When the Dallas Cowboys made the trade for Amari Cooper a week ago, the focus was on what this meant at the top of the wide receiver depth chart, and rightly so. The team got better in the starting lineup with Amari Cooper as their WR1. Not only does his addition in the starting lineup make the Dallas Cowboys better on offense, by pushing Allen Hurns and Michael Gallup down the depth chart, the Dallas Cowboys got better when they decide to go with four and five wide receivers. The biggest impact is what it does for the wide receiver depth in general. It's the best group of wide receivers they've had in the Jason Garrett era.
When the Cowboys line up to play the Tennessee Titans next Monday night, this is what the wide receiver group will look like:
- Amari Cooper
- Michael Gallup
- Cole Beasley
- Allen Hurns
- Deonte Thompson
- Tavon Austin (likely inactive due to injury).
Obviously Cooper and Beasley are the headliners for the Dallas Cowboys offense, but Michael Gallup has turned it on over the last couple of games. Gallup led the team in receiving in their loss to the Washington Redskins. Allen Hurns has been underwhelming for most of the season, but came on strong with his best game of the season week seven as well.
The trade for Cooper should allow the Dallas Cowboys offensive staff to put Hurns in the slot more moving forward. When Hurns was with the Jacksonville Jaguars, he did a lot of his best work in the slot and working the middle of the field.
2012 was the last time the Dallas Cowboys had a receiver over 1,000 yards receiving and one wide receiver with more than 900 yards receiving when Dez Bryant had his breakout season and Miles Austin finished third on the team in receiving yards. But that wide receiver group was top heavy as Kevin Ogletree was the third most productive receiver on the team that season.
In 2011, they got a big season from Laurent Robinson, but Mile Austin had a little more than 500 yards receiving and played only 10 games. Jesse Holley had the fourth most receiving yards that season and the Dallas Cowboys didn't have a player eclipse 1,000 yards on the season.
For years, Jason Witten was the first or second best pass catcher on the roster, but the wide receiver group was never as good as it is this season. They've been top-heavy with Dez Bryant, but haven't been as deep as this group has been in 2018.
It's not likely that we'll see two receivers approach 1,000 yard seasons, but the quality of player they have up and down the roster is the best Garrett's ever had.
Amari Cooper and Allen Hurns have both had 1,000 yards seasons. Cole Beasley is one of the best slot receivers in the NFL. Michael Gallup is one of the best young wide receivers this team has had since Dez Bryant. Deonte Thompson and Tavon Austin provide excellent depth and have come up with big plays of their own this season.
Their depth gives the Cowboys more options with personnel deployment and the coaching staff should be excited to take advantage of it. Scott Linehan and Jason Garrett love to use multiple tight ends as well as 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR). They should use more personnel groupings that get their best pass catchers on the field at the same time, meaning more 10 (1 RB, 0 TE, 4 WR). I like Geoff Swaim as a tight end, but I don't believe that he's one of the four best pass catchers on the Cowboys roster. Having him or another tight end on the field during obvious passing situations -- like they did Dalton Schultz in the two-minute drill on Sunday -- is a crime against offense. I like Shultz and think he could be a serviceable tight end in the NFL, but he shouldn't be on the field in that situation.
As I mentioned when I broke down the two-minute drill against Washington, the Cowboys failure to have packages to get their best four pass catchers on the field in crunch time is inexcusable. Moving forward, the Cowboys have to figure out how to get Cooper, Beasley, Hurns, and Gallup on the field together. Specifically, they should look at putting Cooper and Gallup on the outside with Beasley and Hurns in the slot.
The Dallas Cowboys have the depth at wide receiver to line up this group in some versatile sets. There is no reason that they need to have a tight end on the field in obvious passing situations. As the Cowboys move forward it would be to their benefit
Despite Changes, Cowboys Offense Still Runs Through Ezekiel Elliott
We've talked a lot this offseason about the changes at Offensive Coordinator and slot receiver, or how Jason Witten's return will impact the tight end position. But while all of these will impact the Dallas Cowboys' offense in 2019, the constant feature remains Running Back Ezekiel Elliott and the rushing attack.
From 2016 to 2018, since the Cowboys drafted Elliott, Dallas has ranked 1st, 3rd, and 10th among NFL teams in "run vs. pass" play calls. That's only logical; you don't spend a fourth-overall pick on a RB and then not make him the featured player in your offense.
Zeke has certainly rewarded Dallas' decision; Elliott has led the league in total rushing two out of three years, and he led in yards-per-game in 2017 while dealing with his suspension.
Leaning on Elliott has been smart business based on his effectiveness, plus the investment in the offensive line over the last several years.
Dallas has now sunk three first-round picks (Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin), one second (Connor Williams), and now two thirds (Chaz Green and Connor McGovern) on building up their front wall. They've spent a lot of money to keep their All-Pro guys around, plus La'el Collins.
Some would try to paint the run-heavy approach as how the team is trying to hide the weaknesses of Dak Prescott at quarterback. But in 2014, with DeMarco Murray at RB and Tony Romo at QB, the Cowboys were still 3rd in the league in rush vs. pass attempts.
This isn't about Zeke or Dak, or any other specific player. This about a team philosophy that starts at the top with Jason Garrett, and that isn't going to change even with Kellen Moore taking over as the new Offensive Coordinator.
We're all excited to see what new wrinkles comes from getting rid of Scott Linehan. We highly anticipate the development of Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup in the offense, coupled with the addition of Randall Cobb. We're salivating at what Blake Jarwin might become under the tutelage of the great Jason Witten.
Heck, maybe we'll see fullback Jamize Olawale's receiving skills put to more use. Perhaps gadget guys like Tavon Austin or rookie Tony Pollard will be deployed in more creative ways.
