It feels like ages ago when we watched Dak Prescott drive the offense for the win against the L.A. Chargers. Now the team come fresh off the bye and face their next Los Angeles team in Week 8, the L.A. Rams. In a head-to-head battle, which team has the better offense by each position group?
Against the L.A. Chargers, the Dallas Cowboys offense needed Dak to play efficiently and anything less from Dak would have seen the game go to the Chargers. Thankfully, Dak played a great game and he was the key player that factored into the Cowboys victory. The Cowboys offense at the moment is very disjointed and inconsistent, this cannot be solely blamed on Dak. But he’s not without blame as he’s made some bad decisions in games and has a number of miscues himself this season.
The good news for Dak and the offense this week is they are facing the L.A. Rams that just lost in an ugly game to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Rams defense has usually been the key to the team’s success but has been struggling this year. The Rams defense has registered 12 sacks this year, the fourth-fewest in the NFL and they have the third-fewest takeaways. Given the Cowboys offense should have been working double time during the bye-week to iron out the issues, we should see Dak have another positive game.
Matt Stafford has a lot of questions this year. On one hand, he’s thrown for 1,908 yards this season, that’s the third-most. On the other hand, he’s completed only 59% of his passes, which ranks 28th among starting quarterbacks. To add to this he’s only thrown seven touchdowns, which is one more than Dak despite the fact he’s played one more game. Stafford also has more interceptions than Dak and his passer rating of 82.1 ranks 22nd this season. What’s odd about all this is the weapons at his disposal, especially now that Cooper Kupp has returned from injury. The arm talent with Stafford is still amazing, he just seems to be he’s off in other departments.
Last weeks game against the Steelers makes for a terrible watch when you see what Stafford was doing. He was under 50% completion with only one touchdown and he threw an interception to start the second half. Stafford really struggled after halftime, scoring no points on their final three drives and managed only 20 yards while completing no passes in the fourth quarter. He also has two touchdowns to three interceptions on the road.
Tony Pollard/Rico Dowdle
Royce Freeman/Darrell Henderson
The Cowboys running back corps continue to show they are talented, but still inconsistent. The Cowboys rank 10th in rush yards per game, but if the run-blocking and play-calling was a little better you would expect those numbers to go up. What’s uncertain with the run game is who is to blame for the lack of efficiency. Is it the offensive line and coaching that has led to the problem, or is it Mike McCarthy’s new play style? In the offseason we heard from McCarthy how he was committed to the run game and wanted to be more focused on that area of the game, but that hasn’t translated to the regular season. Tony Pollard and Rico Dowdle rank 31st and 32nd on average yards per carry, so both are seeing the same quality issues, and they combined for two touchdowns this year, one of lowest tandems in the league.
For the Rams, they have their own running back issues to deal with in the form of injuries. Their starting running back, Kyren Williams, was placed on injured reserve last week after less than a week when they put their backup running back, Ronnie Rivers. on IR as well. That meant they dug into their depth chart and started Royce Freeman and Darrell Henderson last week. The pairing averaged 4.4 yards per carry and Henderson scored a touchdown. A lot of toss schemes in this Sean McVay offensive playbook to watch for.
The change to both the Rams RB1 and RB2 cannot be overlooked here and how the change disrupts the continuity of the offense. The running back duo didn’t have a terrible day against Pittsburgh, but keep in mind the Pittsburgh defense is fifth-worse in the league at stopping the run. For the Cowboys running back corps, they are facing a run stopping defense that is ranked worse than Dallas’ defense.
CeeDee Lamb/Brandin Cooks/Michael Gallup
Cooper Kupp/Puka Nacua/Tutu Atwell
After a week of frustration and comments from CeeDee Lamb, he saw the ball come his way a lot more against the Chargers. And to no surprise the results were positive. He caught all seven of his targets and had a day going over 100-yards receiving and was finding ways to separate against the Chargers defensive backs very effectively. The tactic from this point should be give Lamb the ball as much as possible since he’s the primary offensive weapon for Dallas. Brandin Cooks scoring his first Cowboys touchdown was great to see, the only negative to take from that is how many games it took for him to score. The part that keeps getting more concerning with each game is Michael Gallup. He’s struggling physically against defensive backs to separate and catch the ball. He was targeted ten times in Week 6, catching the ball three times for 24 yards. How much longer he can keep his position before Jalen Tolbert gets his chance?
