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3 reasons the Cowboys offense has drastically improved since their bye week

Things have improved dramatically for the Cowboys offense, but why are things so much different now in your opinion?

Philadelphia Eagles v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

Things have changed for the offense of the Dallas Cowboys over the last couple of months. Over the team’s first six games, they sat with a 4-2 record while blowing out half of their opponents by at least 20 points. The team as a whole averaged a very respectable 25.7 points per game, ranking them sixth in the league in scoring.

Yet, something didn’t seem right. The offense looked very conservative, throwing a lot of short stuff. They couldn’t punch it in while in the red zone, and Dak Prescott only had one multiple-passing touchdown game during those first six contests. We all could see that something didn’t look right, but early on the team was winning, and winning big, so it was easy to not give it much thought.

However, during the team’s four games before the bye, the Cowboys only scored above 20 points once. They lost two of those games and narrowly escaped in a close game against the Chargers when Prescott improvised most of the game by using his mobility. It had become apparent that something was not right with this Cowboys offense.

But then, things suddenly changed, and they changed in a big way. If you remove all the pick-six touchdowns from DaRon Bland (a total of five), Leighton Vander Esch’s scooped-up fumble for a touchdown, and Noah Igbinoghene’s blocked field goal return in the opener, the offensive scoring looks like this...

Six games before the bye: 21 points per game

Seven games after the bye: 35 points per game

That is considerably better. Two full touchdowns better! Per game!

How did this offense go from problematic to suddenly explosive? What has changed? Well, we have a few theories.

THE OFFENSIVE LINE IS HEALTHY

If you listen to The Star Seminar on Fridays then you might be aware of the theory my podcast partner, Rabblerousr, has regarding Mike McCarthy and his early season strategy. In this world, McCarthy configured a conservative game script with one major objective, to preserve the health of one Dak Prescott. Without Dak, this team goes nowhere. McCarthy was playing the long game and if it meant taking an “L” to keep his star quarterback upright, then so be it.

The offensive line dealt with all kinds of injuries early on and the lack of protection can limit what the quarterback can do in the pocket. Exposing him by having him stand in the pocket and continue to take shots was not appealing to McCarthy so a get-the-ball-out-quicker game plan became the norm.

The offensive line eventually got healthy and with it, the offensive playbook opened up immensely. Deep shots are now very common. Brandin Cooks, who was invisible early on, is now a legit weapon for this offense. Prescott is letting loose and, lo and behold, he’s now one of the top candidates for the league MVP.

One might say that Prescott himself is a big reason why, and he is for sure. His play has been incredible. But Prescott has always been this quarterback, and he’s now in an environment where he can show just how great he is.

MOTION MAKES IT EASY

Another smoking gun to the offense's newfound success is how they are using more motion to create better looks for Prescott. There is a lot of pre-snap movement going on and it provides a lot of information before the ball is being snapped. Of course, credit the cerebral Prescott for properly deciphering the looks and making smart decisions with the football.

The Cowboys tried to work motion in earlier in the season, but the fallout of pre-snap penalties became so bad during one game, that McCarthy said forget it. Even now, you can see the team slip up here and there. Illegal motions, CeeDee Lamb getting tripped up by the cadence, and shared false start penalties across the board are still a common thing for the offense. The good news is the Cowboys' offense benefits far more from the pre-snap movement than they are hurt from it, so keep it up.

PLAYMAKER REVEALED

Some might remember that CeeDee Lamb was noticeably not happy after the loss to the San Francisco 49ers. He was seen distancing himself on the sideline and wasn’t happy walking back to the locker room. Nobody likes losing, but it’s especially frustrating for a player when they’re not being at least used to help the team. Lamb has never been an outspoken “me” diva-type receiver, so this seemed a little concerning.

Fortunately, coach McCarthy took notice and made a concerted effort to get his star receiver more involved in the offense. Look at Lamb’s game averages pre- and post-bye.

Before the bye = 7 targets, 5.6 catches, 79 yards

Since the bye = 13 targets, 8.9 catches, and 111 yards

Lamb’s targets per game almost doubled and he went from one total touchdown through the six games before the bye to averaging one touchdown per game since. They are moving him around and creating favorable matchups. Prescott has unwavering trust in Lamb and the results speak for themselves. Lamb has emerged as a superstar receiver over the last couple of months, it almost feels criminal for him not to have gotten more involved earlier in the year. But hey, better late than never because make no mistake about it, the Cowboys are now getting their best offensive weapon the ball.

Poll

What do you think is the biggest reason for the Cowboys huge improvement on offense?

This poll is closed

  • 55%
    Health of the offensive line
    (524 votes)
  • 33%
    Better playcalling from McCarthy
    (315 votes)
  • 11%
    CeeDee Lamb being more involved
    (111 votes)
950 votes total Vote Now

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