The Dallas Cowboys are 1-2 through their first three games of 2018, appearing to fall behind the rest of the NFL’s true contenders with each passing week. Faced with a crucial game on Sunday against a Lions team with a lot to prove, the Cowboys have put themselves in this position thanks in large part to pedestrian coaching and poor execution.
Dating back well before the Cowboys opened this season with a 16-8 loss in Carolina, managing only 232 yards of offense (a number eclipsed by both the LA Rams and Minnesota Vikings in the first half of Thursday’s contest), Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan has been the Cowboys coach under the most fire.
Linehan’s failures to maximize the Cowboys talent on offense, which is seemingly eroding in front of a helpless staff’s eyes so far this season, can be attributed directly to Cowboys losses a year ago. Perhaps unfortunately for Dallas, last year was put behind them before it was even over, written off thanks to injury and Ezekiel Elliott’s six game suspension.
Cowboys OC Scott Linehan hints at more creative game plan vs. Detroit for a team that ranks No. 30 on offense. “We’re obviously searching for some things that will help us. I think we’ve got some good stuff this week. Maybe just a few more wrinkles to it.
Fortunately, there is still time to salvage this season with Elliott very quietly leading the league in rushing.
Take last year’s debacle in Atlanta as an example of Linehan’s shortcomings. The eternal optimists of Cowboys Nation will see that not one but two games reminiscent of that loss to the Falcons have happened already, leaving nothing but room for the Cowboys offense to develop.
Thanks to the early hole they’ve dug themselves in the NFC East, the Cowboys must “develop” on offense as soon as Sunday. They’ll have to do so in what has the makings of another memorable match up against the Lions.
Familiar faces will line up on the field for the Lions, but patrolling their sideline is first-year Head Coach Matt Patricia. The defensive coordinator for three Super Bowl winning New England Patriots teams, Patricia is coming off an emotional win against his former team on Monday Night Football. The Lions held Tom Brady to 133 passing yards, his lowest output in 46 games (week 17 of 2014).
Cowboys Quarterback Dak Prescott has yet to play 46 games in his career, another reason for the Cowboys not to quit on him entirely, but has also failed to eclipse 200 yards in his last five games.
Turning Prescott into a statistical juggernaut is also not a winning formula for the Cowboys, who have been at their best when passing the ball efficiently. To do so against Detroit, Prescott’s play caller has acknowledged the need for more creativity on offense.
Scheming against a Lions team that’s first against the pass and last against the run shouldn’t be inherently difficult for a Cowboys team only feeding Elliott 16 carries per game right now. Such is the position the Cowboys have put themselves in by running on suspecting defenses and intimidating nobody with their passing concepts.
The Cowboys young skill position players are going to separate themselves this season one way or another – be it by making plays to win games for a desperate team or through continued poor performances in a lost season.
If Linehan’s comments hold up about the Cowboys adding wrinkles to this week’s game plan, something his quarterback doubled down on, this separation could begin as early as Sunday. The Cowboys are playing one of just five scheduled early kickoffs on Sunday, taking the proverbial spotlight off of them just enough to potentially address their issues and earn a needed win at AT&T Stadium.
Dak Prescott on this week’s game plan against Detroit: “There are going to be some different things you’ll see.
Without a record-evening win to show for this forced innovation, the calls for Linehan to lose his job will only continue from the Cowboys fan base. A confident locker room at the moment, a lot is riding on the Cowboys ability to perform under pressure this Sunday, something unknown to many of the players that will decide the team’s fate against a Lions team that won’t back down from any challenge.