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Cowboys Q&A: Can the offense win with low passing yards? Is having too many receivers hurting Dak?

What is on your mind this week?

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys are 1-1 and sitting atop the NFC East and now head to the Pacific Northwest to face the Seattle Seahawks. The last time they traveled to Seattle, they came away with a huge road victory. That game helped solidify them as a legit contender as they finished out a run to start the season 6-1. The Cowboys would finish the year 12-4 and make the playoffs.

It’s been a mixed bag for the Cowboys so far this season. The defense has been outstanding, allowing just 14.5 points a game. Unfortunately, that’s almost the same amount of production they’re getting from their offense so there are still many questions about how well this team can perform going forward. Recently, we asked our twitter followers to share what’s on their mind.

And here are some of their questions...

No. They can’t.

With Dak Prescott at quarterback, the Cowboys are a .500 team when he’s held under 200 yards passing. They have a 7-7 record in those games. That’s not consistent. Sure, they’ve been able to rely on other aspects of their game in order to win half of them, but that’s not going to get this team into the playoffs.

When the Cowboys have over 200 yards passing, they have a record of 16-4. In fact, the more passing yards Prescott has, the better the team does. (Gamelog stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference)

  • Below 200 yards, 7-7
  • Over 200 yards, 16-4
  • Over 240 yards, 12-2
  • Over 260 yards, a perfect 7-0

The more the Cowboys get their passing game going, the better chances the team has to win the game. If Prescott continues to have trouble eclipsing the 200 mark, statistically speaking - the Cowboys are going to be very average.

The Cowboys offense will steadily improve and when it does, we will see productive drives more often. As far as Ezekiel Elliott looking average - that might be the rushing numbers talking because Zeke’s been better than average. If you look at his runs on Sunday night, it was very impressive how he was able to turn minimal gains into bigger gains. That’s all Zeke.

And it should be noted that this slow start that Elliott is going through production-wise magically goes away after the first two games. In all three seasons of his young career, Zeke’s averaged 65 yards a game over the first two games. But after that, things get rolling and before we know it, he’s reeling off 140+ yards games. We can try to rationalize by saying it’s just rust from limited preseason action, but my favorite explanation is that every year there are two new starting offensive linemen that need a little time to get acclimated. After losing Doug Free (RT) and Ronald Leary (LG) from his rookie season in 2016 the team had the following changes:

2017 - La’el Collins (RT) and Chaz Green/Jonathan Cooper (LG)

2018 - Joe Looney (C) and Connor Williams (LG)

This might not be a Zeke issue at all. Instead, it could be a new offensive linemen issue because once this group starts gelling as a unit, Zeke and the running game become very good.

Fantasy Tip: If you weren’t able to land Zeke in the draft, this is the best time to make a deal for him. People may see those yardage totals and the lack of offense from the Cowboys and get a little worried. This is the time to exploit their hastiness as Zeke’s stock starts climbing after Week 2.

You raise a good question and it’s certainly going to take some time for Dak to figure out what each of his receivers can do. It could hurt his play early, but it’s a necessary evil because the team has to invest time into figuring which of these receivers are going to work best with Dak and this offense.

Keep in mind that he’s worked with these guys a lot in training camp so there has been plenty of time for him to build rapport with his receivers. Look how quickly he did that in 2016 when he had such little experience with all his receivers. It didn’t take very long to find those connections. And as we learned, Cole Beasley was his favorite. Maybe he’ll have a new favorite now?

The one that gets hurt the most from this flux of receivers is the receiver who isn’t doing enough to earn targets from Prescott. There are a lot of mouths to feed and some are going to go hungry.

I think we should chalk that up to the elusiveness of Saquon Barkley. He was making everyone miss. When he gets out in space with just a single defender, good luck. Despite the extra yards he gained as a receiver, the Cowboys did a great job on him whenever he ran the ball. Barkley only had 28 total yards rushing and you can’t get that with spotty tackling.

And you’re right, the aggressiveness from the Cowboys defense was fun to watch and even when they had one guy miss, there was always a few more arriving to the party shortly thereafter. This defense did a remarkable job swarming to the ball and corralling the ball carrier.

This is a very good question and the answer could very well determine who wins on Sunday because in the past - it has. Check out Russell Wilson’s four career games rushing against the Cowboys.

When you look at how few weapons the Seahawks have on offense, it’s not too hard to figure out the key is just containing Wilson. Of course, the Cowboys missed that memo when the played Carolina and Cam Newton took off running 13 times for 58 yards. How much did they learn from this?

While many of the mistakes are linked to misplaying the read-option, a lot of the damage Wilson can do comes from when he’s got no one to throw it to and the pocket breaks down. The defense will need to have a reliable spy to mirror his every move.

As more trust is earned from the secondary group, this will allow the defense to allocate more resources to come after Wilson. LinebackersJaylon Smith is moving a lot better this year as compared to last and he’s got a young athletic rookie in Leighton Vander Esch to help chase Wilson around.

Wilson is coming off two straight games where he’s been sacked six times. The Cowboys are coming off a game where they just sacked the quarterback six times. It seems ridiculous to predict any number other than six, right?

Well, as ridiculous as might be, six sacks is still a lot of sacks. Yes, the Seahawks have some serious issues on their offensive line. And yes, the Hot Boyz (I’m not going to stop calling them that so you better just embrace it) are riding hot right now so there are going to be some sacks. My guess is the Cowboys get four sacks on Sunday with Randy Gregory getting in the books for the first time this year and DeMarcus Lawrence keeping his sack-in-each-game streak going like he did in the beginning of last year. I’m also going to go a little crazy and predict that rookie linebacker Leighton Vander Esch gets his first NFL sack when Wilson takes off running, only to not quite make it back to the line of scrimmage. It still counts.

The big question revolves around whether the Seahawks actually intend to keep him or not. With each new day that passes, it appears more likely that they’re going to commit to him long term. If they’re not, then they need to act fast as his trading value is diminishing by the second.

I was a little surprised that Dallas didn’t make a move for him already, but if they didn’t pull the trigger before, why would they now? Their secondary is playing really well. And if the Seahawks don’t offer him an extension during the season, then Dallas can just pursue him in free agency without it costing them a draft pick. Thomas may still be a possibility, but it looks more likely it would come from free agency and not via a trade.

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