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3 Quick Fixes to Help Jumpstart Cowboys Anemic Offense

Brian Martin

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3 Quick Fixes to Jumpstart Cowboys Anemic Offense

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!

Ezekiel Ellioott

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott

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

Tavon Austin

Dallas Cowboys WR Tavon Austin

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

Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

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?



Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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9 Comments
  • John Williams

    I’d also lol to use Elliott and Tavon in the backfield more. Give teams more to think about in you’re shotgun situations. I’d move toward more 10 personnel in obvious passing situations to get more playmakers on the field.

    Swaim isn’t one of your best four WRs, so I’d use Hurns, Thompson, Bease, Austin, and Zeke in the backfield. I’d run more bunch formations with Bease, Hurns, and Austin to get better release some for Austin and Beasley and let their quickness kill teams.

    • oneputter

      completely agree!

      you think linehan has the smarts to do anything like this?! if the route does not consist of running down field and sitting then its too complex for him……this guy is living in the 80’s

    • Brian Martin

      I completely agree John. I’m completely surprised Linehan hasn’t used the 10 personnel more.

    • Chuck Wright

      Good call

  • Chuck Wright

    Let me ask a question (which came to mind listening to Tony Romo on the FAN), is this offense built to best utilize Dak’s talents? Simple answer to be is not even close. Scotty L is running a variation of the Akimen WCO it seems and not doing a very good job of it. Make the scheme fit the talent.

    Romo talked about moving motion to create advantages, something we seldom see.

    Case in point, On another thread here, there was a tweet of a play which showed how little scheme goes into our passing attack. Basically they ran a play with 2 WRs on the left both running shallow crosses within 7-10 yards of each other with 3 defenders. Had the inside WR run a go route, at least one, likely 2 defenders have to come with him opening up space. Or have the outside WR run a go route or deeper slant/cross with inside WR running an out. Again, make it hard on the D not easy.

    • Chuck Wright

      PS, forgot to add, all points are spot on in the article

  • Ken Pittman

    Fire Garrett. Make Kris Richard head coach. Bring in offensive coordinator Tony Romo.
    Dak had his best play when Tony was on the sideline helping and talking to him. Now he’s got Kellen Moore?? Really?? If Dak doesn’t progress then, get someone else.
    Hey, I can dream.

  • Christopher Love

    Feed Zek? You must not be watching the same offensive line as me. This is not last years line, Zek is averaging a little over 2 yds/carry. That’s not going to change until the defense stops lining up 8 and 9 men in the box. Austin is a scrub with average hands and Dak’s receivers say their getting open, last week Dak threw the ball to them and when it got there they had defenders draped all over them. The Cowboys only need two fixes, New head coach and New General Manager.

    • Michael Barthel

      Are you serious? He’s averaging a lot more than 2 ypc. Dude he had 4.7 yards before contact and like 3.4 after contact he is not averaging anywhere close to 2 ypc

Game Notes

Cowboys, Colts Week 15 Injury Report

Jess Haynie

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Less Is More For Sean Lee And Cowboys' LBs?

The Dallas Cowboys can clinch the NFC East with a win this week, while the Indianapolis Colts are fighting to stay alive in the AFC wild card race. Only one team can accomplish their goal, and both have some big names on the Week 15 injury report.

We'll begin with the visiting Cowboys, who could be getting at least one star player back while another is already confirmed to miss the game.

Dallas Cowboys

  • TE Geoff Swaim (wrist) - OUT
  • G Zack Martin (knee) - OUT
  • DL David Irving (ankle) - OUT
  • WR Tavon Austin (groin) - Questionable
  • WR Lance Lenoir (illness) - Questionable
  • OT Tyron Smith (neck) - Questionable
  • DE Randy Gregory (personal) - Questionable
  • LB Sean Lee (hamstring) - Questionable

Yes, sadly, Zack Martin will be out tomorrow. The good news is that Connor Williams got the entire week to practice with the starters at right guard. You can read much more about this situation and it's impact on the game here, courtesy of our own Sean Martin.

