Having your bye week after just six games isn’t generally preferable. That week of rest can be much more valuable later in the year; a booster shot before crucial December games and the playoffs. But for this season’s Dallas Cowboys, this relatively early bye gives them a much-needed opportunity to work on a struggling offense before some critical upcoming games.
Dallas finds itself in a surprising place after six weeks with just the 17th-ranked offense in the NFL. After years of putting up big yardage during Kellen Moore’s run as offensive coordinator, the change to Brian Schottenheimer with Mike McCarthy as play-caller hasn’t yielded similar production.
It’s not for lack of weapons. The Cowboys brought in Brandin Cooks to bolster the receiver group and gave RB Tony Pollard a sizeable chunk of their salary cap to stick around. With WR Jalen Tolbert, TE Jake Ferguson, and LG Tyler Smith in their second seasons, WR Michael Gallup further removed from his 2021 injury, and the offensive line as healthy as it’s been in a while, Dallas has given McCarthy and Schottenheimer more than enough to work with.
There have been some mitigating issues early this season. Tyler Smith missed the first two weeks, Cooks missed Week 2, and three OL starters were hurt against Arizona. The 49ers game was actually the first time that all five starters on the front line have played together since 2021. So there have been some legitimate issues contributing to a lack of chemistry.
That said, Moore’s offense in Dallas could still put up big numbers even in bad situations. He could get a big game out of a backup receiver like Cedrick Wilson. The offensive line could still run block even with lesser components. And for a particularly stunning comparison, here are Dak Prescott’s totals so far in 2023 versus Cooper Rush’s six career starts from 2021-2022:
- Prescott: 1,333 yards, 6 TDs, 4 INTs
- Rush: 1,281 yards, 7 TDs, 4 INTs
This isn’t an indictment of Prescott but this offense he’s now in. For whatever reasons, McCarthy and Schottenheimer haven’t been as good at juicing the talent out of this group as the last guy. And this extra week off before a solid opponent in the Los Angeles Rams, followed by our first all-important game against the Philadelphia Eagles, comes at the right time to work on the issues.
Arguably more concerning than Prescott’s low numbers are the Cowboys’ problems running the ball. Tony Pollard and Rico Dowdle have had some moments but consistent, drive-sustaining run plays aren’t there yet. This past Monday night, if not for Prescott’s uncharacteristic 40 yards on the ground and a 14-yard run by Cooks, Dallas’ rushing attack had just 42 yards on 18 carries from Pollard and Dowdle. And this was against one of the NFL’s poorer defenses.
How this is happening is hard to fathom. The offensive line talent is as good as it’s been in a while and the run blocking from the tight ends has improved with Dalton Schultz’s exit. The pieces are in place, so the finger has to be pointed at the guys doing the scheming and play-calling.
How the Cowboys come out of this bye, particularly on offense, will be a big statement about the team of Mike McCarthy and Brian Schottenheimer as offensive masterminds. Perhaps the split duties are an issue, or maybe they overestimated the ability of certain players to adjust to schematic changes. They get an extra week to prepare for an important NFC game against the Rams and a critical matchup with Philly, so any lack of cohesiveness next week will only further tighten the noose.