Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys team really want to return to the Super Bowl and raise their Lombardi Trophy, then they will have to make improvements on both sides. The only thing that matters is how you add and change personnel. After the talent exodus this offseason, we know they will need to add talent.
The Cowboys must also look back at the factors that made them so dangerous last year on both the offensive and defense side of the ball. We will be discussing three ways that the Cowboys could improve their play next year.
Let’s start by discussing how the Cowboys offense could be re-focused and make them a more dangerous unit. To see how they can improve, we will review some of the tactics used in previous years.
Three things the Cowboys could do to improve their game in 2022
1. Dak Prescott, put the ball in Dak’s hands in the Red Zone
Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott were dynamic running backs who could work off each other when they first appeared on the NFL scene. Prescott’s threat to use his legs allowed both players more time for exploiting defenses. Because Elliott was having more success on the ground, Prescott had easier routes to run. This gave Prescott more time to pass with the Cowboys quarterback, as teams cheated closer to the line.
Prescott began to be used by the defense to try to get away from the team during the 2020 season. He resorted instead to using his legs after all his options had been taken away or he was thrown out of the pocket. Prescott suffered a severe ankle injury that season. However, he didn’t trust his leg enough to use them again when he returned in 2021.
This was a crucial aspect of the game that the offense missed, especially in red zone where Prescott was most effective at getting the ball over the goal line. Prescott was able, in his first three seasons of play, to find the goal line six times per season. In 2019, he only managed three. In 2021, he had one. If Dallas wants to score more points from the red zone, this trend cannot continue. The Cowboys’ red zone efficiency has been a major problem in recent years.
The numbers aren’t lying. Dak was a serious threat in the redzone. Head coach Mike McCarthy and Kellen Moore must find a way for Dak to move around and have more freedom. They could also allow Elliott to play more read-option plays, which will keep the defenses away from Elliott and his receivers.
2. Modify the defensive tackle philosophy
Since free agency and the NFL Draft, the Cowboys’ front office has tried to strengthen the middle of their defensive line. They can’t seem to figure out how they will stop the run for some reason.
It could be due to their unwillingness to draft or sign defensive tackles who are considered true nose tackles. This front office prefers defensive linemen who can rush the passer, and considers that a more important factor in their decision to sign or draft a player.
The Cowboys currently have only one player who is over 310 lbs on their defensive side. That’s Quinton Bohanna, a second-year defensive tackle at 360 pounds. It would be reasonable to expect a man this large to play more often. However, he was only used in 24% of snaps during the 14 games he played.
These defensive tackles are being beaten at the line by over 320-pound offensive linemen. They aren’t able to handle double teams, so they hope their players can get a jump on the snap to make an impact on the play.
Let me say it again, the Buffalo Bills were one of the most effective defensive run-stopping units in the NFL last year. Their current roster has four defensive tackles who weigh more than 310 pounds. This shows that they are focused on stopping running offenses and forcing their opponents into the air to win. This allows the talented defensive ends to chase down the quarterback and their secondary to make plays.
Cowboys 2021 Rush Defense Stats: 1,918 yards given up, 4.5 yards per carry, 112.8 yards per game
This league has seen games come down to inches, and Dallas has been losing those games lately due to its inability to stop the run at crucial points. They need to change their philosophy and add players who are larger and more difficult to move. The mindset of the front office as well as the scouting team must change.
3. It’s time for Zeke and Zeke to share the carries
Ezekiel Elliott’s career efficiency as a running backs coach is in decline. Although it may seem difficult to believe, His high volume of carries throughout his career (currently at 1,650 through six season) is partly responsible for this.
Derrick Henry (1.401), Melvin Gordon (1.293) and Todd Gurley (1.231) are the closest carries to Elliott. As a result, Elliott has been dealing with more injuries. Although he hasn’t been able to miss many games due to lingering injuries, Elliott clearly struggles with knee problems. It was revealed later that he had a partially torn pelvic ligament for much of the last season .
The Cowboys will have to reduce Elliott’s workload if they plan to keep Elliott around in the future. Tony Pollard, the Cowboys’ running back, has proven he is just as efficient in the running game than Elliott thanks to his speed and elusiveness out of the backfield. Pollard was more efficient than Elliott at times in terms of yards per attempted and total yards played.
Elliott’s 2021 Stats: 237 rushes, 13.9 attempts per game, 1,002 rushing yards, 4.2 yards per attempt, 72% reception percentage
Pollard’s 2021 Stats: 130 rushes, 8.7 attempts per game, 719 rushing yards, 5.5 yards per attempt, 85% reception percentage
After the loss in Week 1 Dallas began giving Elliott and Pollard equal attention. The results were impressive. It was so impressive, it became franchise history.
The Cowboys’ running game was one of the most efficient we have ever seen. Things changed suddenly. The Cowboys chose to continue to use Elliott, who was recovering from a knee injury, rather than giving him a lighter workload, and allowing Pollard the opportunity to share the carries.
It doesn’t matter whether one player makes more than the other. Jerry Jones must do what is best for the team if he wants to win games. That wasn’t the case in 2021. This team should make the right decision in 2022 and share the running game to protect Elliott and give Pollard more power. For the betterment of Elliott’s health and the team, Dallas must get Pollard more on the field.
These three changes could give the 2022 Cowboys a boost.