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Cowboys and Kellen Moore will need to improve red zone efficiency during bye week

The red zone continues to give the Cowboys some fits.

Houston Texans v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

It’s hard to imagine this Cowboys offense getting even better than it’s been through the first six weeks of the season, but there is one area where they haven’t dominated. Through the first six weeks of the seasons, the Cowboys offense ranks in the following categories:

  • EPA per play: fifth
  • Success rate: second
  • Dropback EPA: fourth
  • Dropback success rate: second
  • Rush EPA: twelfth
  • Rush success rate: third

Pretty good, right? But the one area that continues to be an issue for the Cowboys is inside the red zone. Through six weeks the Cowboys rank 25th in red zone scoring with only a 56.0% success rate. With the weapons this offense has, that number is way too low. The concerning part is the red zone efficiency in 2020 was tied for the 30th worst in the NFL at 50.0% success rate. The Cowboys had an excuse then as they were without Dak Prescott, and both of their starting tackles for most of the season. But the consistency of red zone woes continuing this year is something that is an issue for this offense.

While we are viewing this as an issue, it’s hard to place blame on one person or one unit. It seems, for whatever reason, multiple issues come into play down in the red zone for the Cowboys. Whether it’s Dak missing some open receivers, wide receivers dropping touchdowns, penalties stalling drives, blocking not holding up, issues with the snap and exchange, or the referees blatantly missing two obvious touchdowns - issues seem to consistently crop up for the Cowboys offense down in the red zone.

One of their biggest issues in the red zone from research is that they are relying too much on the run when inside the 20. Through six weeks, Dak Prescott has 35 attempts, completing 21 of those attempts for 139 yards, eight touchdowns, and one interception. In that same span, the Cowboys offense has run the ball 42 times (Elliott - 22, Pollard - 10, Dak - 8, Lamb - 2) for 121 yards, and six touchdowns. While running the ball in the red zone can be a good option at times, the Cowboys need to keep the football in the hands of Dak Prescott and the passing game in that area of the field more than they are currently doing.

The Cowboys have plenty of weapons to deploy in the red zone with two good tight ends, receivers that can create easy separation, and a physical player in Lamb who can high-point the football with the best of them. Even though they should go away from the run a little down in the red zone, both Elliott and Pollard are dangerous receivers and both guys are tough to bring down in the open field. For an offense with a legit top five quarterback, a quality offensive line, and the weapons they have at receiver, tight end, and running back, the red zone numbers have to improve if this team wants to beat some tough, playoff-caliber opponents.

This will be a good week for Kellen Moore and the offensive staff to sit down and work on designs, and once they get back to practicing they should work on designing the passing game to score when inside the 20.