It’s been an offensive struggle for the Dallas Cowboys over the last month of the season. Minus a dominant performance against a struggling Falcons defense, it’s been more questions than answers for Kellen Moore’s offense in the Cowboys worst stretch of the 2021 season.
It doesn’t take a genius to know the Cowboys offense is built around its passing game. On paper, the Cowboys have one of the best wide receivers trios in the National Football League. One problem, they aren’t currently playing like it.
That is in some part due to overall health; CeeDee Lamb (concussion), Amari Cooper (COVID), Michael Gallup (calf), Cedrick Wilson (shoulder & ankle), and Blake Jarwin (hip) have all missed time over the course of the season, and it’s showing. There’s been plenty of passing plays over the last month that have just looked “clunky”. Whether it’s miscommunication at the line of scrimmage between Prescott and the receivers, route “crispness” as Jerry alluded too on 105.3 The Fan earlier in the week, or the lack of separation that they’ve been getting against man coverage since the Denver game, the Cowboys receivers shouldn’t avoid blame for the offensive struggles.
“The thing that you’re seeing is sometimes the pass looks errant is because the receiver, for instance, ran the route two yards, cut it off two yards shorter. He should be out two more yards before he makes his cuts. It can make all the difference in the world as far as his ability to separate. It has a relativeness to the other receivers. And, so, if you’re not really crisp on the way the play was designed, relative to how many yards you go, the cut, then your passing game can look really off. That’s one of the answers: better routes,”
According to Next Gen Stats, the Cowboys receivers/tight ends are currently the fourth-worst in the NFL at getting separation.
One reason #Cowboys QB Dak Prescott is struggling — too many tight-window throws. His WR/TE averaging the 4th-fewest yards of separation on targets in the NFL this season according to NFL Next Gen Stats. Only Bengals, Bears and Colts rank worse.— Ed Werder (@WerderEdESPN) December 8, 2021
According to Next Gen Stats, Michael Gallup is getting the least amount of separation on the team with only 2.3 yards of average separation. Amari Cooper is surprisingly second worst on the team right now with only 2.4 yards of average separation (lower-body injuries likely in part to this), with Lamb third worst on the team, gaining 2.7 yards of average separation on targets through week 13. Dalton Schultz and Cedrick Wilson both average 3.3 average yards of separation per target which does rank out above league average.
This isn’t all on the receivers though. Kellen Moore needs to do a better job of scheming his receivers open, and also using better concepts and spacing in the route trees in his play designs. If the Cowboys want to dig themselves out of the offensive struggles, creating easier throws for the quarterback is a great way to start. With a running game that is currently ranking as one of the worst in the NFL, forcing the offense to be one-dimensional while making things difficult on the quarterback in the passing game may be one of the many reasons this offense has looked so poor. Hopefully this mini-bye will allow the receivers to get healthy, which will help with their ability to win early in routes, and coming out of their breaks more often than they have been recently.