Much of the discussion the past few months within the Cowboys fanbase has centered around the amount of turnover on the offense. Gone are veteran pass catchers Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, and in are unproven young guys like Michael Gallup and underperforming vets like Tavon Austin.
The idea was that, without a player like Bryant needing targets force-fed to him, Dak Prescott could spread the ball around to the open man and allow the offense to function as efficiently as it did in 2016.
Dallas was going to run the ball and control the clock, work some creativity in the offense in terms of jet-motions and option looks, and utilize an efficient passing game led by Prescott.
Things were supposed to be different than they were the second-half of 2017, but Sunday afternoon, this offense looked exactly the same as it did on Christmas Eve a year ago.
Gaining just over 60 yards of total offense in the first half, the Cowboys offense failed to score a single point until the fourth quarter. Though their defense kept them in the game, and an optimist may be able to argue that the offense came together a bit down the stretch, it was all too little too late against Carolina.
The bottom line is, if you’re defense holds a team to just 16 points, you have to win that game. You cannot score just 8 points, your All-Pro caliber running back cannot rush for just 69 yards on only 15 carries, and your quarterback cannot look downright incompetent when the offense gets behind the sticks.
But, as we all saw, this was the case for the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday afternoon.
A few years ago the Cowboys made the conscious decision to build around their offensive line and running game. They double down on this decision by drafting Ezekiel Elliott fourth overall in 2016. They then went even deeper into this philosophy during the 2018 draft, selecting guard Connor Williams in the second round. But Sunday, the Carolina defensive line straight up kicked their butts on the line of scrimmage.
Prescott was sacked 6 times, Williams looked overmatched, and even Tyron Smith was called for multiple potential drive-killing penalties.
Of course, the front office cannot be faulted for center Travis Frederick developing such an illness, but even with Joe Looney at center the offensive line should have played much better than they did.
Then there is the coaching/play-calling. Simply put – it wasn’t good.
Michael Gallup, arguably the Cowboys best receiver, was limited to just one target all game. Tavon Austin, who Stephen Jones discussed getting “a dozen” touches per game in the offseason, had 1 carry for 1 yard.
Continuously the Cowboys were unable to scheme their receivers open against a shaky Carolina secondary, and when they were open, Prescott often missed them.
To be quite honest the only bright spot on the offense was Cole Beasley, who caught 7 passes for 73 yards and looked legitimately good all afternoon.
The good news is this was only one game. Dallas still has 15 more to play, and a crucial one coming up on Sunday night against the also 0-1 New York Giants. But regardless of the outcome next Sunday, and regardless of any outcome the rest of the way, this version of the Dallas Cowboys will never be a real threat to anyone if they can’t figure this offense out.
Because if they can’t put up enough of a fight offensively to score more than 8 points on 232 total yards, this team may be picking top 10 come next April.
And no, that’s not a week 1 overreaction, that’s an educated guess after the last 9 offensive performances the Cowboys have put up.