After Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott had two elite rookie seasons, the Dallas Cowboys’ offense must avoid a double dose of the sophomore slump.
It been a long time since the Dallas Cowboys have had to deal with the possibility of the dreaded sophomore slump. The sophomore slump explains the drop in performance of a sensational rookie player in his second season. Last season our rookies: quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott introduced themselves to the league.
Their success was a perfect storm created by many factors. Love it or not, we received Elliott by earning the fourth pick in the 2016 NFL Draft after winning just four games in 2015. Those four wins also earned us a last place schedule.
Our 2015 opponents had a combined record of 119 – 136 – 1 in 2014 which equals a .467 winning percentage. It was the 9th easiest schedule in the NFL and the easiest schedule the Cowboys have faced in ten years. Perfect time to start a fourth round quarterback and the best running back in the draft.
This season, our 13 – 3 record from last season earned the Cowboys the NFL’s 10th toughest schedule in 2017. Our opponents from last season have a .531 winning percentage. Our sophomore duo will face a tougher challenge from better opponents. They have a monumental task of improving upon their statistical accomplishments from last year.
Elliott led all running backs with 1,631 rushing yards in his rookie year. The last player to repeat as the NFL rushing champion was Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006 and 2007. Tomlinson wasn’t a rookie in 2006.
The last rookie running back to repeat as the NFL’s leading rusher was running back Edgerrin James in 1999 and 2000. Currently, Elliott is facing a six game suspension which makes it unrealistic to believe Elliott will repeat as the NFL’s leading rusher or match his production from last season. Sophomore slump victim #1.
At the quarterback position, 9, 30 and 10 are my magic numbers. Cowboy Nation should already know that the 9 is for our former quarterback Tony Romo. 30 is the number of passing touchdowns Romo exceeded in four seasons. 10 or less is the number of interceptions Romo threw in four seasons. I recite 34 and 9 as my measuring stick of quarterback excellence in a season where Romo missed one game.
Tony Romo’s Best TD / Int
Last season, quarterback Dak Prescott threw for 23 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. He ran for 6 additional touchdowns. I appreciate points by any means necessary, but Prescott’s 23 passing touchdowns tied him for 15th with the Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles. Only 5 quarterbacks had more than 30 passing touchdowns in 2016: Aaron Rodgers – 40, Matt Ryan – 38, Drew Brees – 37, Philip Rivers – 33 and Andrew Luck – 31.
Prescott’s 4 interceptions was only matched by Tom Brady who threw 28 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Before Cowboy Nation thinks Prescott is the next Brady, Brady averaged 296.2 yards per game compared to Prescott’s 229.2. Many will scream that Prescott’s numbers are low because we’re a run first team, but you can do both.
In 2016, the New England Patriots were ranked 4th in passing and 7th in rushing. The Cowboys were 23rd in passing and 2nd in rushing. There’s room for improvement or balance. Without Elliott, we won’t be second in rushing and hopefully, we’ll rank higher in passing. If not, Prescott will be sophomore slump victim #2.
With better opponents, the deck is stacked against us. I remain I’m cautiously optimistic about our chance to capture a 6th Lombardi trophy. It would be great if we were better than last year and went deeper in the playoffs, but we may need to prepare for a double scoop of the sophomore slump.