For years this Dallas Cowboys team has been a squad that is led by its offense, only to have a hole-filled defense kill any chances they had at making a deep playoff run. But the 2022 season was a different animal. Armed with a legitimate defense, this unit had a shot, but this time it was the offense that let them down. In their biggest game of the season, the offense could only muster 12 lousy points in a 19-12 divisional round playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers. It was the first time in 46 years that a Cowboys team lost in the playoffs despite allowing less than 20 points in the game.
This offseason, the Cowboys will be looking for a spark. It’s not like they were bad by any means. They were fourth in points scored and 11th in yards gained. Despite being pretty fantastic at times, there were moments they weren’t so great. And that brings us to today’s discussion, what ailed them on offense and how can they improve?
This week on The Star Seminar, rabblerousr and I break down each position group and identify the severity of the Cowboys' offensive problems and what they need to do to get better.
It’s a little cliché, but winning football games starts and stops at the quarterback position. If a team doesn’t have a good one, they’re likely in trouble, and if they do, they have a shot at something special.
The Cowboys have a good one, only he didn’t play that well down the stretch. Including the playoffs, Dak Prescott played 14 games this past season. He threw an interception in 11 of them (79%) and he threw multiple interceptions in six of them (43%), including the playoff loss to the 49ers. In the three games where Prescott didn’t have a pick, the Cowboys won by an average of 24 points, including a joyous Tom Brady sendoff in the wild card victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
How do they fix the problem? Dak is this team’s quarterback and what you see from him is to a great extent, what you get. It’s uncharacteristic of him to be so turnover prone, so expect an improved season from Prescott in 2023.
The Cowboys were fortunate to have two good running backs this season, Ezekiel Elliott and first-time Pro Bowler Tony Pollard. Despite having fewer carries, Pollards led the team in rushing with 1,007 yards whereas Zeke finished the season with 878 yards.
The running game was strong early, including several big runs from Pollard, but it really struggled down the stretch as both running backs saw their yards per carry averages decline in the back part of the season. Elliott continued to see a decline in efficiency as he had a career-low 3.8-yard-per-carry average, including the final four games of the year where he averaged just two yards per rushing attempt.
How do they fix the problem? The team could get better by subtraction by moving on from Elliott and making Pollard the team’s featured back. If they pair Pollard with a fresh-legged rookie to help carry some of the workload, they should still be able to keep enough juice in Pollard to make those explosive plays.
As one of the biggest question marks entering the season, the team’s wide receiver group was filled with all kinds of concerns. Is CeeDee Lamb good enough to be the no. 1 WR after the departure of Amari Cooper? When would Michael Gallup return and how effective would he be? Who would be the team’s no. 3 option with players like veteran Noah Brown, free agent James Washington, and rookie Jalen Tolbert on the roster? They even had second-year player Simi Fehoko, undrafted rookie Dennis Houson, and USFL MVP KaVontae Turpin as possible wild cards to make some noise.
Despite all the options, the Cowboys really struggled to find any real production behind Lamb. Brown was a pleasant surprise early on, but there were limitations to his game and he didn’t really offer any explosiveness. Gallup returned in Week 4, but never looked anything close to what we’ve seen in seasons past. They eventually went out and signed veteran T.Y. Hilton who had some nice moments but still too few to be a difference-maker.
How do they fix the problem? Get help. Look, Lamb was fantastic and he’s going to be fun to watch for years to come. Gallup should be better next season, but even still, he’s not a huge separator. Whether it’s spending a little more money in free agency or looking again to the draft, the Cowboys need to bolster their WR group this offseason.
To the surprise of many, the Cowboys' tight end group was very effective this year. Starting with the early camp buzz of the rookie combo of Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot and continuing along with the ever-so-reliable contribution of Dalton Schultz, this group emerged as one of the funner units on the team. They even treated us to an entertaining whack-a-mole celebration on Thanksgiving.
cowboys TEs playing whack a mole in the salvation army kettle is A+++ stuff pic.twitter.com/ZqHxbzPqH0— johnny trash (@theMATThatter__) November 25, 2022
Schultz’s yards per game dipped slightly back down to the modest numbers he had during his breakout season in 2020, and that was largely due to the added target share going to Frick and Frack, but Schultz still finished as the team’s second-best pass catcher behind Lamb.
How do they fix the problem? They never had a problem at tight end this year, but their effectiveness might’ve played itself into one next season as the team may decide to roll with their promising youngsters and let some other team pay Schultz in free agency.
In what started out as a disaster, the team did an admirable job keeping the boat afloat this season. They lost their starting tackles for an extended amount of time as they endured injuries to Tyron Smith early and Terence Steele late. They also got hurt along the interior offensive line as both Tyler Biadasz and Connor McGovern missed games.
They were saved with a couple of new acquisitions in the form of rookie sensation Tyler Smith and 18-year veteran Jason Peters. The rookie was the biggest surprise as he was thrown into the fire right away protecting Prescott’s blindside. He showed great flexibility bouncing back inside at left guard, playing wherever the team needed him. Peters showed nice flexibility himself as he also played both left tackle and left guard positions and even dabbled at right tackle a bit after Steele got hurt.
How do they fix the problem? Improved health. The Cowboys will likely attempt to do next year what they wanted to do this year which is the arrangement of LT Tyron Smith, LG Tyler Smith, C Tyler Biadasz, RG Zack Martin, and RT Terence Steele in the trenches. They’ll still need to search out viable reinforcements as Tyron’s health is always a gamble, but watching Tyler in year two next to the recently named Pro Bowler Biadasz gives this team some good talent along the offensive line.
We can’t talk about the offense without mentioning Kellen Moore’s last year in Dallas. Fans have their own opinion about how helpful Moore was to this offense. While he was spectacular at times and has the stats to back it up, some fans questioned his consistency. Why did the Cowboys' offense stall out at times? Was Moore doing enough to put his quarterback in a position to be successful?
Ultimately, the Cowboys organization decided he wasn’t and has parted ways with Moore and handed the play-calling duties to head coach Mike McCarthy. The former Packers coach has had plenty of success in his early days as a play-caller, but things weren’t so great near his final days in Green Bay. What will they be like in Dallas?
How do they fix the problem? By shaking things up? This is a cross our fingers, hope for the best sorta thing. With McCarthy, it could be anything. It could be better, it could be worse, it could even be a boat.
Remember 46 years ago when the Cowboys lost a playoff game despite not allowing their opponent to score 20 points? What did they do? They changed out their offensive coordinator (to Dan Reeves) and as luck would have it, they won the Super Bowl the following season. Let’s hope history repeats itself.