Last year, the defense of the Dallas Cowboys jumped the offense and became the strength of this football team. While the offense was still impressive at times, there were other instances where they struggled. So, heading into this most recent draft, many were expecting it to be offense-heavy as the team addressed some of its weaknesses. But, with a surprise plot twist, the Cowboys ended up using three of their top four draft resources on defense. The rich got richer and the offense is left stuck in purgatory.
Despite the outcome of the draft, there is actually some sound reasoning to expect this Cowboys offense to be better in 2023. And no, it won’t be centered around moving on from Kellen Moore as offensive coordinator to the new play-calling role of Mike McCarthy and Brian Schottenheimer. Moore was a good play-caller so to just expect things to just suddenly be better is speculative and premature, so we won’t be doing that. But we do have some real reasons, and that will be the focus of today’s article.
Here are three reasons to expect the offense to be better this upcoming season.
No more dead runs
It’s been a brutal thing to watch, but the wear and tear on Ezekiel Elliott have made for some very frustrating rushing attempts over the last few years. Despite a yards-per-game efficiency that has declined every season of his career, Elliott continued to get 200+ rushing attempts per year.
Zeke finished the year with a career-low 3.8 yards per carry. For the first time in his seven years with Dallas, Elliott wasn’t the leading rusher as the torch had been passed on to Tony Pollard. And while the Cowboys don’t have another running back on the roster who sparks enthusiasm (unless you are all aboard the Deuce caboose), what they do have is options, and any rushing attempt that is not being wasted away in the hands of Elliott is plus. We know that sounds harsh, especially for a beloved player like Zeke, but father time is undefeated and he cashes in his chips early when it comes to running backs. Instead, give us more Pollard, give us Vaughn, give us Ronald Jones, heck, we’ll even take some Malik Davis. Just give us anything besides those dead runs that go nowhere.
Improved blocking upfront
It’s easy to look at the 27 sacks allowed last year and think, this offensive line did a fantastic job. After all, that ranked fourth-best in fewest sacks allowed. But that doesn’t tell the entire story. A lot of factors go into sacks and it’s not solely a reflection of how well the offensive line plays. In fact, the Cowboys' pass rush win rate was in the bottom five of the league at just 53%. So, while the quarterback didn’t hit the turf as much as others last year, what we were really seeing was a lot of quick throws and a lot of escaping the pocket. Dak Prescott’s rushing attempts last year were 3.8 per game, which is the second-highest of his career. That is not ideal for a 29-year-old quarterback who has missed time in each of his last three seasons.
The Cowboys were hoping to add some power at left guard when they drafted Tyler Smith in the first round of 2022. Unfortunately, an injury to Tyron Smith forced the rookie to pop outside. And when Tyron finally was healthy enough to go, the team lost its other tackle for the rest of the year when Terence Steele got hurt. That’s not favorable.
While there are still many things unknown about this year’s offensive line, there remains a chance we could see all three of the “TS’s” on the field at the same time. And the other two linemen, Zack Martin and Tyler Biadasz, are both coming off of Pro Bowl seasons. With young guys only getting better and another dice roll of Tyron’s health, the team could see an uptick in pass rush win rate this season. After all, it can’t get much worse.
We’ve saved the best for last. The Cowboys wide receivers not named CeeDee Lamb were absolutely terrible at creating separation last year. Whether it was Michael Gallup returning from a knee injury or Noah “I’ve never been a legit receiving threat” Brown, the guys just couldn’t create space for Prescott to throw. As a result, Dak forced a lot of tight-window throws. Some were good, but some were not, and ultimately, he led the NFL in interceptions.
It should be noted that this is not Dak’s forte. He’s not a ‘forcer’. Despite throwing 15 picks last year, Prescott is still one of the most careful passers in Cowboys history. In fact, of the Cowboys quarterbacks who have thrown at least 1,000 passes, Prescott has the highest completion percentage and lowest interception percentage. He also has the second-most touchdown passes trailing only Tony Romo.
Cowboys passing stats
Prescott is not a mistake-prone quarterback. Were some of his interceptions due to poor decision-making? Absolutely, but give this guy a fighting chance with receivers who can get open. This offseason, the Cowboys made a super-savvy deal when they traded for proven separator Brandin Cooks. Look how he compares to some of the other big names fans wanted to come to Dallas this offseason.
The Cowboys' offense should be better this season. The weaponry has improved so even if McCarthy and Schottenheimer aren’t the upgrade we are hoping for, they should still be pretty good. On top of that, the Cowboys' defense is poised to be even better this year. All these things combined should make for a fun 2023 season.