And yes, Dak Prescott's growth is another major factor in Dallas' 2019 success. It's especially interesting, and even concerning, as talks are ongoing about his long-term contract.
But make no mistake, this is still the Ezekiel Elliott show. Even if a few more of his carries become receptions in Moore's scheme, Zeke should still get the lion's share of the touches.
That's why this week's news about his incident in Las Vegas is so troubling. It probably won't lead to a suspension, but we saw what happened in 2017 when Elliott was missing for over a third of the season.
While Dallas should be better able to withstand losing Zeke now than it was two years ago, it may still be more than Prescott, Cooper, and the rest could handle. It definitely wouldn't put the Cowboys in good position to compete for a Super Bowl.
In the end, the 2019 will still come down to how well Dallas runs the ball. It's the engine; nothing else matters if the rushing game doesn't set everyone else up for success.
Don't ever take it for granted. This is still Ezekiel Elliott's offense.
What Would a Successful Season Mean for Kellen Moore’s Future?
Out of every chess piece moved by the Dallas Cowboys this offseason, the decision to name 30-year old Kellen Moore might be the most interesting one. Not only that, but it could be the one that makes the biggest impact on the team. After all, the Cowboys are ready to go talent wise.
With Kellen Moore taking up a new role, it's intriguing to imagine what a successful season would mean for his future with the Dallas Cowboys. Truth be told, Moore is in a pretty fortunate position to debut as an offensive coordinator. He'll be driving a unit full of talented players with almost no weak links. Last year, it wasn't the lack of quality players lined up that had the offense struggling throughout the season, but the guy in charge.
At first, the philosophy of not needing a #1 wide receiver clearly blew up on the Cowboys face. The passing game in Dallas needed a spark and they didn't find it until they traded a first rounder for Amari Cooper. Cooper's impact on the team was clear right away as he put on impressive performances on a weekly basis.
But even when Cooper was at his best, the offense still presented relevant struggles. Despite getting more first downs, the Cowboys still had trouble scoring touchdowns when in the red zone and kept leaving points on the field.
Although he's been a controversial conversation among members of Cowboys Nation, there are a few reasons to be excited about what Kellen Moore can bring to the table as a young offensive coordinator. Ever since he declared for the NFL Draft out of Boise State, where he ran a very complex offense on his way to become the QB with most wins in NCAA history, he was seen by many as an extremely smart prospect. Many expected him to have a mediocre career as a player, but saw him as a potential coach down the line.
Now it's his chance to prove the world just how smart he is and his potential as a coach. He will not only be proving it to the Cowboys organization, but all of the NFL and college football teams. Don't forget what NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah mentioned a few months ago.
I've mentioned this before- Kellen Moore is a rising star and he'll be in the mix for HC gigs (CFB or NFL) in the near future. https://t.co/hLjOb4HAUc
With a great group of talent at his disposal, it's fair to imagine Moore having a pretty successful "rookie" season at a major coaching position. If he indeed manages to turn heads with the Dallas Cowboys offense in 2019, what does that mean for his future?
In a league that's turning to the young offensive-minded coaches thanks to guys like Sean McVay, is it possible one team decides to pull the trigger and make him an offer for a head coaching gig? It certainly would seem premature, but it's still a possibility in the NFL, where teams have become increasingly impatient with their coaches.
I definitely wouldn't be surprised if next offseason, we're concerned about another team (college or NFL) trying to snatch Moore off the Cowboys. I insist in pointing out this would be a premature decision if it does happen, since Moore has very little experience, but looking at the trend in the NFL it certainly could happen.
This might be the most important year in Kellen Moore's young career. For now, let's hope he does a good job leading Dak Prescott in his fourth year as a professional player and an offense that has a solid OL and a pretty good set of skill players.
Connor Williams Working as Left Tackle in Cowboys Practice
Second-year guard Connor Williams has been working as the Cowboys' left tackle during practice this week. While this isn't the plan for him in 2019, it does provide a glimpse into potential uses for Williams down the road and how Dallas might handle future offensive line moves.
Using Connor at LT this week has been a matter of necessity. The top players on that depth chart, Tyron Smith and Cameron Fleming, were not participating for other reasons.
With Tyron Smith getting a vet day and Cam Fleming not practicing because of a bruised shin, Connor Williams worked at left tackle Wednesday. He said it was his first left tackle snaps since he was at Texas. He said it felt like riding a bike after a little bit.
Indeed, Williams spent three years at left tackle in college. It was the last position he'd played before being drafted in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft by Dallas, who immediately moved him to guard.
Connor started 10 of 13 games at guard last season. He played mostly on the left side, starting Weeks 1-9, before getting injured. Xavier Su'a-Filo played well enough in his absence that Williams didn't get the starting job back when he was healthy. However, when Zack Martin had to miss a few games at the end of the year, Connor started a right guard for those two weeks.
When Martin returned for the playoffs, Williams was back as the starting left guard in both postseason games.
Tyron Smith and Cam Fleming will be your starter and backup at left tackle next year. But for 2020 and beyond, Connor Williams' ability to play tackle creates some interesting possibilities.
La'el Collins will be an unrestricted free agent next year. Fleming will still have one year left on his deal and Dallas just spent a third-round pick on the versatile Connor McGovern. Throw in that Williams can play some tackle, and it seems as if they're covering bases for Collins eventual departure.
We could very well see a starting lineup in 2020 with McGovern at LG and Williams at RT. Another possibility is that Fleming starts at RT and Williams stays at guard, but can be moved to tackle if needed.
If nothing else, it's nice to know that Dallas has options. We may never see Connor Williams play a regular season snap at left tackle, but versatility is a great asset. It can greatly increase a player's value, and give his team some leverage and flexibility in roster management.
For the Cowboys, it does make you wonder what the future holds for the offensive line.
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