The critical question around Cowboys Nation since being booted from the playoffs in the Wild Card round just two weeks ago, is rather simple.
“What happened to the Cowboys offense?”
It’s a good question, in fact, it’s a great one. After humming along with ease over the first few months of the season, the Cowboys offense decided to go on a couple of months long hiatus during the most important part of the season. While many people are looking to point a finger at one player, coach, or position group, let’s first take a step back and understand that pretty much everyone on the offensive side of the ball deserves blame for the disaster finish of what once felt like “the year”.
Thanks to Seth Walder over at ESPN Analytics, we do have some evidence pointing to Kellen Moore and the offensive coaching staff. We can blame the quarterback for missing throws, we can blame the offensive line for penalties and missing blocks, we can blame the receivers for dropping passes and running the wrong routes, and we can blame the running backs for lacking explosiveness and the ability to make things happen against light boxes, but what are you as a coach doing to set up your players for success before the ball is even snapped?
Motion at the snap rates for the 2021 season!— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) January 29, 2022
Designed rush plays (x) and dropbacks (y) -- note the different scales!
49ers ran more motion at the snap than anyone on both run and pass plays. pic.twitter.com/kn5TQT2RTY
According to Walder, not much at all. The perfect word used to describe the Cowboys offense over the last couple months was “static” (h/t to our buddy Robert Mays over at The Athletic for the word).
lacking in movement, action, or change, especially in a way viewed as undesirable or uninteresting.
Defenses were able to line up against the Cowboys, with light boxes - not afraid at all of the Cowboys running game, and pretty much know what was coming. There wasn’t any eye-candy pre-snap for them to adjust to, there wasn’t anything tricky to defend in the Cowboys running game, and a majority of the route concepts lacked creativity and ability to leverage defenses coverages.
What motion at and before the snap does to defenses is a substantial advantage to opposing offenses, and the Cowboys lack of inclusion of shift/motion in their offense in 2021 was very disappointing to see. For an offense that lacked creativity across the board for most of 2021, getting back to using pre-snap motion and shift could be a step in the right direction for the Dallas Cowboys offense in the 2022 season.