For years we've seen the transition of offenses in the NFL to offenses that resemble more what a college offense looks like. We're seeing a rise in the use of spread formations with 11 personnel becoming the personnel of choice across the league. Teams are using more read-option running schemes and run-pass options in their offenses. More and more teams are using their quarterbacks running ability to their advantage and it's becoming a sought-after trait among quarterbacks drafted at the top of the draft. For some reason though, the Cowboys haven't quite figured out how to harness Dak Prescott's running ability.
You look around the league and you'll begin to notice that teams are designing plays for their quarterbacks to be a ball carrier. Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers have always been the premier example of what you can do with a running quarterback. The Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills are putting Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen in situations where they can use their athleticism and running ability. Both Jackson and Allen have run for more than 100 yards in recent weeks and Allen did it in consecutive weeks.
But for some reason the Dallas Cowboys seem to be going in the opposite direction from the rest of the league.
Some defensive coordinators believe Dak Prescott's ability as a runner is his strongest asset as a QB. But the shutout loss to the #Colts marked the first time this season - and just third time in career - that Dak had no rushing attempts. #Cowboys are 1-2 in such games.
One of the biggest critiques of Scott Linehan at this point is his apparent in ability to adapt his offense to fit the talents and skills of his most important players. Dak's lack of running over the last several weeks may not all be on Scott Linehan, but he definitely has a voice with Prescott, so if he's encouraging Prescott to hang in the pocket longer as opposed to run, then it's a problem.
In the game against the Indianapolis Colts there were several times that Prescott appeared to have an opportunity to run, but opted to throw the football instead. Since carrying the ball 11 times against the Jacksonville Jaguars in week six, he's only carried the ball more than five times in two games and hasn't topped six carries a game since. Obviously, during the five game winning streak, you don't notice the flaws as much because their winning. When the Cowboys get shut out in a game that had playoff clinching implications and the offense struggled to get into scoring range, it stands out.
Let's look at some numbers.
Per Pro Football Focus, Prescott is ninth in the NFL in rushing yards this season. He's only ran the ball on a non-scramble attempt 38 times, which is way behind Lamar Jackson (102) at and Cam Newton (75) for third in the NFL. Even on scrambles, Prescott is only 8th in the NFL, behind Jameis Winston who has only played in nine games this season. Since week nine, the first week that Amari Cooper played for the Cowboys, Dak has only scrambled eight times, which is 15th in the NFL and he's only run the ball on a designed run 19 times, fifth in the NFL in that time span.
One reason why they aren't running it as much with Dak is that they haven't been as good at it over the last seven weeks. Over the first seven weeks of the season, Prescott averaged 5.9 yards per carry. He was second in attempts and second in scrambles during that period of time. His 5.9 yards per carry, the first seven weeks of the season, ranked fifth in the NFL among non-running backs with at least 10 carries. He was third in the NFL in the first seven weeks in rushing yards among quarterbacks with 236 rushing yards. He gained 78% of his season total in the first seven games. Since week nine, he's only gained 67 yards at 2.5 yards per carry. On designed runs, Prescott's only gained 0.84 yards per carry over the last seven games, but is gaining 6.37 yards per carry on scrambles.
So, while the designed runs haven't been good, he's still been a very good scrambler, though he hasn't scrambled as much. In the first seven games of the season Dak scrambled 20 times, in the last seven games, he's only taken off on pass plays eight times.
Why isn't Dak running as much? Is Dak Prescott's hesitancy to run similar to his hesitancy to throw? Is Dak's unwillingness to run come from the indecisiveness we sometimes see in the pocket when going through his progressions? Are they linked? Is Prescott being told to be a pocket passer and look to throw first? Possibly all of the above.
Regardless of who is at fault for Dak Prescott scaling back on his scrambling, it's severely handicapping the Dallas Cowboys' soon-to-be-paid franchise quarterback by not using his best asset. His running ability is something that gets the team going. When he's running it, you seem him playing with a lot of confidence. Like in the New Orleans game when he broke several tackles to pick up a crucial third down late in the game, it gave a lift to the entire team and they were able to close the deal.
