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One NFC rival has the perfect WR-by-committee blueprint for Cowboys to copy

Looking at other teams that have had success with a committee approach at receiver, one stands out as similar to the Cowboys.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys quarterback, Dak Prescott, was making the media rounds recently, stopping by the networks to talk about the upcoming season. Of course, the prevailing topic of discussion has centered around all the moves the Cowboys made at receiver this offseason. Gone are the usual Cowboys stalwarts in Jason Witten (retirement) and Dez Bryant (released), only four guys on the current roster have caught a pass in a meaningful game from Prescott. The term “Dak-friendly” has been thrown around a ton this offseason but Prescott interprets it’s meaning to be focused on balance:

We have to be more balanced all the way around,” Prescott said when asked what Dak-friendly means to him. “We know we have a great back in Zeke (Ezekiel Elliott). We got a lot of different guys at receiver and tight end, a lot of guys you don’t know about. Expect the ball to be spread around. Our best games are when I have eight different guys with catches and Zeke dominates in the run game, us opening it up and defenses not knowing what to expect from our offense.”

Prescott sounds like a quarterback who really knows how his bread is buttered. The Cowboys are a run-first offense and they’re not trying to change that at all. However, when you look at Prescott’s quote about spreading the passing game around, he’s got a clear reason as to why he believes it’s best for the team. NFL Network analysts Steve Wyche and Willie McGinest believe Prescott is right on the money:

Borrowing their graphic about Prescott’s career statistics when targeting his receivers, it certainly backs up what the quarterback is saying.

Receivers Targeted Per Game 7 or Fewer Receivers 8 or More Receivers
Win/Loss 8-8 14-2
Pass YPG 194.4 242.5
Pass TD-INT 21-13 24-4
Passer Rating 86.1 104.5

So, when looking for another offense that could be similar to what the Cowboys are trying to do in 2018, there were a few teams that came to mind. I thought it best to leave out teams like the Packers, Patriots, and Saints as examples because their quarterbacks are all future Hall of Famers. Instead, here’s a few NFC offenses that run the committee approach but as you can see, each is different.

Now, the Total Access crew used the Detroit Lions as a good example of an offense built around a spread the ball concept. Matthew Stafford is more of a prolific passer than Prescott but his offense doesn’t have near the firepower in a rushing attack like the Cowboys. Stafford’s leading rusher was Ameer Abdullah with 552 rushing yards on 165 attempts. The Lions are a team that’s predicated on the pass, as you can see here in their leading receivers chart:

Receivers Targeted Per Game 7 or Fewer Receivers 8 or More Receivers
Win/Loss 8-8 14-2
Pass YPG 194.4 242.5
Pass TD-INT 21-13 24-4
Passer Rating 86.1 104.5

What about the Super Bowl champion Eagles team? They had decent rushing numbers and spread the ball on offense. Well, they had a one-two punch rushing attack with LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi but they didn’t have an Ezekiel Elliott to lean on. The Eagles leading rusher was Blount with 766 yards on 173 attempts. The Eagles are a team that run and gun by the big arm of Carson Wentz. The Eagles also like to get their tight ends involved a lot more than we should expect the Cowboys to do.

Philadelphia Eagles Rec. Leaders Receptions Rec. Yards YPC TD
TE Zach Ertz 74 824 11.1 8
WR Alshon Jeffery 57 789 13.8 9
WR Nelson Agholor 62 768 12.4 8
WR Torrey Smith 36 430 11.9 2
TE Trey Burton 23 248 10.8 5

There was really only one team that stood out as similar to the Cowboys and that was the Los Angeles Rams. With Todd Gurley having 1,300+ yards in rushing while being the second leading receiver, that looks more like a blueprint the Cowboys could follow.

Los Angeles Rams Rec. Leaders Receptions Rec. Yards YPC TD
WR Cooper Kupp 62 869 14 5
RB Todd Gurley 64 788 12.3 6
WR Robert Woods 56 781 13.9 5
WR Sammy Watkins 39 593 15.2 8
TE Tyler Higbee 25 295 11.8 1

Much like the Rams, the Cowboys know that their best weapon is their running back. Ezekiel Elliott had 32 receptions as a rookie, 26 last season but you can expect those numbers to come up in year three. So many NFL teams have adapted this approach with each of them putting their own stamp on it. In 2016, the Cowboys had an efficient passing offense, even though it wasn’t setting the league on fire.

2016 Cowboys Rec. Leaders Receptions Rec. Yards YPC Rec. TD
WR Cole Beasley 75 833 11.1 5
WR Dez Bryant 50 796 15.9 8
TE Jason Witten 69 673 9.8 3
WR Terrance Williams 44 594 13.5 4
RB Ezekiel Elliott 32 363 11.3 1

Dallas ranked 23rd in total passing yards but that didn’t tell the whole story. They were fourth in the NFL with 7.9 yards per pass, they threw the third-fewest interceptions, allowed the seventh-fewest sacks, had the third-highest passer rating, ranked second on first-down percentage on passes, and 14th in passing touchdowns. The Cowboys aren’t really looking for a balanced offense, not while they still pose the league’s most potent rushing attack. The Cowboys are just looking to create a more efficient passing game, the Rams have a good example of that efficiency to copy but the Cowboys have done this before.

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