball in his hands. Already this season he accounts for the majority of the Cowboys offensive touchdowns. Both he and Zeke are tied at two a piece, but what's more impressive about Austin's performance is he's done it on less than a third of the touches.
With all of the struggles in the passing game, I think it's way past time to get the ball in Austin's hands more often. He is really the only Cowboys WR who has shown up this season, with maybe the exception of Cole Beasley. It's time to use #10's unique playmaking ability to fullest. Use him on jet sweeps, reverses, in the running game, and especially in the passing game.
Simplify Things for Dak Prescott
I don't know about you, but I'm done making excuses for Quarterback Dak Prescott. You can blame Scott Linehan's playcalling, the Cowboys wide receivers, or the offensive lines play all you want, but I think we need to reassess Prescott as a starting caliber QB.
Even though I've all but lost faith in Prescott, it doesn't mean I'm not looking for ways to help him out. The best thing for the Cowboys to do is to get Ezekiel Elliott and Tavon Austin more involved, like I mentioned above. The next thing they should do is simplify things offensively to lighten the load on his shoulders.
Prescott is only averaging about 160 passing yards this year and that's just not going to win a lot of games in the NFL. The Cowboys need to simplify things in the passing game. Cut the field in half so he can get through his progressions quicker, more rollouts/play action/RPOs, and most importantly get him to get rid of the ball faster instead of holding onto it too long. I believe if this happens, Prescott's confidence will improve and in turn so will the passing game.
Unfortunately, I don't know if these three quick fixes will help things in the long-term, but it could be the difference in a few more W's in the win column this season. Short-term solutions could be the best we can hope for right now until we can fully reassess things after the completion of the 2018 season.
I'm just hoping that the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff finds a way to turn things around, and quickly. If not, I could see a few of them watching what used to be their team from home. I wouldn't be at all surprised if we see someone else in charge after the Cowboys bye week if we don't see some vast improvements over these next few games.
What changes would you make to help improve the Dallas Cowboys offense?
Cowboys, Redskins Week 7 Injury Report
Though it's still early in the 2018 season, the lead in the NFC East is up for grabs when the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins meet this Sunday. Both teams would like their full roster available for the game, but the Week 7 injury reports indicate that won't be the case.
Here are the players either confirmed to be out of action tomorrow or are otherwise listed by Dallas and Washington:
- WR Tavon Austin (groin) - OUT
- LB Joe Thomas (foot) - OUT
- CB Chidobe Awuzie (ankle) - Questionable
The Cowboys are getting healthier, with Sean Lee finally off the injury report and set to return to action. Not only will Dallas get their elite linebacker back, but it means a deeper rotation while the team remains without Joe Thomas.
Tavon Austin elected to skip season-ending surgery on his injured groin, but his should be out a few weeks. That will put Cole Beasley on punt returns and perhaps create more offensive opportunities for Deonte Thompson and Brice Butler.
Awuzie remains limited in practice but has played the last few weeks despite the ankle injury. There is no reason to think he won't suit up in Washington.
- WR Jamison Crowder (ankle) - OUT
- WR Paul Richardson (shoulder, knee) - Doubtful
- S Troy Apke (hamstring) - Doubtful
- RB Adrian Peterson (ankle, shoulder) - Questionable
- RB Chris Thompson (rib, knee) - Questionable
- G Shawn Lauvao (calf) - Questionable
- CB Quinton Dunbar (shin) - Questionable
- CB Danny Johnson (forearm) - Questionable
It's a rough time for Washington's offensive weapons. They will definitely be without slot receiver Jamison Crowder and likely starter Paul Richardson, who current lead all WRs in receptions. Josh Doctson will put into a major role, as will veteran Brian Quick off the bench.
Peterson and Thompson both practiced this week and should play, but have nagging injuries that could slow them down. Washington is already missing Rob Kelley and rookie Derrius Guice, who are both on injured reserve.
Starting left guard Shawn Lauvao is also nursing a lower leg injury, but practiced in a limited capacity all week. His backup is undrafted rookie Casey Dunn out of Auburn.
In the defensive backfield, starting CB Quinton Dunbar was a Friday addition to the injury report with a shin injury. He did practice with it, though, so will likely play. Backup safety Troy Apke is doubtful with a hamstring issue.
Cowboys Focused on Improved Communication to Solve Road Woes at Redskins
The Dallas Cowboys are 0-3 on the road this season. Not only do you already know this, but they do as well, needing to build off a 40-7 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in week 6 at AT&T Stadium to claim first place in the NFC East at the Washington Redskins.
Although the Cowboys were given Monday and Tuesday off, they are focused on addressing one alarming reason why the team has struggled so much on the road -- particularly on offense.
