June is right around the corner and that means veteran minicamp will be soon. Throughout this stage of the offseason, coaches will begin to put together the preliminary framework of their offense. New offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and quarterback Dak Prescott seem to be hitting it off well with Schottenheimer recently saying this about Prescott:
“First of all, I love him; I’ve always admired him from afar,” I love the man, I love the work ethic, he’s just a tireless preparer. The way the guys follow him, the way he wants to be coached, and how he wants to be open-minded to try different things from a fundamental standpoint. That shows you the sign of a true winner, a champion, and it’s been awesome, and I’m looking forward to working with him.”
Strong words from a coach who has been around the NFL a long time and has to account for some personnel changes on the Dallas Cowboys offense. For starters, the team released running back Ezekiel Elliott earlier this offseason, while adding receiver Brandin Cooks to address a glaring need at wide receiver. Plus, to make up for the departure of Dalton Schultz in free agency, the team drafted Luke Schoonmaker in the second round of last month’s draft.
Considering these changes at several key spots, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect new players to either see an increase or decrease in their statistics. Let's try to predict what players will lead the Cowboys this season in offensive categories and approximate their numbers.
Passing Yards: Dak Prescott, 4,941 yards
Pass Attempts: Dak Prescott, 610
Pass YPA: Dak Prescott, 8.1YPA
Touchdowns: Dak Prescott, 35
Completion Percentage: Dak Prescott, 66%
No stunner here. Dak Prescott will lead the Cowboys in every passing statistic. With the release of Elliott, it’s reasonable to expect an uptick in pass attempts from Dak Prescott, especially in the short passing game to the running backs. Tony Pollard has always been a reliable option out of the backfield and rookie running back Deuce Vaughn also has potential as a third-down pass catcher.
Say what you will about Prescott, but he has mostly been an accurate passer in his career, and a completion percentage near seventy percent is very likely. Adding Cooks to a receiving corps that features CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup should allow Prescott to take advantage at all levels in the passing game. Prescott has reached 30 passing touchdowns in a season twice in his career and this season is primed to be his third.
Rushing Attempts: Tony Pollard, 272
Rush YPA: Tony Pollard, 4.6
Rushing Yards: 1,251
Touchdowns: Dak Prescott & Hunter Leupke, T-9
Tony Pollard was given the franchise tag by the team after the 2022 season and there are no assurances that Pollard will be back in Dallas after this season. It’s plausible the Cowboys get all they can out of Pollard before sending him on his way out of town after 2023. Pollard has always had a penchant for explosive plays in the running game and is a certified threat to take it the distance whenever he touches the ball. The team will also allocate touches more toward the passing game than before.
Looking to keep Pollard as fresh as reasonably possible for the later stages in games, you can expect the Cowboys to give Pollard about 16 carries a game. Still, that average would equal 272 carries for the season, almost 100 more carries than his career high of 193. Pollard has developed a reputation for being an efficient runner and has averaged over five yards a carry in three out of his four seasons with the Cowboys. He won’t average over five yards per attempt, but likely close to 4.6 yards. Second-year runner Malik Davis will also work into the mix. He’ll be a nice change of pace from Pollard that will spell him periodically but not lead in any statistical category.
As to who will lead the team in rushing touchdowns, that’s a bit trickier. Pollard doesn’t exactly have a knack for short yardage and doesn’t possess the downhill power needed near the goal line. Davis could be an option but that’s not his calling card either. Ultimately, it becomes a combination of selectively using Prescott in the red zone as he has done in years past, and the rookie halfback/fullback hybrid Hunter Leupke near the end zone. Leupke will take on a bigger role in the offense later on in the season and he and Prescott tie with the team lead for rushing scores.
Receptions: CeeDee Lamb, 136 receptions
Yards: CeeDee Lamb, 1,772 yards
YPC: Brandin Cooks, 14.2
Touchdowns: CeeDee Lamb, 13
The Cowboys passing game looked lackluster at various stages last year and that was with or without Dak Prescott under center. This season should be different. The aforementioned additions of Cooks and Schoonmaker, coupled with a new offensive philosophy will see better results and it all starts with the personnel.
CeeDee Lamb has become one of the most well-rounded receiving talents in the NFL. Lamb can line up anywhere in the formation and has proven since his rookie season he is a premier player from the slot. Lamb’s ability to separate from defenses with his route running rivals that of the game’s best and he’s also adept at making difficult catches downfield and in traffic. Lamb’s ability to highpoint the football also makes him an ideal candidate to lead the Cowboys in receiving touchdowns. Lamb will be even better this season than last year and will record a career-high in yards and receptions.
The only statistical receiving category he won’t lead the Cowboys is in yards per catch. With Lamb occupying the defense’s attention in the short and intermediate passing game, that should open up opportunities for Brandin Cooks and Michael Gallup down the field. Gallup has a disappointing season last year after his return from an ACL injury and looks to bounce back. Brandin Cooks has an excellent blend of speed and route running to get over the top of opposing defenses.
In this projection, Cooks gets the slight edge to lead Dallas in yards per attempt. Cooks has been held back by subpar play at quarterback over the last few seasons. If his comments about Dak Prescott are any indication, the two are going to connect on some huge plays this season.