The journey to bring the Cowboys offense back to the forefront of the NFL in 2023 has been multifaceted. Changing the play-caller, offensive coordinator and offensive line coach, shuffling the running back and tight end positions, and upgrading personnel at the wide receiver position have given fans a lot of reasons to believe. Belief that this offense will be significantly different in 2023 than it was in 2022, when it often lacked the necessary punch to push the season deep into January.
But what if the key to meaningful improvement in the result on offense lied elsewhere?
We’ve discussed how an improvement on first down will be vital, but what about third downs?
Throughout his career, Dak Prescott has been one of the best quarterbacks in the league on third down. But through the 2022 season, a trend developed on third down. Prescott, one the of league’s most aggressive third-down throwers, would try to make a play down the field, often late in the play to his third or fourth read. Too many times last year his supporting cast didn’t live up to the task, and a total of seven of Prescott’s 15 interceptions came on third down.
But what if the Cowboys opened up the time machine, and encouraged Dak to use his legs more? In 2022, quarterback scrambles actually wound up being MORE valuable by EPA than pass attempts,
This seems counter-intuitive, but when you factor in that most quarterback scrambles take place in high leverage situations like third downs, two-minute drills, and in the red zone, it begins to make sense that these runs could be extremely valuable.
When we tie in the idea of so many of Dak’s interceptions in 2022 coming in these same situations, and late in downs when scrambling would likely be a sensible alternative, maybe asking Dak to tuck and run a time or two more per game rather than trying to fit the ball into a tight window to his third or fourth read might be beneficial.