The Rams own the biggest rookie highlight from this year’s draft. Puka Nacua was drafted in the fifth round of the draft and has managed to rack up 752 receiving yards, that’s third-most in the entire league. Cooper Kupp missed the first month of the season so naturally Nacua got the ball more, but even with Kupp back on the field Nacua is still getting a healthy amount of targets. The BYU product has shown amazing ball-tracking skills so far, but it’s his route running that sets him up so well. The separation he’s creating with precision running has been outstanding and he’s earned Stafford’s trust as a result. With the McVay system running mostly out of 11-personnel, this means with the extra receivers on the field, Nacua is able to get favorable matchups. That was apparent against the Steelers, where he went for 154 yards. Cooper Kupp returned after missing the first quarter of the season and Stafford immediately started to target him heavily. Kupp has been utilized as the slot receiver which gives him a lot of free releases, but there are times he is used as the isolated backside X receiver where he’s defended one-on-one. The other part to the teams success at receiver is a lot of quick motion pre-snap and also the addition of a lot of screens.
Limiting Cooper Kupp’s explosive plays is an important factor in beating the Rams receiver corps. The Steelers did exactly that and by keeping his seven targets to just 29 yards, that helped secure the win. The Cowboys passing defense is allowing 177 yards per game which is the third-least, but the Rams receivers are going for 270 yards per game, fifth-most. So this is a key battle this week.
Ferguson has combined for 43 yards the last two games and has eclipsed 50 receiving yards in a game this season only once. What Ferguson has done well this year has been his blocking. He’s been key on a few plays where his block sealed the deal on the play, but his lack of production in the receiving game puts a blemish on his season so far.
As previously mentioned, the Rams offense features a lot of three-receiver plays, meaning the tight ends rarely feature in the passing game. Higbee, however, has more receiving yards than any of the Cowboys tight ends, with 241 yards off only 21 receptions. His blocking would be best described as less effective than Ferguson, but he hasn’t allowed a sack which is important.
The Rams defense allowed 84 yards against the Cardinals tight ends and 117 yards and a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles tight ends this season. This shows they allow targets to go out to the position while they commit to defending the wideouts. The Cowboys have a safety group that are very keen on stopping any tight end targets, but struggled with George Kittle three weeks ago. Higbee has the most receiving yards in this position battle and he’s the better receiver, but Ferguson is the more efficient blocker.
The Cowboys offensive line is a tale of two parts. The pass blocking is very efficient and doing a good job at keeping Dak upright. It’s not perfect as they will leak at the worse possible moment when the team needs them to hold up. But the most concerning part is the run blocking. It’s lacking any power to create lanes and that’s most confusing when you consider the players they have starting on the line currently. The unit is allowing the sixth-fewest pressures, and Dak has been sacked 14 times which ranks 19th. Tyler Smith has had a bad run lately and is giving up penalties at the worse possible time. Let’s hope he can adjust and this doesn’t become a trend.
The Rams offensive line is giving up the sixth-most sacks and fourth-most pressures this season, and that is a big reason for Stafford’s inconsistencies. In the run game however, this unit has been outstanding. It’s almost like an opposite reflection of the Cowboys unit. Steve Avila has been decent for the line so far and a good building block to rebuilding this unit. Kevin Dotson, who previously played for the Steelers, has shown to be one of the better run blockers at the guard position this year.
In terms of finding a victor at this position, where Dallas is the better pass blocking unit, the Rams are a better run blocking corps. The Rams however you could argue are more efficient at run blocking than what Dallas are at pass blocking, so they edge the win.
Which team has the better offense?
This poll is closed