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Dallas Cowboys Offense will be a Mismatch Nightmare in 2020

Even with losses of Randal Cobb to the Houston Texans and Travis Frederick to retirement, the Dallas Cowboys offense was going to be good in 2020. Going into the NFL Draft, most observers felt the Dallas Cowboys needed to add a wide receiver in the draft to replace the production vacated by Randall Cobb. Drafting CeeDee Lamb, however, was a pipe dream that most didn’t believe would come true.

Then it did.

With the 17th overall pick, the Dallas Cowboys not only got the best wide receiver in the draft but put their offense in a position to be one of the best in the NFL in 2020. Adding CeeDee Lamb to an offense that already featured Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup at wide receiver, Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard at running back, an ascending tight end in Blake Jarwin, and their heralded offensive line just seems unfair. This is a team that is loaded with talent offensively for Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore and Mike McCarthy to work with.

What’s even more impressive is the versatility of the players they’ll get to deploy.

We’ve seen Amari Cooper work effectively out of the slot. CeeDee Lamb had a lot of success at Oklahoma as a big slot receiver. Tony Pollard was drafted with the idea that his versatility could lend him to getting some work at wide receiver. Ezekiel Elliott has done some impressive work when lined up out wide in an empty backfield formation. While Blake Jarwin will get a lot of work as an in-line tight end, splitting him into the slot or out wide gives the Dallas Cowboys opportunities to dictate what the opposing defense does. And while he hasn’t been an impact player for the Cowboys, Jamize Olawale’s pass-catching ability figures to make them more versatile on offense.

With all that versatility, the Dallas Cowboys will be able to gameplan to exploit particular matchups from week to week. The versatility allows them to force the defense to make certain decisions presnap, and they won’t be able to account for all of the options that Dak Prescott will have at his disposal.

Evan Silva on Twitter

Cowboys 2020 pass-catcher corps in 2019: Amari Cooper: 8th/86 WRs in yards/route run Michael Gallup: 6th in NFL in receiving yards/game CeeDee Lamb: 1st in nation in yards/route run from slot Blake Jarwin: 6th among NFL tight ends in yards/target

In 2019, the Dallas Cowboys deployed their offense in 11-personnel around 61% of the time. That was 11th in the NFL per Sharp Football Stats. With CeeDee Lamb added to the wide receiver mix, I’d imagine that percentage shoots to the top of the NFL leaderboard. The Dallas Cowboys should be 11-personnel and 20-personnel (two running backs and no tight ends) at least 70% of the time moving forward.

Using three-wide receiver formations shouldn’t limit how much they run the football with Ezekiel Elliott, either. In 11-personnel, the Dallas Cowboys were successful on 56% of their rushing attempts. The only other formation that had a better success rate was 23 (two running backs, three tight ends), but they only ran out of that formation one time. Out of 11-personnel, the Cowboys ran the football 193 times and averaged 5.2 yards per carry. Compare that to 21 personnel (two running backs, one tight end) where they were successful on 54% of their rush attempts but only averaged 4.5 yards per carry.

Using 11-personnel will allow the Dallas Cowboys to take advantage of mismatches.

If they split Blake Jarwin into the slot or out wide and the defense moves a linebacker out there, he’s got a mismatch in the passing game. A linebacker pulled out of the box is also a win for the running game as they’d have one less body in the box to slow the run. If teams decide they want to play coverage against the Dallas Cowboys slew of wide receivers, then Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard are going to have some nice boxes to run against.

If teams want to load up to stop the run, as has been the focus for four years, they better have really good cover corners to handle Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb in one on one coverage on the outside.

With their weapons, the Dallas Cowboys will be such a problematic solution for opposing defensive coordinators, and most defenses won’t have enough talent to account for everything the Dallas Cowboys will want to do offensively.

For years now, the Dallas Cowboys running game has been one of the best in the NFL and an absolute strength for this team. In 2019, Dak Prescott proved that they could be a passing team as well. Adding CeeDee Lamb to a team that already featured two one thousand yard receivers is downright unfair.

It’s not a stretch to think that after a career year in 2019 that Dak Prescott could be looking at another career year in 2020 with the weapons he has to throw to. Last year, they were an incredibly explosive offense. Cooper, Gallup, and Randall Cobb each averaged 15 yards per reception last year. At OU, Lamb averaged more than 17 yards per reception for his three-year career, including 21 yards per receptions in 2019.

A dangerous offense just got more dangerous for the next several years. Amari Cooper just signed a five-year contract. Michael Gallup is under contract through the 2021 season, and CeeDee Lamb’s rookie contract will go through 2023 with a team option for 2024. With the salary cap set to increase by a considerable margin in 2021 and 2022, it’s possible the Dallas Cowboys could keep these three together beyond 2021.

Though defense may have been the initial focus for the Dallas Cowboys in the draft, this was such a savvy move by Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones, Will McClay, and Mike McCarthy. They fortified what was already a strength. NFL defensive coordinators will be working long hours to try and figure out what to do to slow down this offense.

Ep 30: 2020 NFL Draft Recap with Kevin Turner by Inside The Cowboys

In this episode of Inside The Cowboys, John Williams from is joined by Kevin Turner of the About Them Cowboys Podcast on The Athletic to recap the 2020 NFL Draft.

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John Williams

Written by John Williams

Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual, reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

Make sure you check out the Inside The Cowboys Podcast featuring John Williams and other analysts following America's Team.


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  1. As noted, with the addition of Lamb, this offense should be very good, although losing Frederick is a blow. Hopefully Biadasz or McGovern will rise to the challenge.

