There may have never been press conferences for the Dallas Cowboys that were as welcome as the ones held for the start of their 2020 training camp. The timing was even good as the team is just now getting to real work on the field rather than the extended conditioning that was required due to the missed offseason. In all the uncertainty and concerns about getting a full season in, it was great to get back to talking about football, along with some other stuff. The brain trust shared their view of the State of the Team, and then there was a separate session with quarterback Dak Prescott. There were many interesting things to come out of both, but the part that was perhaps the most exciting came near the end of Prescott’s.
Dak Prescott said communication was among the biggest changes with having Mike McCarthy around.— RJ Ochoa (@rjochoa) August 12, 2020
"...but I wouldn’t say that we’ve been as smart as we’ve needed to be within the game of football and I think that’s what these coaches have come and added." pic.twitter.com/OWysq2VM6Y
Let me highlight the really important line one more time. “I wouldn’t say that we’ve been as smart as we’ve needed to be within the game of football and that’s what these coaches have come and added.”
I think that says a lot. First off, although Prescott was absolutely statesmanlike in his remarks, this does point to where the problems that doomed last season really lay, although I won’t personally assign any blame. (I absolutely do assign blame, but won’t mention the name of the individual.) (It’s Jason Garrett.)
The frustration mounted last year when, after a roaring start to the season, the team reverted back to too much caution on offense, especially on the road or against the better teams the Cowboys faced. Aggressiveness was largely reserved for the easier opponents. As a result, the team failed in games they had clear opportunities to win. That led to 8-8 and no playoffs, and the vacating of the head coaching job. Mike McCarthy was hired and then took an important step as he elected to keep Kellen Moore as his offensive coordinator.
Much has been made about McCarthy’s self-study and preparation during his year off from football. Prescott’s comments are just the latest indication that it was more than just hype or a skillful marketing ploy. This could be a sign that the Cowboys are going to truly focus on putting their players, including Prescott, in the best position to win. That’s another way of saying that they will play to their strengths, not try to force-fit a specific approach or philosophy.
That seems huge. Their roster last season was extremely talented, and for the skill positions, that should just get better this fall. Replacing Jason Witten and Randall Cobb with Blake Jarwin and CeeDee Lamb should be absolute upgrades in the passing game. The rushing game can get better just by eschewing double tight end sets and using the formation and personnel to spread the defense out, making the holes for Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard bigger and easier to find.
In other words, this year we should see from the beginning what was teased early and in a couple of late season games last year, and what should have been going on all along. It may be overstating the case a bit to put all the blame on the former head coach. But it is impossible to argue that he did not play a role, and likely the most significant one.
There is also a subtext of Prescott’s eagerness to put all this into action. Inevitably, this year’s success will depend on his play. We hope to see improvement on the defense as well, but there are a lot more new players to incorporate, plus a new defensive coordinator and his plans and game calling. Expectations are that they will be slower to come together. Moving the ball and scoring are going to be key for Dallas, especially in the first few games. Having a new head coach could make that difficult, but it just makes retaining Moore even more important. He is a bridge of continuity and a key element in that communication process, understanding the returning veterans and already having relationships established. It should be a crucial boost to getting things installed and functioning given that the one between the OC and QB is always the most vital.
The part about having the entire offense on the same page and aware of the overall responsibilities is telling as well. It implies that this was not the case before. Knowing how your contribution fits into making the entire play work seems an obvious advantage. This should be especially true with smart players, and there are not a lot of the current offensive roster that seem the opposite. Amari Cooper in particular is cerebral and should eat this stuff up. It also is hard to understand how that is not something that is truly important to the line, where having proper coordination with the players beside you is fundamental. It helps make each play succeed, even when things break down. Improvising would seem more effective if you have a better overall grasp of what your teammates were doing before something went wrong.
The presentations touched on a lot of other things, but this was pure football. And, as he did on everything, Prescott just nailed it. It is a very positive sign for the season, and offers real hope that the team can overcome all that it faces and give us a lot of reasons to cheer them on.