It will be a long wait until the Dallas Cowboys are back to making any real news on the field, but they left a shortened minicamp with some enticing changes on offense. The Cowboys are teasing fans with a promised increased role for Tony Pollard as well as more plays that take advantage of Dak Prescott’s mobility.
Prescott throwing from outside the pocket and picking up timely first downs on the ground have been a strength of his game since he broke out in 2016 as a rookie, but he was limited with his ankle recovery last season. The Cowboys have based much of their offseason on the belief that if a not-fully-100% Prescott still put up a career high 37 touchdowns, led the NFL’s number one offense and second best yards per game output in team history, an even better version of their franchise quarterback should make up for some losses in free agency.
This biggest advantage the Cowboys have with Prescott is the other quarterbacks he’ll face twice a year in the division, with the gap between Jalen Hurts, Daniel Jones, and Carson Wentz giving the Cowboys a chance to repeat in the NFC East for the first time in 27 years.
Prescott adding more mobility to his game again, which he says is confidently “through the roof”, could also be good news for a reworked group of Cowboys receivers. The Cowboys offense is still the Kellen Moore show, but with Mike McCarthy facing criticism for not taking more control during a midseason slump, we could see more of McCarthy’s influence in Moore’s system in a pivotal year for both coaches.
The Cowboys never truly had the trio of CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, and Amari Cooper in sync, turning what should have been a problem for opposing defenses into their own. Instead of being forced to run through a true number one wideout, the Cowboys took the field with at least two potential WR1’s in Lamb and Cooper, and another high-end player in Gallup. Moving on from Amari Cooper this offseason elevated Lamb to the top role, and puts Gallup firmly in the second position.
In McCarthy’s west coast style offense, both Lamb and Gallup have the traits to keep this offense near the top of the league, but McCarthy’s best seasons in Green Bay always came when the Packers had good depth at receiver. While it rings true that the Cowboys still need a player like James Washington, Jalen Tolbert, or Simi Fehoko to really step up, moving Prescott out of the pocket to throw simplifies the route concepts on any given play.
Instead of three alpha receivers like Lamb, Cooper, and Gallup all thinking they need to run a route that gets them a target on every play, the Cowboys can work on more pre-snap looks to get Lamb going across the defense and on the move with the ball in his hands. Lamb was a premier deep threat at Oklahoma, averaging 19 yards a catch over three seasons, but his depth of target with the Cowboys has been comfortably at eight to nine yards.
This is the perfect depth to hit Lamb on a drag or crossing route with Prescott also having the option to keep the ball himself, or look to tight end Dalton Schultz, another player that’s done well on designed rollouts for his quarterback.
There is something to be said about taking the field with an offense that the other team can’t stop, despite mostly knowing what’s coming. It’s what Dallas worked towards for so long under Jason Garrett, but never had the depth of talent to see succeed. Their current play-caller played for and coached with Garrett, but now must deal without Amari Cooper or Cedrick Wilson.
Cowboys opponents this year know the run game will still be a focus with Ezekiel Elliott and Pollard, but by adding Tyler Smith at left guard Dallas is expecting a resurgence here. They’re also confident a high-volume WR1 like Lamb with an unproven supporting cast is the way to go through the air, and have both the coaches and quarterback to make it work.
Throw in the Cowboys love for the outside screen game, and this offense should be all about creating easy touches for their most dynamic playmakers, and continuing to prove to the league that Dak Prescott is one of it’s most efficient quarterbacks.