This offseason, there has been plenty of talk about altering the Dallas Cowboys offense to better fit the skills of quarterback Dak Prescott. This has commonly been termed as making the offense more “Dak-friendly.” Ever since Stephen Jones threw that term out early in the offseason, it has become a cottage industry to define what that means and how the Cowboys will accomplish it.
Turns out, we should have just asked Dak Prescott. He was recently asked some very good questions about the offense (kudos to the interviewer for asking pointed questions and eliciting some candid responses.) Here is the interview in full, it’s not long but full of information. After it, we recap what was said.
- Dak is asked what specifically he wants to improve on the field for next season. He says his accuracy. That is the perfect answer. We’ve discussed repeatedly how he wasn’t as accurate in 2017 as 2016, specifically that he sailed a lot of passes high, or wasn’t hitting his receivers in stride and allowing them to work after the catch. Whether it was bad mechanics or faulty protection, he needs to improve in this area.
- Dak is then asked about how they can better utilize some of their offensive weapons, like say Dez Bryant - are there ways the offense can better use him? Dak answers definitely. He further says this offseason is about the team and the staff figuring out how to better utilize each player’s potential and athletic ability to help the team.
Personally, this has been one of my big offseason points. I think the Cowboys are using Dez incorrectly, thinking they still have Tony Romo under center instead of Dak Prescott.
Bryant can still be a useful piece of the offense, but they need to start using him more on slants, ins, crossing patterns and the like and quit just lobbing passes up to him downfield. Romo was a master at placing balls in spots for Bryant to catch, Prescott has not shown that same skill.
- Dak is then asked what he thinks “Dak-friendly” means. He says basically if you watch what the Panthers do or the Chiefs do, running RPO’s (run-pass options), allowing the QB to use his feet more, allowing him to be more comfortable in everything he’s doing - that is Dak-friendly.
This feels like the key to a lot of the upcoming changes. In an article we posted a few week’s ago we speculated on what Dak-friendly would mean, using Dak’s legs and utilizing a more college-like offense could be the answer.
Dave Halprin - Utilize Dak’s ability to move the pocket and throw on the run, along with his ability to tuck and run. The Cowboys ran a few basic bootlegs and such, but defenses started to cover those well. Dallas’ playbook didn’t really have any counter plays to use when defenses where shutting down the basic roll-outs and boots. Dak is a threat outside the tackles with his arm and legs, the Cowboys need to cater to that more often, and have answers when defenses catch on.
Cole Patterson - I don’t think the Cowboys need to turn into the Panthers (or the Redskins with RG3), but I think Dak would benefit with having more designed runs here and there throughout a game. Obviously, we don’t need him carrying the rock 15 times, but perfectly timed runs -- in addition to the read-options they have implemented -- would add another layer to Dak’s game, in my opinion.
In that same article, OCC referenced the changes the Panthers made to their game once they got Cam Newton. They were initially struggling, but then made their offense “Cam-friendly”
”We had a little bit of a slow start and during that slow start,” [Ron] Rivera said of first-year offensive coordinator [Mike Shula]. “One of the things that Mike and the offensive staff did was they went back and looked at — we have a library of all of Cam’s plays from college — they looked at what Cam did extremely well and said, ‘You know what, let’s adapt a couple of these ideas and incorporate them into what we do.’ [Shula] took three or four things that [Newton] did really well and we’ve incorporated that and put that into what we do as an offense. Mike has made it work and that has really helped us.”
- Next, after a question and answer concerning the Eagles, Dak was asked which team the Cowboys could specifically emulate to get better. Dak immediately said the Chiefs. He said they do a great job of utilizing the their running back’s and quarterback's feet, not always running with them, but scaring the defense with it.
Back when the Cowboys played the Chiefs in 2017, I asked Joel Thorman, head of Arrowhead Pride, about the Chiefs offense and Alex Smith. Among the things he said was:
This year’s offense has a more college look at times and Alex [Smith] came from Utah where they ran the spread so we know he can do that. I think it’s partially Reid tapping into what he does best more.
That sounds just like what the Cowboys could do with Dak who ran a spread offense at Mississippi State. During the same week Dallas played the Chiefs, we posted about the Chiefs offense.
With an Andy Reid offense, you usually think of the short passing game, some gadget-type plays like shovel passes, bubble screens, and you would be correct. All of those things have been staples this year. But Reid has also incorporated the read-option with Smith, but has various ways to implement it. He’s running straight read-options, run-pass options, he’s even run a read-option into a bubble screen on the outside. Arrowhead Pride has a great breakdown of some of these plays in this article.
If you are a fan of getting Prescott’s dual-threat running game more involved in the Cowboys offense, it looks like your prayers will be answered. Elements of the spread with RPO’s will likely be more prominent in 2018.