Also ruled out, as they have been for a while now, are TE Geoff Swaim and DL David Irving.  Swaim is still recovering from wrist surgery but has not been placed on injured reserve, so the team must feel he could be back for the playoffs. Irving could return as soon as next week.

Speaking of returns, Sean Lee may be back on the field this Sunday. It's unknown yet how he'll rotate with Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith, but Dallas has the luxury of working him in slowly thanks to the play of their young duo.

Tavon Austin could also return this week, creating another new offensive wrinkle. Austin has been injured since the Jacksonville game and has yet to play since the Cowboys acquired Amari Cooper. Not only could Tavon do some interesting things in the offense, but he should bring some additional sizzle to special teams.

While appearing on the injury report, Randy Gregory missed practice this week for "family reasons" according to Jason Garrett. He could still play tomorrow.

Indianapolis Colts

  • G Mark Glowinski (ankle) - OUT
  • LB Skai Moore (neck) - OUT
  • S Mike Mitchell (calf) - OUT
  • WR T.Y. Hilton (ankle) - Questionable
  • TE Ryan Hewitt (ribs) - Questionable
  • S Clayton Geathers (knee) - Questionable

The big name here is Hilton, the star receiver who missed all practice this week with an ankle injury. Indianapolis has not ruled him out, wanting to give Andrew Luck's favorite target every opportunity to play. But it's not looking good, and a bad ankle could limit Hilton's effectiveness even if he goes.

Also hurt among the passing options is starting TE Ryan Hewitt, but he did practice full on Friday and should go. Not playing, however, is starting right guard Mark Glowinski. That means third-year player Evan Boehm should start, who just joined the team in October.

Indy's hurting at safety this week. Not only did starter Clayton Geathers miss the whole week of practice, but veteran backup Mike Mitchell is already ruled out. The Colts would have to rely on undrafted rookie George Odum if neither plays.

Fun fact before we go; former Cowboy Jihad Ward was picked up by the Colts after Dallas included him in their roster cuts to start the season. However, he landed on injured reserve back in October so won't get a chance at revenge.



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Game Notes

Zack Martin Out, Connor Williams In at Right Guard for Cowboys at Colts

Sean Martin

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Zack Martin Out, Connor Williams In at Right Guard for Cowboys at Colts

The Dallas Cowboys offensive line depth will be tested as they play for a chance to clinch the NFC East on Sunday at the Indianapolis Colts. Suffering a knee injury last week against the Eagles, Right Guard Zack Martin will not be able to play. In missing his first career start, rookie Connor Williams rightfully returns to the starting lineup as Martin's replacement.

The 50th overall pick from this year's AT&T Stadium hosted Draft has started eight games this season at left guard. Williams' last start happens to be in the last game Dallas lost, a week nine defeat to the Tennessee Titans. This opened the door for Xavier Su'a-Filo to become something of a sensation for Cowboys Nation as the starting left guard throughout the team's current five game win streak.

David Moore on Twitter

Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin has been ruled out of Sunday's game with a sprained knee. Rookie Connor Williams will start in his place.

Zack Martin being unavailable is hardly how Marc Colombo wants to prepare for the Cowboys first road game since week 11. Having both Su'a-Filo and Williams in the lineup will be valuable for the Cowboys moving forward though, as Williams could earn his job at left guard back from the right side.

While he won't nearly be expected to play at the level of Martin, Williams looked poised coming off the bench against the Eagles and helping the Cowboys offense score their final three touchdowns. Williams was on the field for all three of Amari Cooper's scores, as Dallas rushed for 34 yards on 11 carries with him in the game.

Williams flashed some of the traits that made him a top left tackle prospect out of college, flowing to the second level with ease and creating movement with quick feet at the point of attack. The Cowboys have forced him to remain game ready despite losing his starting position by finding a few emergency snaps for him in recent weeks, as well as special teams looks. The team has every reason to believe Williams is an ascending young player still.

