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.
3 Things the Dallas Cowboys Need to do Against the Detroit Lions
The Dallas Cowboys are coming off yet another disappointing loss at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings. Their season and playoff hopes could be hanging in the balance now, which makes just about every game from here on out all that more important. They need to start playing as if their backs are against the wall, because that very well could be the case.
Luckily the Dallas Cowboys should be able to take care of business this week when they hit the road to take on the Detroit Lions. This is one of the more winnable games left on the Cowboys schedule this year and they should use it as a bit of a refresher game of sorts in order to get things back on track. The objective of course remains the same… Winning. But, this is also an opportunity to clean a few things up.
Let's take a look at a few things I think the Dallas Cowboys need to do against the Detroit Lions in this Week 11 matchup.
Hit the Ground Running
No more slow starts! The Dallas Cowboys have to hit the ground running against the Detroit Lions instead of digging themselves into an early hole like they've done quite a bit this season. I honestly don't care if it's on the arm of Quarterback Dak Prescott or on the legs of Running Back Ezekiel Elliott, the offense has to figure out some way to be the aggressor in order to put points on the board early.
The Dallas Cowboys fell behind early in nearly every single one of their losses this season. I don't think a single team has really outplayed them yet this year, but when they have to scratch and claw their way back to get out of the hole they've dug themselves into it makes it exceedingly more difficult to win. It's time to change that narrative this week against the Detroit Lions so that hopefully it carries over for the rest of the year.
Execute! Execute! Execute!
The second thing the Dallas Cowboys need to do this week against the Detroit Lions is to clean up their execution, especially in the defensive side of the ball. Offensively things are going pretty well for the Cowboys, but the same can't be said about their defense. Despite all the talent they've added this season they are still struggling to put everything together and play up to expectations. Hopefully this Week 11 matchup helps them right the ship.
This is a game the Dallas Cowboys should be able to focus on their execution. That means maintaining their gap integrity in the running game, staying assignment sound in the passing game, and most importantly finish the tackle. Tackling was especially poor last week against the Vikings which is why Dalvin Cook ran wild. This has to be a group effort here. Yes, individuals need to improve, but for the overall defense to play up to expectations they have to execute as a unit.
Establish the Running Game
Dak Prescott has been playing phenomenal these past few games and has proven he's more than capable of carrying the offense on his back, but the Dallas Cowboys still need to establish the running game. Just about everything Prescott does in the passing game is built off of play action. If the running game isn't producing that hurts the overall offensive output. Plus, the best way to control the game is by running the ball.
I think Ezekiel Elliott should have a pretty big game against the Detroit Lions this week. After being bottled up by the Vikings last week that should be news to the Cowboys ears. This offense feeds off of Zeke and it needs him to find his groove now that we're getting into the do or die part of the NFL season. No. 21 isn't the only RB who needs to find his groove though. Tony Pollard needs to start being more involved and what better game to get him going than against Detroit.
What do you think the Dallas Cowboys need to do against the Detroit Lions?
Lion Down: QB Matthew Stafford Ruled Out for Cowboys Game
The Detroit Lions will be without starting Quarterback Matthew Stafford this Sunday when they host the Dallas Cowboys. He has been officially ruled out due to fractures in his back; the second-straight game that Stafford will miss with the injury.
Fourth-year backup QB Jeff Driskel will get the start as he did last week against the Chicago Bears. The Lions lost that game 20-13, and Driskel went 1-4 as a starter last season when playing for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Stafford's status was confirmed this morning by Lions' Head Coach Matt Patricia.
Lions QB Matthew Stafford (back) has been ruled out for Sunday's game against the Cowboys
Losing Stafford could leave Detroit completely crippled on offense. While they have one of the league's top passing offenses so far in 2019, that was all Matt's work at QB. Now they are missing both their starting QB and their top running back, Kerryon Johnson, who went on injured reserve in Week 7.
That said, Detroit did put up 357 total offensive yards last week against the Bears with Driskel starting. Given the quality of Chicago's defense and that the Lions were playing on the road, that's a strong number.
It will be interesting to see how Dallas strategizes on defense after last week's loss to the Minnesota Vikings. The Cowboys were completely run over by Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison, so will increased focus on run defense creates opportunities for Driskel and the Lions' receivers?
However it shakes out, Matthew Stafford's absence definitely helps the Cowboys. He is still one of the top quarterbacks in football and had a top-five passer rating before the injury.
We never root for injuries but such is life in the NFL. Sometimes you get the benefit, sometimes you're on the losing end.
Hopefully, this turn of fate helps Dallas get a much-needed victory.
#DALvsDET: Betting Preview, Trends, And Prediction
Cowboys -3.5 O/U 51.5 points.
After suffering a devastating four point loss to the Vikings on Sunday night, the Cowboys will look to get back on track against yet another NFC North foe.
Dallas now sits at 5-4, clinging to their first place spot in the division with the Philadelphia Eagles right on their heels. They have fumbled away four very win-able games already this season, and are running out of chances to take full control of their playoff destiny.
You can't necessarily call this one a must win for the Cowboys, but it's damn near as close as it can get to one for a week 11 game. Considering Detroit's record and injuries, the Cowboys can ill afford to let this one slip away on Sunday.
It's one of the few games against a team with a losing record remaining on their schedule.
The 2019 Lions are a tough team to figure out. Expected before the season to be one of the worst teams in the conference, the Lions started out the season rather well.
They were "undefeated" (there was a tie) through the first three weeks of the season, and played the Kansas City Chiefs extremely tough. They also went on the road and had the Green Bay Packers on the ropes for four full quarters.
But, with all that being said, they now sit at 3-5-1, with their NFC playoff hopes just about destroyed. Quarterback Matt Stafford is having one of the best seasons of his entire career, however, and is surrounded by an offense littered with receiving talent. If he's healthy and can play, he'll be a handful for the Cowboys secondary to deal with.
- The Cowboys are now 2-4 against the spread their last 6 games.
- The score total has gone over in 5 of the Cowboys' last 6 games. It's also gone over 5 of their last 6 road games.
- The Lions are 1-4 against the spread their last 5 games.
- The score total has gone over 7 of the last 8 times these teams have played.
Despite being on the road this week, I'm going to pick the Dallas Cowboys to come out on top and cover the 3.5 point spread. At some point, talent has to take over for this bunch, and what a better day for that to happen than against a hobbled Detroit Lions team?
The Cowboys have been far from perfect in 2019, but it's now or never if they want to rack up wins and start a playoff run.
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