In 2016, the Dallas Cowboys offense finished in the top five in points scored. They had 10 games that season where they put up over 400 yards of offense. Boy, weren’t those the good old days.
On Thursday, the Cowboys eclipsed 400 yards of offense for only the third time this season. They’ve won all three of those games. It just so happens that two of those instances have came during the last three games. Suddenly, the Cowboys offense has started to show a little life.
But it’s not by accident that this Cowboys offense is starting to click. There are a handful of contributing factors. A great deal of credit goes to Jason Garrett for making the choice to fire offensive line coach Paul Alexander and replace him with Marc Colombo and OL guru Hudson Houck. And you have to give credit to the men in the trenches for stepping up. In particular, reserves like Joe Looney, Xavier Su’a-Filo, and now Cameron Fleming, have all been thrown into starting roles due to injuries to Travis Frederick, Connor Williams, and Tyron Smith. With quality line play, the Cowboys offensive stars have a shot to make plays and that’s exactly what they’ve been doing in recent weeks.
The stars are starting to shine.
Elliott is a special player. But things weren’t looking so special early on. Elliott entered the year with only two career games where he’s been held under 80 yards rushing. That’s impressive.
Unfortunately, that numbers now reached eight as six times this season defenses have been able to keep him under 80 yards. That’s alarming, but the Cowboys have faced some of the toughest run defenses in the league this season. That’s definitely going to make for some difficult Sundays. What’s also made things difficult is an offensive line that has struggled at times this season. Rookie Connor Williams has been pushed around to where it appears he’s lost his starting spot to Su’a-Filo. The absence of a passing attack has also hurt Zeke’s production.
But things have improved in those areas and with that comes the unleashing of Elliott. Despite six of Elliott’s eight worst career rushing games occurring this season, he’s still leading the league in rushing.
How’s that possible? Well, don’t look now but the kids on a heater. He’s had three straight 120+ performances and is showing no signs of slowing down. Brian Baldinger provides a great breakdown of what’s making the running game work so well as of late.
.@dallascowboys here they come, love em or hate em the #Cowboys are playing great complimentary football and @EzekielElliott is the engine that drives this team. Excellent work from #Flemming and #Sua’Filo. #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/2kLGEYVgBy— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) November 23, 2018
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome your new NFL rushing leader.— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) November 23, 2018
Fun fact: the last Cowboys RB to lead the league in rushing twice, went on to be a league MVP, Super Bowl champ, and eventual Hall of Famer. pic.twitter.com/d9BnEnDNof
How many of you thought the Oakland Raiders got ripped off when they gave up Amari Cooper for a measly first-round pick? That’s right, nobody. The Cowboys paid a hefty cost for Cooper’s services, but they are being rewarded handsomely. I’m starting to think Jerry Jones and company knew what they were doing when they made that deal. Serves me right for ever doubting them.
Part of the hesitation from making such a pricey investment has been Cooper’s lackluster production in Oakland over the last season and a half. The Cowboys were banking on that being a location problem and were hoping a new face in a new place would ignite his career back into the player he once was. It’s looking like that’s the case as Cooper is flourishing in his new home. Austin Gayle of Pro Football Focus explains it perfectly:
With the Cowboys, Amari Cooper has been targeted on 21.3% of his routes and accounts for 24.0% of DAL’s total targets in Weeks 9-11.
With the Raiders, AC was targeted on just 14.4% of his routes.
He’s still the same guy; he’s just getting used better.
He’s not lying.
The Cowboys didn’t make that type of investment just to have him be another cog in the WR-by-committee. The change is real.
Amari Cooper has been a first-down machine since arriving in Dallas— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) November 23, 2018
He's gotten a first down (or touchdown) on 19 of his 22 receptions this season with the Cowboys
Amari Cooper wears no. 19
I love a WR who can stop on a dime and change directions. It usually means good things https://t.co/wcUooWP54N
Prescott had a great start to his career, but he’s had some struggles dating back to last season. Part of that is related to more pressure he’s getting due to poor OL play. Another part of that is the lack of separation his receivers have gotten. The Cowboys front office has been relentless in trying to make this offense as Dak-friendly as they can to the point where they even felt it was best to part ways with Dez Bryant this past offseason.
It turns out, they poorly evaluated the strength of their receiving squad and it left Dak in a world of hurt this season. Defenses challenged Prescott to beat them and Dak just wasn’t up to the task on some days.
But now, with a strong receiver like Cooper, suddenly Dak is starting to find his groove. On Thursday, he had season-high in yards and passer rating. He’s also now had three straight games without a turnover.
Games this season without an interception:— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) November 23, 2018
Aaron Rodgers = 9
Drew Brees = 9
Dak Prescott = 8
Jared Goff = 6
Patrick Mahomes = 5
Tom Brady = 5
Carson Wentz = 4
I love a quarterback who takes care of the ball. pic.twitter.com/l79o7WFUMA
The Cowboys are hard to beat when they don’t turn the ball over. They are a perfect 6-0 when Dak doesn’t give away the ball.
There is no denying that the Amari trade has made a big impact on this Cowboys offense. It might have been subtle differences at first, but with more and more time with his teammates, he’s only going to make them better. And Thursday’s breakout performance could be an indication that day may have already arrived. The Cowboys went from one of the worst third-down converting teams in the league to the best. That’s good, right?
The trend continues: no team in the NFL has converted more 3rd downs than Dallas (26) since the trade.— Bob Sturm (@SportsSturm) November 23, 2018