The same cannot be said of Su'a-Filo, who simply has to focus on continuing to hold up at left guard again this week. With each passing win, Su'a-Filo's LG spot has become more of a liability in a Cowboys offense in need of a jump-start late in this 2018 season.

Consistent offensive line play is one of the few things that's clearly hurting the Cowboys as contenders in the NFC behind a stellar defense and game breaking wide receiver.

The Cowboys won't be at full strength against the eighth best rushing defense and 15th ranked passing defense in yards per game. With three separate chances to clinch the NFC East starting at the Colts and extending until the end of the regular season, the Cowboys stand to learn all they need to know about the offensive line that will start in the playoffs.

Martin, who's elevated his game to a new level this season despite this lingering knee injury, should be on track to return when the Cowboys come home to play the Buccaneers in week 16.

Tell us what you think about "Zack Martin Out, Connor Williams In at Right Guard for Cowboys at Colts" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Dallas Cowboys

Final Thoughts and Prediction for Cowboys vs Indianapolis Colts

John Williams

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#DALvsPHI: Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott Key to Clipping the Eagles Wings?

Over the last five weeks, the Dallas Cowboys have put themselves in a position in week 15 to clinch the NFC East with a win over the Indianapolis Colts or a loss by the Philadelphia Eagles vs the Los Angeles Rams.

My how things have changed.

Just six weeks ago, the Cowboys were coming off an embarrassing two touchdown loss on Monday Night Football at the hands of the Tennessee Titans and looked dead in the water sitting at 3-5. A month and a half later they are in position to win the division and potentially have little to play for the final two weeks of the season. That's an amazing turnaround. One that should have Jason Garrett in the Coach of the Year discussions.

As we get ready for the Colts on Sunday, let me give you my final thoughts on the week 15 matchup.

Will Key Injuries Tell the Tale?

By week 15 of the NFL season, pretty much everyone is dealing with injuries and most teams are dealing with injuries to key players. The Dallas Cowboys and the Indianapolis Colts are no different.

All-Pro Right Guard Zack Martin has already been ruled out of Sunday's contest, as he's been battling a knee injury for several weeks. It was worsened on Sunday vs the Eagles when he took a bull rush from Fletcher Cox and fell awkwardly. This will be the first start that Zack Martin has missed in his illustrious five-year career. He's been an iron man for the Cowboys at a position that makes it extremely difficult to stay healthy.

On the plus side, it looks like the Cowboys mat get All-Pro Linebacker Sean Lee and Wide Receiver Tavon Austin back for Sunday. Both Lee and Austin will likely be in reserve/rotational roles if they suit up this week, but if they're active, they'll make important impacts to their respective units.

Indianapolis is struggling with an injury to a very important player in their own right as Wide Receiver T.Y. Hilton has not practiced this week. He's dealing with an ankle injury and Colts Head Coach Frank Reich doesn't sound optimistic about his chances of playing.

The Colts will also be missing their Right Guard Mark Glowinski, who has started the last eight games for Indianapolis. Glowinski suffered an ankle injury during the Colts win over the Texans last Sunday. That's a key loss for an offensive line that has played as well as anyone in the NFL this season.

Can the Cowboys Limit Andrew Luck?

The Cowboys defense has been one of the best units in football in 2018 as they've put on a show against really good offensive teams like the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints. They'll have another tough test this week against Andrew Luck and the Colts.

According to Pro Football Reference, Luck sits second in the NFL in touchdown passes, sixth in passing yards, third in completions, second in attempts, 12th in quarterback rating, and ninth in QBR. At 7.1 yards per attempt, he sits 22nd in the NFL in and 20th in the NFL in air yards per attempt at 7.3.

Luck has been one of the best passers in the NFL, but he's also thrown the second most interceptions this season. On the flip side, among quarterbacks who have started 13 games, Luck has been sacked the second fewest times. Only Drew Brees has taken less sacks. Luck has only been sacked 16 times in 13 games and has been sacked multiple times in only five games. Over the last three weeks, Luck has taken an average of two sacks a game.

