The Dallas Cowboys hope to ignite an offense that struggled to score just 21.2 points per game last season. Will vertical speed make all the difference?
One of the lasting knocks on Dallas Cowboys fourth-year quarterback Dak Prescott is a misconception that he’s purely a dink-and-dunk passer. That reasoning was made popular Prescott’s rookie season as an explanation for his impressive 67.8 completion percentage.
Although it could be argued that Prescott is at times risk averse, the numbers tell a bit of a different story. Dak threw nine completions last season that went forty-yards or more. That tied him for the ninth most among his passing peers.
In fact, Prescott had the second longest pass completion in the NFL last season. It was this 90-yard touchdown to Amari Cooper against the Washington Redskins in Week 12. Cooper posted eight receptions for 180 and two scores on the day.
Where Prescott did struggle is in the 20-plus yardage range. Recording just 39 completions that travel 20-yards or more, that placed Dak 21st in the NFL last season. Obviously, the 25-year old’s bouts with accuracy were an issue. But also consider the Cowboys wide receiver corps from last season and their distinct lack of deep threats prior to the arrival of Cooper.
According to new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, the Cowboys have had a major focus on throwing the deep ball more this offseason. And according to reports, Prescott has been accurate and decisive throughout OTAs.
With Prescott throwing a more accurate ball, the attention must now turn to the wide receiver corps. Unless these wideouts can get open deep, Dak will likely look to take the check down or underneath options rather than risk a costly turnover.
Based on the roster, it appears the Cowboys have assembled some of the fastest receiver groups its had in years. Players like Cooper, Randall Cobb, and Michael Gallup along with speedsters like Reggie Davis, Tavon Austin, Jon’Vea Johnson, and Jalen Guyton are all capable of being deep threats.
Here’s what Cowboys receiver coach Sanjay Lal told the Star-Telegram about the deep ball and how that will impact everything in the passing attack.
"“The whole premise of this offense is vertical speed. If you can’t hit a go route, the comeback game isn’t real, your slant game, you nine-stop game isn’t real. Being able to hit those deep balls in the game is going to change everything. We are doing it out here. That is good to see.”"
So how important is racking up those 20-plus yard competitions? Four of the five quarterbacks who posted the most completions from 20-yards or beyond took their teams to the postseason last year. Those passers included the Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes (75), the Los Angeles Rams’ Jared Goff (69), the Los Angeles Chargers’ Philip Rivers (60), and the New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees (58).
It appears adding a more consistent deep ball threat could be the key that unlocks the Dallas Cowboys’ passing game. And America’s Team could use the offensive boost considering they struggled to score 21.2 points per game last season which ranked them 22nd in the NFL.