Three reasons to not panic about the Dallas Cowboys offense

Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) /

After much waiting, lots of hype, and a wealth of excitement, the Dallas Cowboys offense looked flat in week one. Here’s why it’s not time to panic.

The Dallas Cowboys scored just 17 points in their week one defeat to the Los Angeles Rams. Had they won and scored 17 points, I am not convinced fans would be much happier.

The lack of an offensive explosion has clearly gotten under a lot of people’s skin over the past 72+ hours. Truthfully, I would have written this article days ago but I wanted to give everyone some extra time. Given the hand-ringing over so many facets of the offense, along with calls to already fire either head coach Mike McCarthy and/or offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, it just seemed appropriate.

Here we are, however. One last reminder of why it’s important to breathe, relax, and find some solace in the fact that things will be better. Here are three extremely valid reasons not to panic. This offense will be good. I promise.

Game One

Every single team that scored 24+ points in Week 1, except for Carolina and Washington, had one huge thing in common. All of them were returning the same head coach, offensive coordinator, and quarterback.

Continuity matters. The opportunity to work out bugs matters. The Dallas Cowboys had neither of that. Bringing in a new head coach and having exactly zero preseason games to test out what works and does not work so well does not make for instant success.

Carolina was able to skirt this issue because the Raiders’ defense is abysmal. Washington scored as they did solely because their defense eviscerated the Eagles offensive line, sacking Carson Wentz eight times and causing three turnovers. That brings us to the second point…

The offensive line

I wrote about it a few times in the offseason. This offense will only go as far as the line takes them. In a word, the Dallas Cowboys offensive line looked suspect against the Rams Sunday night.

Is it a true indication of what to expect moving forward? Hardly.

Look, I don’t think anyone expected that undrafted rookie right tackle Terence Steele would be on an active gameday roster, let alone start, two weeks ago. Three weeks from now, when La’el Collins returns, that spot should not be a cause for concern. In the meantime, hopefully, Steele improves enough that it is not a liability.

On the interior, the biggest key to the game for me was how Connor Williams, Joe Looney, and Zack Martin held up against Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald. All three did okay at times and not so good at others. None of them stood out for playing extremely well which was a huge reason why Dallas lost.

The Cowboys are not going to play Donald again (unless they meet in the playoffs). No one else has anything like him. I would definitely expect an uptick in performance moving forward.

Learning from “mistakes”

A lot of ire being directed at McCarthy and Moore revolves around the lack of pre-snap movement, play-action, and other “fun” things the fanbase has been dying to see for years. There is definitely some validity to that argument.

A deep dive into the tape reveals that ran 69 plays. On twelve of those plays, someone was put into pre-snap motion. Another nine times, there was some sort of shift prior to the snap. Nine times, the Dallas Cowboys showed the Rams play-action.

Depending on whether or not you count shifts as pre-snap movement, the offense had someone moving either 17% or 30% of the time. Thirty percent of the time would be sufficient. Seventeen, not so much.

The more concerning number to me is the lack of play-action passing. Quarterback Dak Prescott is one of the better play-action passers in the league. Running back Ezekiel Elliott is a huge threat in the run game. The receiving corps is one of the best in all of football.

This should be a staple, not an afterthought. Prescott was 6 for 9 on play-action for 76 yards. Elliott will always be a focal point of any defense. Expect to see more of this, starting this coming Sunday at home.

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All things considered, I feel quite comfortable telling you that this offense will improve as the year goes on. Seventeen points on the scoreboard is not what any of us hoped for or wanted to see. Consider this an aberration and not the norm. Most of all, in the famous words of a Cowboys tormenter… R.E.L.A.X.