The Dallas Cowboys are under new management. But will Mike McCarthy elect to field a more pass-heavy offense despite the presence of Ezekiel Elliott?
The Dallas Cowboys fielded one of the best offenses in the NFL last season. Despite their statical success, it was unable to translate to a playoff berth as the Cowboys finished last season with a disappointing 8-8 record, barely losing the NFC East crown to the 9-7 Philadelphia Eagles.
Despite the offensive onslaught. which averaged 27.1 points per game, sixth highest in the NFL in 2019, the Cowboys decided to part ways with head coach Jason Garrett and the majority of his coaching staff this offseason. In Garrett’s place, America’s Team hired Mike McCarthy while still retaining first-year offensive coordinator Kellen Moore.
McCarthy won a Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers following the 2010 regular season and had his team in regular playoff contention. And by electing to keep Moore on the staff it seems to insure the Cowboys will maintain their offensive momentum from last season.
Here’s what Michael Renner of Pro Football Focus wrote recently about the Cowboys new head coach and his offense when ranking CeeDee Lamb in the second-best situation for a rookie receiver in 2020.
"“In Mike McCarthy’s last season with the Green Bay Packers, they ran 11 personnel (three receivers, one back, one tight end) on 76% of their offensive snaps (second-most in NFL). They also passed on 72% of their offensive snaps (most in the NFL). … With the weapons Dallas has offensively, Lamb will see the field, and the ball will be in Dak Prescott’s hands far more than Ezekiel Elliott’s.”"
In 2018, McCarthy’s final year at the helm of the Packers, they posted 640 passing attempts and 333 rushing attempts. That means Green Bay’s offense went to the air nearly 66 percent of the time. Of course, their quarterback was eight-time Pro Bowler, Aaron Rodgers. The running backs were an unproven Aaron Jones and Jamal Williams.
That same year, Ezekiel Elliott lead the league in rushing with 1,434 yards and topped the NFL with a whopping 304 carries. In Green Bay, both Jones (133) and Williams (121) split the carries and the starts (eight each). They combined to rush for 1,192 yards in 2018.
Last season, again under a first-year offensive coordinator in Moore, the Cowboys ranked first in total offense recording 6,904 yards. They fielded the second-best passing offense (4,751 yards) and the fifth-best rushing attack (2,153 yards).
The 2019 Cowboys threw the ball 597 times and ran it 449 times. That means the pass/run ratio in Dallas last year was roughly 55/45. That wasn’t a drastic difference from the previous season, where the Cowboys went to the air 527 times as opposed to 439 rushing attempts.
Considering the first-round selection of Lamb, and the fact the Cowboys’ passing offense outranked their running game, it figures the pass-happy McCarthy would lean-in to the air attack even more in Dallas. But the biggest difference between his time in Green Bay and his new venture with the Cowboys is Elliott.
During his time in Green Bay, McCarthy has never had a running back quite like Elliott in the backfield. In his 13-year tenure in Green Bay, the Packers had a running back rush for over 1,000-yards just five times. The last one being Eddie Lacy back in 2014.
With Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield, the Dallas Cowboys figure to be a similarly balanced offense under new head coach Mike McCarthy despite his pass-heavy past. Going into April’s NFL draft, McCarthy was clear about his players over system approach. It’s not hard to imagine he’ll apply that same logic to his offensive plan this upcoming season.