Running Back Ezekiel Elliott pointed out the Cowboys lack of communication in early season losses at Carolina, Seattle, and Houston. "Seeing the same thing," was the issue Elliott addressed when discussing the Cowboys knowing their assignments in hostile territory.
Yesterday, Quarterback Dak Prescott told the media of a meeting between players and coaches that addressed this specifically.
Dak Prescott said players & coaches held a meeting before today's practice to "address the elephant in the room," which is poor communication among the offense on the road. "I know we'll take a lot from that conversation," The QB said.
Unlike Prescott's remarks about new "wrinkles" in the Cowboys offense prior to a 26-24 home win over the Lions, this has a tangible sign of progress for an offense that made scoring 40 on the Jaguars look impossibly easy. The Cowboys season high in total yards remains the 414 amassed against Detroit, after which Prescott confessed that he simply tells the media "things" that aren't necessarily true.
The Cowboys didn't necessarily do anything new against the Lions, but they most assuredly will this week against the Redskins, at least by way of signaling and remaining in sync on offense.
Prescott and Elliott's leadership is on full display here, and their on-field impact can be attributed as closely to the Cowboys successes or failures as any duo in the NFL.
Missing is a similar impact from Center Travis Frederick, who remains sidelined as he deals with GSB.
Joe Looney's play at center has been good enough to pave the way for Elliott's 586 rushing yards so far, second to Todd Gurley at 623 yards, but his ability to call checks for the offense is understandably much more limited.
Looney deserves all the credit in the world for his strong play in place of Frederick. The Cowboys have never asked for him to be anything he isn't, a reliable depth option that earned a second contract and with it the starting center job for the time being in Dallas.
He has the full support of his teammates, Frederick included. All of this is lovely to put down in writing until Looney and the Cowboys have been forced to step on the field with the crowd against them and attempt to sustain a drive, something Frederick will unfortunately not be a part of for a long while.
If the Cowboys offense isn't going to unveil new wrinkles in the scheme, there is one wrinkle worth mentioning that's new to the team's communication on offense this season. With Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan up in the box, his play calls are sent down to first-year Quarterback Coach Kellen Moore, who has been in the ear of Prescott ever since playing with him from 2016-17.
Sure, these are things that could've been addressed before the Cowboys managed only eight points in week one, turned the ball over three times in week three, or punted away their best chance at victory in week five. The best teams in the league likely already have these things down to routine, and few would consider the Cowboys anywhere near the upper echelon of the NFL.
Following sixty minutes of football at a division rival they've won four in a row against, with an even more impressive five game win streak at the Redskins, the Cowboys could control their own path atop the NFC East.
That feels truly incredible for such a young team faced with a steep learning curve early in the season, adjusting to it on the fly as they prepare to leave everything on the field before a bye week.
#WASvsDAL: Why This Game Holds Increased Importance
It feels incredibly cliche to call the week 7 match-up between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins a "must win." Especially for someone like me who values statistics, logic, and analytics in sports.
But when the analytics agree with the narratives, those narratives do tend to get my attention. And this week that would appear to be the case.
According to Brian Burke of ESPN, the Cowboys's week 7 game has the highest playoff probability leverage in the entire NFC, and is second to only the Houston Texans' big game with Jacksonville around the entire league.
Playoff leverage for week 7. DAL, WAS, PHI, CAR, MIN, CHI with a lot on the line in the NFC. HOU, CIN, and JAX in the AFC.
What does this mean? Well playoff probability leverage is pretty intuitive. Basically it is the difference between a win this week and a loss this week in terms of probability to make the playoffs.
For the Cowboys that number is at 27%, with a win over Washington catapulting their playoff probability over 50%. On the other hand, a loss would take a big hit to their playoff hopes just 7 games into the NFL season.
As you might expect, this game means a lot to the Redskins' playoff probability as well. Their playoff leverage this week is at 14%, but a win would mean "more" to Dallas than Washington based on the probabilities.
Fellow NFC East foe, the Philadelphia Eagles, also have a lot to gain/lose this Sunday, with their leverage sitting at 22%. According to Burke's model, the Eagles and Cowboys have the best chances of making the playoffs at this point, but if each team wins Sunday the Eagles will still have a higher percentage.
Of course a lot can and will change week to week, despite what the metrics say. The Cowboys still have two games remaining with the NFC East favorite Eagles this year, and will get another crack at Washington at home later in the season. Plus the Cowboys have a few NFC wild card and playoff contenders remaining on their schedule, such as the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons. (Yes, the 2-4 Falcons are very much alive in this crazy conference).
Still, the difference between 4-3 (2-0 in the division) and 3-4 (1-1 in the division) is huge, as is shown by Brian Burke's playoff probability leverage metric.
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