For decades, raw counting stats have dominated our sports analysis. How many yards did the quarterback throw for? How many touchdowns did the wide receiver catch? How many tackles did the linebacker have?
These are the types of stats and numbers that have dictated the way we view and evaluate players throughout the NFL. But unfortunately these numbers, and in turn our analysis, are very flawed.
This has been, and will continue to be, evident in the Dallas Cowboys passing game as their roster is currently constructed. Quarterback Dak Prescott has been criticized by the national media and by fans alike who use these raw counting statistics as ammo against him.
Whether it’s about his lack of 300 yard passing games, or the overall lack of downfield success showing up in the box score, it becomes tough to gauge just how good Dak Prescott is when using traditional statistics to judge him.
But when you truly evaluate how the Cowboys offense is built, Prescott shouldn’t be throwing for 300 yards often. In fact, I would argue that if he surpasses 35-40 passing attempts, the Cowboys game plan likely failed that Sunday.
This is not indictment on Prescott’s ability, but rather a compliment to how soul crushing Dallas’ running game can and should be in 2018. The Cowboys want to play old school football, controlling the clock and feeding former number four overall pick Ezekiel Elliott.
As cliche as it sounds, Dallas wants to take the will out of their opponents; leaning on their powerful offensive line and incredibly talented backfield, including using Dak Prescott as a runner.
So when the Cowboys do throw the ball, it becomes about maximizing attempts, not throwing 35 times for 350 yards. This shift in focus is a key reason why the Cowboys were able to let Dez Bryant walk, and move towards more of a “wide receiver by committee” strategy.
In today’s NFL, it’s unreasonable to expect a team to beat another 3-5 yards at a time. You have to be able to move the ball down the field in chunks and create explosive plays. This simply did not happen in 2017 and resulted in the team’s downfall down the stretch.
If Scott Linehan and the Cowboys can get creative in their ability to threaten defenses with Dak Prescott as a runner, and potentially use Tavon Austin in jet motion packages, this offense can create the explosive plays they lacked a year ago in the running game.
Because regardless of how those explosive plays come about, through the air or on the ground, they are necessary to any successful offense.