Just a few months ago the Dallas Cowboys offense was simple: run the ball with Ezekiel Elliott behind their offensive line and let the passing game open up. This would allow Dak Prescott to open the passing game, let Dallas control the flow, and deteriorate opposing defenses. But times they have changed.
Even though Ezekiel Elliott has run for 833 yards, seven touchdowns and is on track for another 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown season, that has gone largely unnoticed in part of what looks like Elliott having lost some of his speed and the ridiculously elevated play of Prescott in the passing game.
Dak Prescott’s numbers to date are among some of the best in the NFL:
- 3,221 passing yards
- 21 touchdown passes
- 67.7 completion percentage
- 77.8 QBR
All of which rank in the top 10 in the league.
Regarding the run game, Zeke has only rushed 20 or more times in five of the team's games this year. Teams have zeroed in on Elliott, daring the Cowboys to beat them through the air and, for the most part, Dallas has done that.
In the team's four losses, Dak Prescott has completed 64.4% of his passes for 1,361 yards, five touchdowns, and five interceptions (two as a result of last-play Hail Marys) for a QBR of 66.2, which would still be eighth-best in the league, with an average margin of defeat being only four and a half points. Teams are still trying to make Dak Prescott beat them and even in defeat the offense hasn’t been easy to stop.
By using more and more of the passing game, it’s making the players around him better too. Forcing the receivers and tight ends to elevate their games. Players like Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup are having their best seasons so far, both on the verge of being the first pair of Cowboys players with 1,000 receiving yards each since 2012.
Randall Cobb has had a lot of dropped passes but is still third on the team in targets, meaning there is still plenty of confidence in him. While he doesn’t appear to have the hands that Cole Beasley possessed in this offense, Cobb’s ability to get to the third level has given the offense a boost from the inside and now Randall Cobb is having his best season in five years.
Jason Witten and Blake Jarwin are not only the security blankets of the offense but are real threats in the passing game. Jarwin gave more notice starting last season against the Giants and is having a breakout season, while the Cowboys franchise premiere Tight End Jason Witten looks about five years younger, having the team's best catch percentage for players with at least 10 receptions on the year.
Dak Prescott has taken his skills and this offense to a place that really no one could’ve predicted, leading the NFL in passing yards and passing yards per game.
Ezekiel Elliott is still an elite workhorse running back – don’t be confused. However, it’s not Tony Pollard who will take the pressure off of Elliott in the run game, it’s Dak Prescott and this passing game. Elliott got paid this past offseason, but Prescott has been money.
Richard: “So we’re a passing team now?”