Last week, we took an optimistic approach to what the defense could be for the Dallas Cowboys. Due to the nature of the fanbase, sometimes it’s necessary to buck the trend for the organization. So believe it or not, the defense can be one of the surprise units in the league next season.
On the opposite side of the ball, can the Cowboys’ passing game be better than it was in 2017? They just lost their franchise leader in almost every major category in Jason Witten, and their biggest playmaker at wide receiver, Dez Bryant. How in the world can it improve, especially considering Dak Prescott’s passing numbers went down across the board?
Not everything that helps has to do with the quarterback or the receivers. A full 16 games with Ezekiel Elliott to keep the defense honest will be a key to having a better passing game. As will being protected by a better offensive line. Prescott was sacked 25 times as a rookie with a veteran offensive line that featured Doug Free and a stud guard in Ronald Leary. Without them in 2017, the unit suffered and Dak went down 32 times last year. Expect a much better performance from a group that added Connor Williams in the draft, will keep La’el Collins at right tackle and brought in a quality swing tackle. Keeping Prescott upright and not taking hits will do wonders.
The passing game can also be improved by getting the running backs involved more. We mentioned how the team seemed to have acknowledged the need to get Zeke the ball through the air, and they brought in pass catching backs Tavon Austin and Jamize Olawale this offseason. It looks like there is a clear objective to get their runners immersed in the passing game.
Of course, the biggest roadblock to being better in the passing game is not having the same talent at wide receiver or tight end. There is no true number one receiver on this team, even if you believe in Michael Gallup and Allen Hurns. But as Stephen Jones said, you don’t need a number one receiver to be successful on offense.
Forget for a minute who said it, but try to understand that it might be the correct premise. For some quarterbacks/teams, maybe that elite receiver is needed for their offense. In Dallas, where Prescott and the offense had no issues putting up points and wins without Bryant in 2016, maybe the spread it around approach works best. There’s something positive to be said for the defense not knowing where the ball is going, especially when you consider the struggles Dak and Dez had last season when the team tried to force the connection.
Spreading the ball around and finding the open man is the best reason to be optimistic about the passing game. Right now, we don’t know who that go to receiver is going to be, and neither does the league.
What we do know is the Cowboys have receivers who have been successful in this league. They might not have elite talent and they won’t be spoken of as the best pass-catching group in the NFL, but Hurns has a 1,000-yard season under his belt, Cole Beasley is ridiculously reliable on third downs, Gallup has plenty of potential and Terrance Williams still can make the occasional big play. The Cowboys also invested in deep threat Deonte Thompson and drafted Cedric Wilson, who could be a sleeper in the unit. Finally, watch out for Noah Brown, who has the size, skills and blocking ability the team loves. Word is the 21-year old has put the work in and had quite a good offseason; he’s definitely someone to watch for this summer.
Dallas also likes their tight ends more than we think; the team continues to talk up Blake Jarwin, Geoff Swaim is a great blocker and the potential of Rico Gathers still excites everyone. The team also drafted Dalton Schultz to possibly take Witten’s place sometime down the road. Witten was an all-time great and had a knack for making clutch plays, hopefully, the Cowboys have one of them step up in the role. However, there is no question this position is a big question mark.
We’ve haven’t seen some of the receivers in game action yet, or how the new ‘Dak friendly’ offense will work. The cupboard is not bare for the Dallas Cowboys; they have receivers, just new ones in a new scheme and it may work to their advantage to not have that true number-one guy.
The passing game needed an overhaul for the Cowboys and it could wind up being better than it was last year. Let’s keep the optimism train rolling!
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