A quarterback who can run can really help bail the team out when the offense isn't playing well and moving forward, Dak needs to find his swagger when running the ball. When Prescott is a threat to run the football, like he can be, it puts a ton of stress on the defense, which opens up so much more for the offense. If defenses have to think about Dak running the ball, it makes the game more 11 vs 11 instead of 10 vs 11.
The Dallas Cowboys have to figure out a way to use his legs more and more efficiently moving forward. Dak Prescott needs to get more aggressive as a scrambler moving forward. Yes, when the opportunity to make a pass on the move is there for him, he should take it, but if it's a 50/50 proposition, he needs to go with the thing he does best, and that's running the football.
Dallas Cowboys Should Pursue Recently Released DT Gerald McCoy
The Dallas Cowboys have been reinforcing their defensive interior all offseason and look to be in a good position as they get ready to begin offseason training activities and minicamp. Yesterday, I wrote about the possibility of trading for New York Jets Defensive Tackle Leonard Williams. Another defensive tackle has now become available, long-time Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defensive Tackle Gerald McCoy.
Per a report from Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, the Bucs are going to release McCoy after nine seasons with the club.
BREAKING: DT Gerald McCoy has been informed by the Bucs of their plans to release him after nine seasons. The team decided not to pay him the $13-million salary he was owed for 2019.
McCoy is the definition of a cap casualty as he was set to make $13 million on the cap this year. At age 30 in 2018, McCoy still had six sacks as the Buccaneers 3-technique defensive tackle.
Throughout his career, he's been one of the more productive defensive tackles in the league. From 2012 to 2017 he was selected to the Pro Bowl six times and was a first-team All-Pro selection in 2013.
Since 2012, McCoy's averaged 7.2 sacks, 36.8 total tackles, 9.85 tackles for loss, and 17.85 quarterback hits a season. Over the last three seasons, McCoy's averaged just under seven sacks a season. In 2018, he finished with 38 total pressures, which was 19th among all interior defensive linemen. Only Tyrone Crawford from the Cowboys had nearly as many total pressures on the interior with 37.
Though the Cowboys have brought in Christian Covington, Kerry Hyder, and Trysten Hill to fortify a defensive interior with Maliek Collins, Antwaun Woods, and Tyrone Crawford, Gerald McCoy would make an excellent addition to their rotation. Mike Fisher of 247 Sports is reporting that the Cowboys currently have "very little interest" in the defensive tackle.
That's plausible. The Dallas Cowboys have a ton of depth on the defensive line at the moment, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't pursue a talented player such as Gerald McCoy. McCoy has been an excellent 3-tech but also has the size to contribute at 1-tech on passing downs if you need him to.
The Dallas Cowboys defensive line has a ton of depth and it may not make sense to bring in a guy like McCoy, but they should. Much like the trade for Robert Quinn, you're putting your eggs in the 2019 Super Bowl basket and trying to maximize the talent that you have on the roster this year. They're a team primed to make a deep run in January and McCoy can help them do that.
As in everything, it will come down to the price tag. However, given that the Dallas Cowboys currently have just under $20 million available on the 2019 salary cap, they can get a deal done with McCoy and continue working on the long-term contracts for their star core of players.
Gerald McCoy makes the defense better. He's another guy along the defensive line, in addition to DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn, that the offensive line has to think about. He makes things easier for everyone at every level of the defense and shouldn't cost a ton to sign on a one-year deal.
BREAKING: Ezekiel Elliott Handcuffed After Incident with Security Guard
TMZ has released footage of Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott being handcuffed and escorted by police after an altercation with security at a Las Vegas music festival over the weekend.
Elliott was not arrested and no charges have been filed.
