The Dallas Cowboys are settling… Dallas settled in week seven against the Redskins with conservative play calling, especially on their last drive of the game, and they are settling with Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan as their head coach and offensive coordinator. For so long, the Cowboys have had a dominant offense that was just an average defense away from making a super bowl. Now, in 2018, Dallas finally has a defense that consistently plays well. Their offense, on the other hand, has regressed. A lot.
Simply put, the Cowboys did not show up to play against the Redskins. Dallas’ offense was lifeless all game, and the blame for the outcome of this game should be placed on the coaching staff. After investing three first round draft picks on offensive linemen in the past several years, the Cowboys have been hell-bent on being a run first offense. This strategy worked back in 2014, when the Cowboys had Demarco Murray, who rushed for 1,800 yards in his prime season, and Tony Romo, a quarterback who could analyze and dissect defenses. But the times have changed, and Dallas is no longer being led by Romo; they are being led by Dak Prescott, a system quarterback who desperately needs a running game to play well.
The Redskins suffocated the Cowboys rushing attack, limiting Ezekiel Elliott to 33 yards on 15 carries. This isn’t because the offensive line is terrible, or because Elliott is out of shape. This happened because opposing defenses do not respect Prescott’s play, nor should they. Prescott’s play in this game was streaky at best. There were times he looked decent, like hitting a wide open Michael Gallup down the field for a walk in 49 yard touchdown, and times where Prescott looked inept, like fumbling on the Dallas one-yard line to give the Redskins a two possession lead late. This type of quarterback play does not win ball games, and opposing teams know that all they have to do is stop Ezekiel Elliott to kill Dallas’ offense.
Two years ago, defenses loaded the box with eight players to try and stop the run, yet Elliott still managed to break free and run wild. The problem now is that defenses have caught on to Dallas’ play calling and the Cowboys have done nothing to reinvent their offense. They are still running the same offense that worked for them back in 2014, but the times have changed and this type of play calling will not earn the Cowboys a playoff spot, let alone the top seed in the NFC
Against a defense with eight in the box, the Cowboys still attempt to overpower defenses with its offensive line, which is not what it used to be. Tyron Smith is older, Travis Frederick and Jason Witten (who retired) are not playing right now, and Connor Williams has been a liability at left guard; the Cowboys cannot continue to rely on their offensive line to dominate the line of scrimmage anymore What Dallas needs but refuses to do is adjust to the modern NFL and play to their strengths. Many teams have adopted the run-pass option (RPO) as a way to keep defenses off balance. With the RPO, a quarterback could either choose to hand the ball off to the running back or pull it back and hit the open receiver down the field. The Eagles successfully used the RPO last year on their way to becoming super bowl champions. This college-like strategy would be perfect for a Dallas offense that still lacks a true number one receiver and has a quarterback that thrived in an option based offense at Mississippi State.
The Cowboys now stand at 3-4, and given Scott Linehan’s refusal to adapt this offense and Jason Garrett’s poor game management skills, it is obvious that this team is a pretender, not a contender. Until the Dallas Cowboys organization is restructured, they will continue to lose heartbreaking games that should have never been close.