The Cheat Sheet: One-dimensional offense doesn’t bode well for Cowboys

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    The Dallas Cowboys have completed just three passes over 15 yards this season.Three.Last week against the Seahawks , they didn’t even attempt a pass over 15 yards.Needless to say, the Cowboys’ offense is sputtering, if not in a downright standstill. What was once thought to be one of the NFL’s most lethal offenses, is now scratching and clawing for any sort of identity on offense. Right now, the Cowboys are averaging 277.7 yards per game—good for 30th in the NFL. Dak Prescott is averaging 166 passing yards through three games—29th in the NFL. And they’ve scored just 13.7 points per game—31st in the NFL. “We have to be more efficient and we have to be more explosive throwing the ball,” coach Jason Garrett said Monday. “There are a lot of components to it. There’s a protection component. There’s a decision-making component. There’s a throw and catch component. There’s a winning on the route component.”The Cowboys’ success might hinge on throwing the ball effectively. According to Dave Birkett, the Cowboys have an 80 percent win percentage when Dak Prescott throws for over 200 yards or more. When he can’t hit 200 yards through the air, their win percentage sinks to under 47 percent. The reality is this offense hasn’t been good for a while, dating back to last season. Over the last 10 games, Prescott has averaged just 157 yards per game with a passer rating of 73.3. The Cowboys are .500 in those games. Opponent snapshotThe Cowboys are in a bit of dilemma. They have an elite running back in Ezekiel Elliot and an elite pass rusher in DeMarcus Lawrence. But outside of that Color Rush Christian Jones Jersey , they have nothing but questions.Their once dominant offensive line needs repair. Their quarterback isn’t playing well and only has one year left on his contract. They have no wide receivers to keep defenses honest. Their best defensive player, and leader, Sean Lee can’t be trusted to stay healthy.In many ways this is a make or break season for Jason Garrett and the Cowboys. If they win, everyone’s happy. If they lose, the whole thing may blow up. Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesCowboys’ biggest threat Ezekiel ElliottThe only real threat in Dallas’ offense is Ezekiel Elliott.Elliott is one of the best running backs in the NFL. He’s tied for the league lead in rushing with 274 yards this season. 127 of those yards came last week against Seattle. The co-rushing leader is a guy the Lions should be familiar with—Matt Breida.The Lions did a nice job of dominating the line of scrimmage last week against the Patriots after letting Breida have a field day. They’ll need a similar outing this week on the road where Elliot averages over 104 yards per game. Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesCowboys’ weak linkWide receiverA well composed offense is like a great piece of music. If all the pieces are in harmony it can be great, but if there’s an off note here and there, then the whole thing starts to fall apart. As of now, the Cowboys one-dimensional offense is making it hard to move the ball consistently. This offseason, the Cowboys gave Allen Hurns an $11 million contract. So far this season he has just four catches for 51 yards.Cole Beasley, mainly a slot player Youth Frank Ragnow Jersey , leads the Cowboys receivers with 132 yards this year. Tight end Geoff Swaim isn’t anywhere close to the player Jason Witten was before he retired this offseason. Gadget player Tavon Austin leads the receivers with two touchdowns, but they were more unconventional than a function of the offense—a 64-yard touchdown against the New York Giants and a 3-yard shovel pass in the fourth quarter last week against the Seahawks.And Terrance Williams has completely underwhelmed, posting just two catches for 18 yards through three games.If you watch much of the Cowboys All-22 tape from this season, the screenshot below become a common appearance—absolutely no one is open. Teams are focusing on stopping the run and forcing Dak Prescott and his cast of receivers to win one-on-one battles. It’s easy to blame coaches and quarterbacks when offenses stumble, but if no can separate from the defense it’s hard to compete. Bottom lineThe Cowboys could look better at home. Their only win this season has come at AT&T Stadium. The problem for Dallas is that their passing offense is a mess and they’re missing key pieces on defense. The Lions should get their first road win of the year on Sunday.PredictionLions 20, Cowboys 13Breaking down the Detroit Lions’ running back usage through 2 games The new and improved Detroit Lions run game was the most intriguing thing to watch for entering the new 2018 season. The additions of LeGarrette Blount and Kerryon Johnson were supposed to reinvigorate a miserable running game. We have now seen two games of the new running game at work and today we will take a look at how the Lions have distributed their carries between their running backs, and where on the field the backs have had the most success. Carry DistributionAmeer Abdullah has been inactive for the first two games of the season, meaning that carries are being shared by Johnson, Blount and Theo Riddick. Blount has been the listed starter for both of the Lions opening games. Due to an injury in the first game and ejection in the second, it was Johnson that took on the most carries in the latter stages of both games. Riddick seems to have been pigeonholed into his receiver role and is getting limited carries. Johnson and Blount have almost equal carries on the season with 13 and 12 respectively. While Johnson has almost equal touches to Blount he has done a lot more with the opportunities he’s been given.Johnson has 60 yards on the season Youth Ziggy Ansah Jersey , towering over the yardage totals of his two teammates. While none out of the group have even eclipsed the 100-yard mark on the season, the rookie is showing early signs that he may be able to succeed. Four yards per carry seems to be the minimum that any running back needs to be considered a viable contributor and Johnson has reached that mark so far. The rookie has been much more efficient than Blount. While a lot of this probably feeds more into his style of play compared to Blount (we will get to this later) Johnson’s efficient numbers to start out make him look like a huge upgrade from Abdullah last season.LeGarrette BlountDetroit brought in Blount to be a power runner that would help them out on short third and fourth downs. While he hasn’t been put to use much in goal line situations just yet—as the Lions haven’t had any—he has already shown off his great power running style between the tackles. Over half of his carries have been straight up the middle so far.Blount also rarely ever stretches defenses. It seems like the Lions will want to use him as a pure power back between the tackles.It is hard to judge Blount so far. His two games were night and day, as the Lions run blocking was awful in Week 1 against the Jets but he had adequate space in Week 2 against the 49ers. He has been inefficient running right up the gut and to his left so far and his incredibly high YPC to the right is a matter of small sample size.The running back’s style and usage sets him up to be relatively inefficient. While the Lions obviously want a running back set to get around 40 percent of the team’s carries to hit that 4.0 mark, they may be fine if Johnson lives up to expectations. Kerryon JohnsonThe Lions seem to be easing the rookie into the action so far. While Johnson leads the team in carries at the moment, they seem to have only been in replacement of Blount when he has to leave the game due to an unforeseen circumstance. Johnson got garbage time action against the Jets and was a huge part of the Lions almost-comeback against the 49ers. Detroit is using Johnson as a complement to Blount. While Blount gets a majority of his carries between the tackles Johnson does a majority of his work on the outside. Johnson does a lot of zone running to the edge where his burst and vision get put to use. They use him to stretch defenses attack teams on the edge. He has been very efficient on stretch runs so far and that should make Detroit excited for what he can do the rest of the season.While he has not gotten enough carries to truly stand out yet, Johnson has been the best back of the bunch. If you add in his ability as a pass catcher and blocker he is the most dynamic running back on the roster. It Is very realistic to imagine that Johnson could be taking all of the first and second down snaps from Blount by the end of the season. Going forward it is likely that Johnson sees more carries on a week-to-week basis before he takes over as a full-time starter. If everyone stays healthy it does not look like either Riddick or Abdullah will siphon off a large portion of carries anytime soon and Detroit may want to keep Blount fresh for goal-line opportunities. The issues the Lions have had in the run game are still far from fixed but at least they have taken a step in the right direction this season—something you can’t say about the rest of the team.

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