When Mike McCarthy talked to the press Wednesday at the NFL Combine, he illuminated his thinking about the Cowboys offense heading into 2020. He had already indicated that he liked what he saw from last season when he kept offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and even let him keep the play-calling duties. There was good cause for this since the Cowboys offense was, at times, a machine in yards produced, but not quite as efficient when it came to putting points on the board. Sill, there was plenty of good stuff to build on.
After addressing the general media, McCarthy spoke to Mike Florio. You can watch the whole clip below.
Two important quotes about the offense came out of that conversation.
One was when McCarthy was asked about what he saw on film about Dak Prescott?
Mike McCarthy: Big play ability. I think Dallas was number one in big plays, especially from drop-back situations. His ability to make throws from the pocket, we all know his ability outside of the pocket and his ability to run, but I was so impressed with the number of throws he made from the pocket, particularly downfield.
It sounds like McCarthy is ready to use Prescott as a drop-back passer and to take his shots downfield. There has been thought that Prescott should run more and we’ll have to see if the Cowboys choose to go that way. But the idea of Prescott as a check-down, dink-and-dunk passer is over. Last year proved that. Expect the Cowboys to take their shots downfield consistently in 2020.
Another point is when McCarthy identified what he thought went wrong last year to make the team 8-8?
Mike McCarthy: When you talk about pure performance on the offense, you have to look at the point generation. You know, the scores of the games, under 15 points in losses and over 31 points in wins, the level of consistency will be part of our flight. The level of consistency in point production.
Here McCarthy doesn’t present a solution, but definitely identifies one of the most baffling things about the Cowboys 2019 offense. How they could produce so many yards, and in some games light up the scoreboard, only to looks so bad in other games? Consistency, indeed.
In general, McCarthy seems content to leave a lot of the offense as it was, even to the point of saying let Dak keep being Dak, some of which was referenced above.
Mike McCarthy says Cowboys offense will keep most of its language and looks. Keep letting Dak be Dak, as long as that contract gets done... pic.twitter.com/7MjjBZpAkY— JP Finlay (@JPFinlayNBCS) February 26, 2020
“I think number one, you just look at what he’s done during his time in the league. I think he’s been impressive,” McCarthy said from the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. “I’ve been impressed with him since the first time I saw him play live up in Green Bay (as a rookie in 2016) when they came to Lambeau there. First impressions I think are very important when you see quarterbacks on the field because in-person evaluations, particularly at that position, have always carried more weight as far as how I felt about a player. So, I think he’s gotten off to a great start. He’s built a really good foundation. I’m told he’s a tremendous leader.
”Defenses get you to the championship. The quarterbacks win championships. And I definitely think Dak is that quarterback.”
Of that list, the only players McCarthy specifically made mention of wanting on next year’s roster (besides quarterback Dak Prescott) were Randall Cobb and Amari Cooper.
”The goal is to have both of those guys back,” McCarthy said.
“I was very impressed with Randall last year,” McCarthy said. “He was banged up a couple of years prior to that, but I thought he had a heck of a season last year in Dallas. I was very impressed with his video.”
So all around it looks like continuity is the buzzword on offense. Of course, some things will have to change. Even without a new coach, things change every year. So what will be different? McCarthy isn’t specific but something about the design of game plans will be different.
#Cowboys HC Mike McCarthy on this offense:— Jonah Tuls (@JonahTulsNFL) February 26, 2020
“The design of how we put things together will be different, but it’s important to keep some things together.”
Goes on to say he trusts Kellen Moore and believes in his creativity to recalibrate the offense.
He also spoke a little of using two running backs more.
McCarthy highlights two-back offenses as a trend in today’s NFL. Mentions San Francisco with how they used their backfield. https://t.co/MwzZAqJWSF— Jonah Tuls (@JonahTulsNFL) February 26, 2020
But he also says this:
an Earth shattering revelation from Mike McCarthy: “Zeke will touch the ball plenty in our offense.”— David Helman (@HelmanDC) February 26, 2020
If you got Zeke, you have to use him.
So it looks like if McCarthy has his way, much of the offense will be similar, including the personnel. If he can solve the consistency problem around scoring points and starting games slow, and maybe some of that is what he wants to do by altering the game plans, then the Cowboys offense won’t be the issue.
Defense and special teams will be the determining factor.