It is a bit strange to live in a world where the Dallas Cowboys are known more for their defensive prowess, isn’t it This is in no way a slight against defense or the role that it plays in the game of football. But for the most part since the turn of the century (really since the Tony Romo era began), the Cowboys have been a team that has made their way on offense and just sort of figured it out while trying to survive on the other side of things.
It is for this reason that the arrival of Micah Parsons and Dan Quinn in 2021 was such a breath of fresh air. For two years now the Cowboys have become a defense that not only stops opponents but does so with force and aggression. Sacks and takeaways have become the norm, and while it has, it has sort of felt like the offense fell a bit to the wayside.
Obviously we are not talking about someone like the 2006 Chicago Bears here because the Cowboys have still been a very good offense, in fact one of the very best in the NFL in the Mike McCarthy era (all proper credit to Kellen Moore as well there). But defense has been where things have really shined.
Don’t forget about the offense, though.
The Cowboys offense is in the Top 5 of NFL.com’s offensive win-share projections
We are at the time of year where predictions and projections are all the rage and while they can certainly be valuable and informative they are ultimately not gospel. Still, though, it is fun to look at how the Cowboys are thought of and what people think their future has in store for them.
Recently NFL.com’s Cynthia Frelund put together an analysis of the league’s top 10 offenses in terms of projected win-share totals this coming season, and the Cowboys with their offense that doesn’t feel as formidable as it used to, lands inside of the top five.
5. Dallas Cowboys
PROJECTED WIN SHARE: 7.9
The additions of Brandin Cooks, Ronald Jones and rookie tight end Luke Schoonmaker forecast to more than make up for the win-share loss caused by the exits of Dalton Schultz, Ezekiel Elliott and Noah Brown. Cooks will make fellow receiver CeeDee Lamb even more effective. RoJo and Tony Pollard will help offset the loss of Zeke at running back. And Schoonmaker is poised to be one of the bigger steals of the 2023 NFL Draft, given the likelihood that his injury history — and not a lack of talent — is what pushed him into the second round, despite his college film suggesting he should have been a first-round pick. Dallas led the NFL in points per game from Week 7, when Dak Prescott returned from a five-week absence, to Week 18 (32.5) last season. The Cowboys end up ranking in the top five in scoring in a whopping 61 percent of simulations of the upcoming season, which is what drives their win share.
All of this is very interesting. Let’s do our best to go in order.
First off if we are being straight up and literal here, then Brandin Cooks is an overwhelming “replacement” for Noah Brown, again if we are just going one-for-one so to speak. Incidentally, they swapped teams with Brown signing with the Houston Texans in free agency, the team that traded Cooks to Dallas.
We all acknowledge that Cooks is a much more reliable weapon in the passing game and someone who, as Frelund notes, can certainly provide help for CeeDee Lamb. Not mentioned here is how fellow wideout Michael Gallup can also benefit from Cooks’ presence after being further removed from the torn ACL that he suffered in January of 2022.
Moving on, with all due respect to Ronald Jones, it is pretty amazing that he is included in the analysis here. Most Cowboys fans are factoring rookie running back Deuce Vaughn, who isn’t mentioned in the write-up, into consideration of who is going to “replace” the win-share value lost by Ezekiel Elliott.
Again with all due respect and doing our best to not exaggerate or be hyperbolic, it feels like the combination of Pollard and Vaughn will be a much more explosive and/or win-share-friendly one for the Cowboys than Pollard and Elliott were a year ago. If you want to throw in Jones as an extracurricular option of sorts, perhaps as a short-yardage play, then by all means. For what it is worth, of his 20 career touchdowns, 10 have come between 4-9 yards.
Finally we have arrived at rookie Luke Schoonmaker. The general consensus has warmed a bit to the pick since the Cowboys first made it, and it seems most now somewhat believe that he can adequately fill the void that Dalton Schultz leaves behind.
It is a bit dramatic to say that Schoonmaker will immediately replace Schultz’s production, but his athleticism is certainly going to be an asset in the passing game and his skills as a run-blocker have been well-noted. Frelund notes that some thought Schoonmaker would be a first-round prospect if not for injury history which feels a bit generous, but it is definitely worth saying aloud that a lack of talent was not his issue.
All told if the Cowboys are contributing eight wins (rounding here) as an offense, and allowing their defense, one of the best in the NFL, to contribute in their own way, then we should be talking about one of the more well-rounded teams across the entire league.