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Cowboys news: Mike McCarthy acknowledges lack of run game on both sides of the ball

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NFL: NFC Wild Card Round-Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Running game - on both sides - has to “be better” - Nick Eatman, DallasCowboys.com

This was a major issue in 2023.

No matter the era of football, the running game is always a vital part to success and failure and for the Cowboys, they didn’t meet the standard this past season, on any side of the ball.

The Cowboys struggled to run the ball efficiently on offense and allowed too many rushing yards on defense, which was glaring in the losses throughout the season.

On Thursday, head coach Mike McCarthy met with the media for the first time in the offseason and was asked specifically to address the run, both on offense and defense.

“I think just big picture-wise, over the course of the year, we need to be better in both areas,” McCarthy said. “I think it’s something that we were talking about … Those are the things with the training and how you do it and how you can improve there. We’re not where we need to be in both areas.”

Where the Cowboys were – was pretty much right in the middle of the pack in both categories. On offense, they ranked 14th out of 32 teams in rushing yards per game, averaging 112.9 yards per game. And on defense, they were exactly in the middle, ranking 16th by allowing 112.4 yards per game.

Cowboys: Mike McCarthy speaks on Tyron Smith’s future - Mauricio Rodriguez, AtoZ Sports

Smith played a lot more this season than anticipated.

Although the Cowboys have been making plans to move on from the future Hall of Famer since they picked Tyler Smith in the 2022 NFL Draft, it’s hard to quit on one of the best pass pro tackles in the entire league.

Smith earned Second-Team All-Pro honors in 2023 after allowing 21 pressures and three sacks in 610 pass blocking snaps. It was almost as if Smith traveled back in time to his most healthy days in the NFL but got to carry all the experience and knowledge with him in the process.

“I think the biggest thing for Tyron is, you know, we talked about the path of his season and the training plan that was in place for him,” McCarthy told reporters when asked about his conversations with Smith. “This is clearly his best season that I’ve experienced with him since 2020. So, he felt really good about that.”

Now granted, Smith did deal with injuries throughout the year and missed four games in total. He was missed in each of those. The Cowboys mitigated the risk of his volatile health with a reworked contract that was loaded with playing-time incentives.

Dak Prescott’s contract guarantees he’ll be with Cowboys, for multiple more years - Mike Florio, PFT

The inevitability of a Dak Prescott extension.

There was a question, apparently, as to whether the Cowboys would bring back coach Mike McCarthy. There’s no question that they’ll bring back quarterback Dak Prescott.

It has nothing to do with his performance, which was great during the regular season but not good enough in the playoff loss to the Packers. It has everything to do with his contract.

Prescott is entering the final year of the four-year contract signed in lieu of playing under the second franchise tag. He got to the second tag because the Cowboys refused to extend his rookie deal after three years, and then again after he completed his four-year rookie contract and he was franchise-tagged a first time.

The situation gave him considerable leverage in early 2021. He did with it exactly what team owner Jerry Jones has done throughout his entire life when he has had considerable leverage.

He took full advantage of it.

And so, on the first day of the 2024 league year, Prescott’s cap number will skyrocket from $26.832 million in 2023 to $59.455 million. The Cowboys have no real choice but to extend his contract before then, in order to chop down the massive cap charge.

Cowboys keeping Mike McCarthy feels like it is 2010 all over again - Jess Haynie, Blogging The Boys

This seems like a rerun.

So, Mike McCarthy’s back. That simple sentence carries a lot of weight, dramatically shifting how we perceive the upcoming season. And if the history of the Dallas Cowboys tells us anything, McCarthy’s return could set him up for another midseason firing.

It wouldn’t be the first time for McCarthy. He was fired by Green Bay in 2019 after starting the year 4-7-1. That came on the heels of a 7-9 season in which the Packers missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008. It also involved McCarthy’s deteriorating relationship with QB Aaron Rodgers, which was getting more and more attention as the team struggled.

We have a different situation here in Dallas. McCarthy’s had three 12-win seasons in a row and appears to sing “kum ba yah” with Dak Prescott regularly. His players came out in support of him this week on social media, even celebrating the news of his return. But their reaction is far different from many fans, who wailed at the report that McCarthy would be back for the fifth and final year of his Cowboys contract.

We’re walking into a season that feels a lot like 2010, Wade Phillips’ final days in Dallas. For three years prior, the Cowboys had been generally successful under Phillips. Two NFC East titles, their first playoff win since 1996, star players all over the roster; it felt like a team with legitimate championship potential.

But in the 2009 playoffs, Dallas got eliminated in a 34-3 blowout by the Minnesota Vikings in the second round. Riding high after that win over the Eagles, the Cowboys had an all-time letdown game and wiped out whatever points Phillips had scored with the front office. The question of whether or not he’d even return in 2010 was out there, and of course he did. But clearly, it left him on the shakiest of ground.

The ground fell out from under Phillips just 10 months later. With an aged offensive line and a closed championship window, Dallas went 1-7 to start the next year. While QB Tony Romo did get injured that year, it didn’t happen until midway through the sixth game. Two weeks later, after a 45-7 blowout loss to the Packers, Phillips was fired and Jason Garrett was promoted from offensive coordinator to interim head coach.

2024 now feels a lot like that 2010 season. McCarthy, like Phillips, has had relative success compared to most NFL teams. He’s won two division titles and a lot of regular-season games. But the playoff results have been abysmal, and last Sunday’s embarrassment against Green Bay rivals what Phillips’ team did in Minnesota 14 years ago.

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