Ezekiel Elliott handcuffed but not charged after incident at Las Vegas music festival https://t.co/NJQ6csGgnv
The video shows Zeke engaged in what appears to be an argument with a female companion. Elliott is seen following her through the crowd, and then security starts to get involved after Zeke moves his body to block her from walking away.
One of the security guards says something that attracts Elliott's attention, causing him to move in closer. The guard falls backward from minimal contact. It as soon after that police get involved.
There isn't much here that would cause trouble for the average player, but that's hardly Elliott's situation. He's one of the most prolific stars in the NFL and already has history with the league for domestic violence and personal conduct issues.
Remember, no charges were filed when the NFL gave Elliott a six-game suspension in 2017 after accusations from an ex-girlfriend of domestic violence.
We will have to wait and see how Roger Goodell chooses to treat this latest issue.
DT Leonard Williams May be Available, Should the Cowboys Explore a Trade?
Per a report by Rich Cimini of ESPN, the New York Jets may be exploring a trade for their star defensive lineman Leonard Williams. With Williams set to hit free agency in 2020, the theory is the Jets may not be interested in locking up Williams long-term after just drafting Quinnen Williams with their top five selection in 2019.
Here's what Cimini had to say in his report:
"There's already talk in league circles that Gase could be looking to move on from Williams, who will be a free agent after the season. He's due to make a guaranteed $14.2 million in the final year of his contract. Gase hasn't said anything about Williams that would spark speculation, but it's not hard to connect the dots when examining the defensive line situation."
Rich Cimini - ESPN.com
Williams has been a really good player for the New York Jets who has played 3-4 defensive end and some defensive tackle for the Jets in his four-year career. A former sixth overall pick has had as many as seven sacks and as few as two sacks a season, but he's played in all 64 games in his career, starting 63. He's stayed healthy and been productive on a Jets defense that hasn't been very good over the last few years.
For the Cowboys defense, he would project as a 3-technique with the ability to be the Cowboys 1-technique in passing situations. Among interior defensive lineman, Leonard Williams finished 21st in run stops per Pro Football Focus and sixth in total pressures with 53. Williams was third among interior players in QB hits with 16 ahead of Kansas City Chiefs Defensive Lineman Chris Jones and Seattle Seahawks Defensive Tackle Jarran Reed. For reference, DeMarcus Lawrence had 63 total pressures and 11 QB hits in 2018, while Tyrone Crawford had only 37 total pressures.
The Dallas Cowboys have been working to reinforce their defensive line this offseason after struggling in the playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams when the Cowboys gave up over 200 yards rushing. Though they like Antwaun Woods and Maliek Collins, they obviously weren't satisfied with the going into 2019 with just those two in the Dallas interior.
In free agency, the Cowboys added Christian Covington and Kerry Hyder and then drafted Trysten Hill with their second-round pick. They also added Daniel Wise, a player that was seen as a fourth or fifth rounder in most people's minds as an undrafted free agent and will compete for a roster spot.
As intriguing as Covington, Hyder, Hill, and Wise are in addition to Maliek Collins and Woods, Williams would be an immediate upgrade at 3-tech and the Dallas Cowboys should explore it, even if they don't plan on resigning him beyond 2019.
The Cowboys could swap expiring contracts by sending Maliek Collins to New York and a draft pick. Collins is unlikely to be resigned by the team in the 2020 offseason as they have plans for Hill as their 3-tech of the future.
The Dallas Cowboys showed with the trade for Robert Quinn that they're alright going after the one-year rental player. Leonard Williams would make their defense better for 2019 and while they have high hopes for Trysten Hill, Williams is a known asset right now and wouldn't prevent you from giving Hill snaps at 3-tech.
For a team hoping to make a Super Bowl run, adding a player like Leonard Williams makes a lot of sense. He's another disruptive player that would immediately improve your pass rush and also helps your run defense. The Dallas Cowboys have a team ready to win now, so now's the time to go get players that help you do so.
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