For the first half of the 2018 season, the Dallas Cowboys offense struggled to keep up any semblance of consistency. The passing game couldn’t find a rhythm and the offense as a whole struggled as the Cowboys started 3-4 and looked dead in the water.
Then the front office made a huge splash and traded for Amari Cooper and the season turned immediately. After the trade, the Dallas Cowboys went 7-2, won the NFC East, and advanced to the divisional round of the NFC Playoffs.
On the offensive side of the ball they were trending in the right direction, but in the playoffs against the Seattle Seahawks and the Los Angeles Rams, still had times where they struggled to move the ball and score points.
Heading into 2019, that won’t be the case. Instead, the Dallas Cowboys offense will be a unit that teams will struggle to contain this season.
Here are three reasons why.
1. Dak Prescott gets a Full Offseason with Amari Cooper and Others
The chemistry that Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper were able to find in the middle of the 2018 season was really incredible. It can be difficult for a wide receiver and a quarterback to get on the same page quickly, but he and Prescott found a groove early and it carried throughout the rest of the season.
From week nine to through the end of the 2018 season, Amari Cooper was eighth in targets, receptions, and reception percentage (among players who saw at least 47 targets). Cooper was ninth in yards, fourth in touchdowns, and fourth in first downs.
Now, Dak and Amari will have a full offseason to work together, which should only help them moving forward.
Not only will Dak get a full offseason with Cooper, but with several others on the offense as well.
Heading into 2019, Michael Gallup isn’t buried on the depth chart. He’s the number two receiver behind Amari Cooper.
Gallup and Prescott had a difficult time connecting on deep balls throughout the 2018 season, but got better as the year went along. Having more time to work this offseason with Gallup solidified with the first unit will be key to the development of their rapport. It’s one of the reasons that many are expecting a breakout season for the second year wide receiver.
In addition to Gallup and Cooper, the Cowboys will look to work Tight End Blake Jarwin in with the first team offense. Jarwin and Prescott found a connection in the second half of the year. That connection was never more clear than when Blake Jarwin exploded for seven catches, 119 yards, and three touchdowns in the week 17 finale against the New York Giants.
In that game, Jarwin displayed impressive athleticism and an ability to threaten down the seem. It was the game that showed why the front office has been so high on Jarwin despite limited playing time and college production.
If Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Blake Jarwin can further develop their rapport with Dak Prescott, the passing game should go to another level in 2019.
2. Kellen Moore as the Offensive Coordinator
The move from long time Dallas Cowboys Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan to Kellen Moore should have every Cowboys fan excited. Sure, Moore is an unknown, but knowing what we know about Jason Garrett, he wouldn’t have made the change at offensive coordinator if he didn’t think Moore would bring new energy and ideas to a stagnant offense.
It’s believed that Kellen Moore will use more pre-snap motion in his offense. Using pre-snap motion also allows the offense to dictate matchups and exploit any mismatches. Under Linehan the only motion we saw was a tight end moving across the formation or Ezekiel Elliott coming out of the backfield.
For years we’ve heard that Kellen Moore is a really smart football mind. If he’s able to tailor an offense for the Dallas Cowboys elite talent, it should lead to a more consistent and more explosive offense. The Dallas Cowboys have the weapons on offense to be able to score a lot of points. We saw it in 2016 when they were top five in scoring. There’s no reason this group shouldn’t be able to score at will on their opponents.
3. Home Run Hitters
In 2018, unless the Dallas Cowboys hit on a pass play down the field to Michael Gallup, Amari Cooper, or Tavon Austin, the offense didn’t get many explosive plays for touchdowns. And there were a lot of plays left on the table.
Yes, Ezekiel Elliott had some big gains, but his long run was for only 41 yards and his long reception went for only 38 yards. Compare that to his rookie season when he had a long carry of 60 yards and a long reception of 83 yards. The Cowboys didn’t get many explosive plays for scores in the running game.
Though he didn’t need break as many long runs last season, Elliott is still a threat to go the distance every time he touches the football. In 2018, he led the NFL in runs of more than 10 yards. That number is down from his 2016 total, but still shows a player who is a threat to hit a big play every time he touches it. Opposing defenses are more focused on slowing down Ezekiel Elliot than ever before, but with the improvement in the passing game and upgrades on the offensive line, Elliott should find more success getting into the open field in 2019.
After Elliott though, the running game hasn’t really been a threat to opposing defenses.
Well, the Dallas Cowboys went into the draft looking to add another explosive weapon to the offense and they did so in Memphis Running Back Tony Pollard. Over Pollard’s last two seasons he averaged 7.7 and 7.1 yards per carry for the Tigers. In addition to that, he averaged 14.1 yards per reception as a sophomore and 11.7 yards per reception as a junior. He’s not the runner that Elliott is, but his ability with the ball in his hands will put defenses on notice.
Pollard is an important addition to the offense, but there is no player that will have a bigger impact than Center Travis Frederick. Frederick’s presence is going to offer more time in the front of the pocket for Dak Prescott and should provide cleaner pockets for Prescott to step into when pressured.
Seeing the extra size and strength that Connor Williams has added to his frame this offseason is impressive. If there’s an area where he struggled — and he got better as the year went along — it was in his ability to handle power rushers. If Williams can show a marked improvement in that area, he and Frederick are going to allow Dak Prescott more time in the pocket to survey the defense.
Having more time will lead to bigger play potential. Players like Amari Cooper and Tavon Austin are threats to go the distance every time they touch the ball. Michael Gallup showed an impressive ability to get open deep in his rookie season and I expect that to be the case again heading into his second year.
The addition of Randall Cobb to the slot brings a player that has shown the ability to create big plays after the catch. In Cobb’s eight year NFL career, he’s averaged 6.1 yards after the catch per reception, according to Pro Football Focus. For Cole Beasley’s career, he’s only averaged 4.9 yards after the catch per reception. Cobb is a different kind of receiver than Beasley, but he’s more dangerous once he gets the ball in his hands.
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With the running game, the group of receivers the Cowboys will use, the improvements along the offensive line, and hopefully an improved Blake Jarwin, the Cowboys have the makings of an offense that will put a lot of points on the board in 2019. For the Cowboys take a big step in 2019, the offense will have to lead the way. The defense is ready to contend, but in the high scoring NFC, the offense will have to be able to consistently put up points to keep pace.