Dallas Cowboys: What we learned from the playoffs
By Richard Ball
The Rams and Patriots will meet on Sunday in the Super Bowl. What have the Dallas Cowboys learned this playoff season about the secret to success?
History will record that Super Bowl LIII was a game between the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots. While the Dallas Cowboys season is over, there is still plenty for the team to learn to guide their offseason plan.
For starters, of the ten playoff games, the winner outrushed the loser eight times. The two outliers were the Chicago Bears- Philadelphia Eagles double-doink wildcard game and the Ravens-Chargers wildcard game when Baltimore outran Los Angeles by one yard.
The winner of the ten playoff games allowed less sacks than the loser in seven games with the winners only allowing ten total sacks. The loser of each playoff game allowed a total of twenty-five sacks.
Both of these indicators correlate to strong offensive line play and offensive balance. Yet, during the regular season, it felt like the NFL was a passing league.
In the first two weeks of the season, Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for over 400 yards in the two Tampa Bay Buccaneer wins. For the season, Tampa Bay led the league with 5,125 passing yards yet managed to win only five games.
In the regular season, all 32 teams combined to pass for about 240 yards per game. The rushing total per game was only 115 yards per game or 2.08 times less than the passing total.
During the playoffs, the winners had a passing yards to rushing yards ratio of 1.77 or 15 percent below the season average. The losers passing yards to rushing yards ratio was 4.00 which was 92 percent higher than the regular season average.
So, what do the Cowboys learn from this? Successful teams in the playoffs can run the ball when they need to, protect their quarterback when they pass the ball, make the other offense one-dimensional and then pressure the opposing quarterback.
What must Dallas do this offseason to have playoff success next season. First, they must find how to solidify their offensive line.
Most importantly, how likely will center Travis Frederick return to the football field and be the player he was. Next, the team will need to find a left guard. Is the player already on their roster?
We all hope Connor Williams will fill the hole but he has plenty of room for improvement after ranking as Pro Football Focus #52 offensive guard. Can the Cowboys count on a full offseason weight program to solve his strength deficiencies?
Once the offensive line is fixed, the ‘Boys will need to find a competent RB2 capable of spelling RB1, Ezekiel Elliott, who seems to sub himself out of the game more than you would hope a 23-year-old world-class athlete should. We know that the coaching staff thinks Rod Smith is the right type of guy but he proved he didn’t scare anyone when he was in the backfield.
For all the concern about quarterback Dak Prescott holding the ball and taking sacks, he was only sacked twice in the playoffs. One of the sacks credited to his own offensive lineman, La’el Collins, for having him in the grasp.
On the defensive side of the ball, they must address whatever “tell” the Rams figured out so that they can stop the run. This will fall on the coaching staff.
As for the roster, they will need to find ways to pressure the quarterback. The Hot Boyz lost some of their impact when the lights were shining brightest.
I am assuming that defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence will sign a new contract with Dallas. But will defensive ends Randy Gregory and Taco Charlton step up or will the front office need to find a diamond in the rough when they bargain bin free agent shop.
We know that the team doesn’t plan to lavish big money on overpaid free agents and without a first round draft pick it will be difficult to find an impact player with the 58th pick in the draft. Realistically, the Cowboys will be counting on development from within to take the next step.
As a fan, do you think that will be enough to close the gap on the elite teams? Tell us in the comment section below.