Welcome to the 2018 NFL offseason. Assuming you're a Cowboys fan, get used to hearing the following phrases at a tireless rate:
- “The Cowboys need to be more like the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles!”
- “The Cowboys need to make their offense more Dak friendly.”
These two takes on the Dallas Cowboys can coexist, as the biggest key to the Eagles' turnaround from 7-9 to Super Bowl champions was their ability to surround second-year Quarterback Carson Wentz with the necessary talent to succeed.
Hoping to make a similar turnaround from 9-7, the Cowboys' task at hand this offseason is to similarly infuse fresh talent into an offense that went stale with Dak Prescott at the helm in year two. Returning Left Tackle Tyron Smith and Running Back Ezekiel Elliott to the lineup on a regular basis is certainly a great starting point.
Entering a pivotal third year as the Cowboys' starter, Prescott himself has weighed in on what this notion of a “Dak friendly” offense may look like on the field in 2018.
“…if you watch a little bit of maybe what the Panthers are doing or what the Chiefs did, just the RPOs, the run-pass options, just allowing me to use my feet if necessary more” – Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott
Dak later added that feeling “more comfortable” would be an overall improvement to strive for next season, which is spot on.
Surviving the Cowboys' horrific lack of continuity — and often-times talent — on offense in 2017, Prescott was visibly uncomfortable as a passer far more times than he was in 2016 as just a rookie. Hearing Prescott specifically mention the Kansas City Chiefs and Carolina Panthers as offenses to emulate is certainly noteworthy too.
In total offense per game, the Cowboys ranked 14th this season at 331.9 yards — five spots ahead of the Panthers (323.7). The Chiefs reached the top five in this category before trading Alex Smith to the Washington Redskins this offseason, averaging 375.4 yards a game.
The common theme throughout these teams is the simplicity they allow their quarterbacks to play with, scheming receivers open, utilizing backs to create mismatches both on the ground and through the air, and running their mobile QBs when needed.
Beginning this 2018 Cowboys offseason by claiming the Cowboys offense needs to actually be more simplistic is sure to send Cowboys Nation into a frenzy. Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan, who will work alongside plenty of new position coaches in 2018, has been heavily criticized for the predictable nature of his offense. Predictable and simplistic are two drastically different terms when considering the nuances of the fast-paced, spread offenses that have taken over the NFL.
It's QB friendly systems like these that produced Cam Newton, Alex Smith, and Dak Prescott.
A simple RPO design that Prescott has run since his days at Mississippi State may be predictable for opposing defenses to an extent, but stopping Prescott from either handing the ball to Zeke Elliott or carrying it himself behind this dominant offensive line in Dallas is much harder.
The Dallas Cowboys' Dak friendly offense may not feature many new starters in 2018. Instead, it will be up to this coaching staff to better identify the strengths of this unit and play to them — something the Panthers and Chiefs did exceptionally well all season long.
When Dak Prescott himself speaks to his strengths as a fourth-round draft pick turned franchise quarterback, facing the pressure of putting his team back in the playoffs as a third-year starter, you can only hope that the Dallas Cowboys take notice.