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Five moves the Cowboys can make to jump-start their offense

The Cowboys have nothing to lose, so they might as well shake things up.

Dallas Cowboys v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

There is no way around it, the Dallas Cowboys offense stinks in 2018. Only the woeful Arizona Cardinals (6.7 points per game) score at a worse clip than the Cowboys (13.7 per game). Dallas is also 30th in the league in overall yards per game, and 31st in passing yards per game. Dak Prescott ranks 27th in the league in QB rating and yards per attempt. Prescott has been sacked 11 times which is fifth-most in the league, an indictment of the offensive line play.

We could walk through more numbers that illustrate the ineptness of the offense, but that would be beating the proverbial dead horse. It’s pretty obvious to all this offense is not performing even at a mediocre level. Mediocre would actually represent a vast improvement. The debate over who is to blame is also something that is going on, but it won’t be the focus here. Instead, let’s look at some steps the coaching staff could take to shake things up and maybe jump-start things on that side of the ball.

1. Go to the hurry-up out of the gate

The Cowboy offense seems to function a little better when they are are in hurry-up mode, or catch-up mode, in 2018. Against Carolina and Seattle, the offense had some of its better moments when it was behind later in the games and forced to pick up the pace. This involved running a lot of shotgun and calling more of the plays at the line without a full huddle. Fewer tight ends, more receivers and spreading the defense out. Whenever this idea is brought up we must state the qualifier, defenses are usually playing more passive at these times so completions and yards are easier to come by. Still, the Cowboys need to try something different, even if it’s just to help the offense psychologically.

2. Run the read-option

The Cowboys offense can’t be reliant on Dak Prescott’s legs, but whenever he does get involved in the running game the offense is more efficient. Both Jerry and Stephen Jones have made comments worrying about exposing their quarterback to too many hits by running him too much, but there has to be a balance. Yesterday we saw almost no read-options and Dak only ran the ball late in the game. They have to make it happen earlier and they can’t worry about him getting injured, because if he doesn’t run some, the offense stinks anyway.

3. Take shots downfield

We posted this in a previous article, but it bears repeating. This chart is ridiculous.

There is a discussion about who is at fault for this. Certainly the coaches are calling plays that have receivers running patterns more than 15 yards downfield. But how often, and who is the main read on those plays? Are none of the receivers getting open? Does Prescott just not have enough time to make the throws? Or is he not trusting himself to throw the ball and instead playing it way too safe? A smart observer would guess that it’s a mixture of all of these.

Dallas coaches can remedy this by calling a few plays where Prescott is instructed to either throw it deep to a receiver, or throw it deep out of bounds or intentionally overthrow the deep receiver. There need to be a few plays were he doesn’t have a checkdown option. Yes, I know, this isn’t sound football thinking, you never want a pass play without options. But desperate times call for desperate measures. The Cowboys should run a few plays with only a couple of guys in the pattern (two or three), and have them all push at least 12-15 yards downfield with at least one running a go pattern or deep post. This sounds like schoolyard ball, and in some respects it is, but the Cowboys have to push the ball downfield on occasion, what we see in the above chart is totally unacceptable.

4. Utilize Rico Gathers

Okay, maybe this is a personal thing. Even so, the Cowboys should still try it for one game. The tight end situation of Geoff Swaim and Blake Jarwin isn’t scaring defenses. Swaim had five catches yesterday, but Seattle will take that any day. He’s not threatening anyone. Jarwin has been non-existent. Rico Gathers has more size and athletic talent than either of those guys. For one game, the Cowboys should really integrate Gathers into their passing attack and legitimately try to get him the ball. Just try it Dallas. What do you have to lose? Sure, this may be a Hail Mary type of move, but once you’ve done it at least you’d know. You’re carrying him on your roster, and keeping him active, use him.

5. Give Tavon Austin more opportunities

Remember way back in the offseason when the Cowboys were calling Austin a web back? They were going to use him out of the backfield as a complement to Ezekiel Elliott. Stephen Jones even said he needed like 20 touches a game which made us all blow the beverage we were drinking through our nose, covering our keyboard. Austin doesn’t need 20 touches a game, but they sure should figure out ways to get him more involved. Dallas has four touchdowns on the year, Austin has two of those. He’s averaging 11.3 yard on three rushing attempts. That’s one rushing attempt on average per game. Certainly that could be raised to three or five. He also only has five passing targets on the year (and has caught them all), yet has two touchdowns and the only truly explosive play the Cowboys have had this season, all in that small number of opportunities. Screens, handoffs, sweeps, reverses, passes, whatever, let’s find some ways to get him the ball.

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