In that four week stretch, the Colts have gone 3-1, and Luck has averaged 321 yards passing, two touchdowns and an interception per game.

The Dallas defense has come on strong and is finding ways to get pressure with four rushers. Taking advantage of the injury at right guard and getting to Luck with their front four is a huge key to the game as it is against most quarterbacks. Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence are playing as well as any defensive end duo in the NFL this season and I expect that to continue this week.

Big Games from Explosive Duo?

The Dallas Cowboys have been getting huge games from their two most important skill position players; Running Back Ezekiel Elliott and Wide Receiver Amari Cooper. Over the last five weeks, Elliott has averaged 116 rushing yards a game, 55 receiving yards, and at least one touchdown per game. During the same stretch, Cooper has averaged seven receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown per game.

Elliott and Cooper may find it difficult to reach their respective 100 yard milestones against the Colts. As Patrick Conn of WFAA.com illustrates below.

Patrick Conn on Twitter

Colts haven't given up 100 yards to a single rusher. 2-100 yard receiving games vs Texans in first matchup (Hopkins/Coutee). Other than that, no other 100 yard performances

Now, it could be argued that the Colts have only played three games against teams with good to great offenses. The Houston Texans (twice), and the New England Patriots. They went a combined 1-2 in those three games and the defense allowed an average of 32 points per game. The Colts have played better defense over the last seven games than they did earlier in the season. Over the last seven, they went 6-1 and allowed an average of 17 points per game. Of course that stretch of games doesn't feature any offensive juggernauts. They played the Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, Tennessee Titans, and the Oakland Raiders. The best team they played in their last seven games was the Houston Texans and they allowed 21 points. The Cowboys only allowed 16 points in regulation to the Texans.

Only one team on the Colts schedule to this point is in the top 10 in rushing; the Houston Texans. And only one team on their schedule is in the top 10 in passing; the New England Patriots. Again, in three games against those teams, they went 1-2.

They haven't faced an offense this season that is playing as well, and as balanced, as the Cowboys have over the last five weeks.

Rookie Linebackers Dominating

We've all witnessed the standout play of rookie Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, as the "Wolf Hunter" has taken the NFC by storm during Sean Lee's absence. Vander Esch is third in the league in solo tackles this season. The two players in front of Vander Esch are perennial All-Pro Luke Kuechly and the guy who will probably run away with Defensive Rookie of the Year award, Indianapolis Colts rookie Darius Leonard.

Leonard is leading the NFL in solo tackles and combined tackles per Pro Football Focus. He's tied for the lead league among linebackers with seven sacks and is second in the NFL in Pro Football Focus' "stops" metric. Leighton Vander Esch is fourth.

Both linebackers have been huge contributors for their teams, at times taking over games and coming up with big plays to turn the tide. Throw in Fred Warner in San Francisco and 2018 has been the year of the rookie linebacker.

Prediction

Since I've been writing this column, the Dallas Cowboys have enjoyed a bit of a win streak. I haven't always picked them, as you can see in the New Orleans Saints edition of Final Thoughts, but when I have picked the Cowboys, they've made me look smart and I'm going to go with them again this week on the road.

Indianapolis isn't really known as a tough place to play and in the Jason Garrett era, the Cowboys have generally been a really good team away from AT&T Stadium. I believe this game will be a close one, as most have been this year, but I think that Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott continue their impressive string of performances and are able to do enough to keep Andrew Luck on the sideline and limiting his impact on the game. If T.Y. Hilton is limited in the game or unable to go, that gives the Cowboys a huge advantage as they then can focus on touchdown maker Tight End Eric Ebron and we know what Byron Jones does to tight ends.

This is going to be a tough game, but I like the Cowboys to come out on top. Randy Gregory continues his sack streak and they get to Luck multiple times in the game and are able to force at least one turnover. Dak Prescott is efficient and doesn't turn the ball over this week and finds ways to beat the blitz. So, I've got it...

Cowboys 24 - Colts 20

Be sure to leave us your prediction in the comment section. 



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