    • I think between Looney, McGovern, and Biadsz they’ll fine someone who is good. Maybe not great as Frederick was, but I think they’ll be good enough for the Dallas Cowboys to win games. Much like they were in 2018 without Frederick.

    • The On-line was fine in 18 without Fredrick, it won’t be any different this season!! This time around we have more than just Looney that can get a chance at playing the center position!! But with the way Looney played in 18 I don’t have any problems with him taking over this season!! We’ll be fine!!

  2. The multi headed cobra of three quality wide outs with Zeke and Pollard working out of the backfield on screens and wheel routes will certainly be a handfull for the NFC East. I do worry about the potential decline in O Line quality and depth. Fred is lamentably gone, Tyron is on the backside of his career, Conners are still questions and even Zack has had his issues. Dak will need the time to work through his progressions and set himself to make accurate throws consistently. Pass pro might be a challenge. Kellen Moore is going to earn his salary this year.

    • Seeing how center shakes out is certainly one of the biggest issues on the offense. I think the players they have on the interior will be good and perhaps a player like Biadsz can step in and fill the gap at center allowing for a competition at guard between Williams and McGovern.

  3. all about Dak – if he can read the defense quickly, the offense will be unstoppable. If he still needs 4 seconds to throw the ball and misses Gallup wide open as many times as the last 2 yrs, the OL will have bad stats and be blamed for the failure. Sign the tag, Dak and quit throwing parties. Time to get your head in the playbook and film room.

    • He was very assertive in 2019. Making quick decisions and getting the ball out.

      If you don’t think Dak will be mentally prepared for the NFL season (if there is one), you haven’t been paying attention.

      • He did all those things you say…. but his accuracy (most ostensibly, his lack thereof), is the real problem. If he ever fixes it, we will win 3 more games than if he doesn’t. That’s the difference between making it to and winning in, the playoffs. Put Mahomes on this team and see what Vegas says. Put Brady on a 2 year deal, sign and trade Dak…. and see what Vegas says. Keep Dak, as we have, and we are 7th in their opinion.

    • Basically any team that has nullified Zeke can beat Dallas. That has been the story on Dallas. Dak has put up fantastic stats against bad teams. But he struggles against good teams when they slow down Zeke. Romo could read defenses and he punished teams for playing the run. Dak does not seem to have that skill, and his throws are erratic. He can throw a great pass then miss a wide open receiver and miss a 7 yard dump off. Dak is a great guy. He is young and strong. But I do not think he will ever be an elite QB. Certainly not worth the contract he wants that would cripple the salary cap. Last year the division was handed to Dallas. Two rebuilding teams and the other decimated by injuries. But Dak could not muster 1 win against the Jets, unable to score 13 points against the Breesless Saints or beat the decimated Eagles. All they needed was 9-7 record. How does a “franchise” QB with all the advantages Dak had ( great Oline, 2 1000 yard WR’s, a stud RB ) and competing in the worst division in the NFL not be able to win 9 games ? I think just about any good QB could have done that. And please do not blame the defense, they held Philly to 17 points, The Patriots to 13 and the Saints to 12.

      • So you’re just going to ingore the fact that are special teams was terrible, and the offense was literally having to march the entire field when getting the ball. What about the terrible play calling? Did you forget the Jets, and Vickings game? Those 2 games should have been won putting Dallas at 10-6. You’re soley blaming one man, and not seeing all the outliers or who else has a factor in this lol. You can’t pen the blame on one person. Not to say Dak was perfect, but he doesn’t deserve all the blame here. He has put the Cowboys in numerous positions to win ball games. Then you talk about all the advantages, what advantages? Statistically this was Zeke’s worst year….you had Cooop up and down, who also failed to show up in road games. Gallup was are best receiver this season. Defense also has a point in this as they chocked as well. If you don’t like Dak just say that lol, don’t try to put it all on him like it was his fault the Cowboys went 8-8. Lets no forget to mention the fact that Jason Garrett losed the locker room…come on man.

  4. Mike McCarthy’s influence already felt with a stellar 2020 draft especially with the shift of “needs base” to “best player available”. Offense will be off the charts with addition of Cee Dee Lamb but let’s not underestimate the defense. Dallas staff deserves A+ for great job on draft.

  5. He did all those things you say…. but his accuracy (most ostensibly, his lack thereof), is the real problem. If he ever fixes it, we will win 3 more games than if he doesn’t. That’s the difference between making it to and winning in, the playoffs. Put Mahomes on this team and see what Vegas says. Put Brady on a 2 year deal, sign and trade Dak…. and see what Vegas says. Keep Dak, as we have, and we are 7th in their opinion.

  6. If Dak could throw deep passes the cowboys would be better off,zeke would have more running room and the cowboys would win more games

  7. This reminds me of the year that we drafted Elliott are defensive side of the ball was questionable??? We drafted a difference maker….But the defense is better than last year IF WE GET A. SMITH AND GREGORY BACK DON’T LET ARE DRAFTED CENTER BE A MONSTER!! Like always the Cowboys “Team ” has to get hungry and want it!! Coaches and the players being hungry is what it is going to boil down to Dallas has the players..

  8. I feel having McCarthy making decisions at crucial points in close games will no doubt be a difference in our record and how we approach games weekly: I’ve never felt Garrett had us ready to play in big games in his whole TENURE !!!!! Players never felt at the end of games any CONFIDENCE In COACH CLAP
    do make the RIGHT DECISION !!!!!! DAMN SHAME !!!!!!!

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