The 24-hour window after a game has long passed for the Dallas Cowboys. After three weeks, the season has been close to a disaster for the team, who have played about two good quarters of football. Fortunately, for Cowboys, that was good enough for a win in week two.
After watching the first few weeks of the season, there has been no shortage of theories as to why Dallas isn’t getting it done on offense. There isn’t enough creativity, the play calling is too predictable, the offensive line isn’t as good this season, they don’t have enough weapons at wide receiver and the quarterback isn’t any good.
The right answer, of course, is a combination of all of it. The offense had issues going back to the second half of the 2017 season and the team has done a poor job rectifying the problems.
It starts at the top, the organization tried to fix things in the offseason by taking a number of steps that have flopped. Releasing Dez Bryant didn’t make much sense, but the team felt addition by subtraction would help. Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson were added in free agency, while Michael Gallup was selected in the draft.
That plan has failed. Bryant had his struggles, but he commanded attention from defensive coordinators and was a downfield threat, something the current offense lacks. Through three games Hurns, Thompson, and Gallup have combined for 16 catches, 165 yards, and no touchdowns. Those are hardly quality numbers.
Instead, Tavon Austin is the only new weapon to make his mark on the offense. Austin’s 64-yard touchdown remains the sole big play from the offense on the season. There has been little else to get excited about at receiver through three games. You need explosive plays to succeed on offense in the NFL, and the Cowboys don’t create enough of them.
Coaching and play calling remain problems as well. Defenses are crowding the Cowboys’ offense, forcing them to beat them down the field. Dallas hasn’t been able to do much of that in 2018, which has led to Ezekiel Elliott running into stacked boxes. Couple that with the team’s stubbornness to be more creative with their play calls and we see an offense that doesn’t have much chance of success.
For all the talk from the team about trying to get imaginative on offense, most fans can call out the play before the team runs it in most situations. There are too many runs on first down, and if the team gets behind the chains, they are scared to attack. Short throws, draws, and screens are usually dialed up when the Cowboys are off on the down and distance.
It’s a strange philosophy for Jason Garrett to take, considering he played under Jimmy Johnson, who always wanted to attack.
The play from Garrett’s quarterback may have something to do with the team’s lack of aggression. After an outstanding first 24 games to start his career, Dak Prescott has regressed. There have been moments of greatness, but his play is not on par with what the Cowboys expect from him. Prescott’s inaccuracy and unwillingness to get rid of the ball has plagued him this season. His unwillingness to run when things break down is also difficult to understand considering Prescott seems fine executing on planned runs. Dallas needs more from Dak.
Finally, the offensive line is another culprit on the early road of self-destruction for the Cowboys. The unit hasn’t played up to their potential for three weeks. Losing Travis Frederick was a big blow, but the team still has three two All-Pro players and two highly regarded linemen up front, they should not be giving up 11 sacks on the season. It may take time for the group to gel, but it needs to come together before the season slips away.
If only one or two of these things were the only issue, it wouldn’t seem so bad. Unfortunately, it’s everything going on at the same time that is hurting the Cowboys. It’s been a collective effort for the offensive disaster.
The problems are known, but what is Dallas going to do to fix them? The team had an offseason to address their issues and it doesn’t look like they’ve had many answers after just three games. There is still time to get the ship on course, but the Cowboys look like a team set in their ways, trying to force their concepts on a league that has run circles around them scheme-wise. Simple is fine, but you cannot be simplistic and predictable.
At 1-2, the Cowboys are close to desperation mode. The wolves are circling and fans want change, anything that shows a more efficient offense is coming.
Any signs of life are welcome and it needs to begin this weekend against the Detroit Lions. If it doesn’t, the mob will not be pretty.
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