Our latest mailbag features plenty of questions about Mike McCarthy’s offense.
By Mike Poland and Brandon_Loree
Every week, we take questions on Twitter and Facebook about Dallas Cowboys players and other questions surrounding the team. So let’s get right into it.
“What is the issue with the red zone offense?”
(Tasha Pearson via Facebook)
Brandon: I think you’re seeing itself being worked out in real time. The Cowboys were two of four in red zone attempts against the Chargers, so you could say 50 percent is a step in the right direction. The most promising thing was seeing Dak Prescott taking the ball and running it into the end zone. From Mike McCarthy, it sounded like they saw something on tape to put that in their game plan, but they need to do it more moving forward.
The Chargers are also decent with their red zone defense, allowing just 50 percent of the opponent’s drives ending in touchdowns. The Rams are around 47 percent in the same category, so don’t be surprised if Dallas continues to struggle—anything above that number should be a success.
Mike: It’s a mixture of utilization and bad timing. What makes the redzone problem crazy is the fact the offense is moving the ball down the field pretty well. But the way they are doing it outside the redzone with short routes, quick passing concepts and being efficient with the ball is the exact way you want to attack in the redzone.
One big reason it falls apart in inside the redzone is the lack of running game. As the field gets shorter so do the options available in the playbook and encourages running the ball more. The Cowboys are averaging 3.9 yards per carry, that’s 12th-least at the moment in the NFL. What the team needs in the redzone is a guy who’s able to stay upright at the point of contact and keep moving forward, that was Ezekiel Elliott’s speciality. Tony Pollard averages 2.57 yards after contact, that ranks 60th among running backs, so he’s not the guy to be untilized in the redzone.
The other issue has been Michael Gallup. He’s a big physical receiver that is a great target for Dak in the redzone, but Gallup right now looks in serious trouble. He struggles to beat press and get ahead of defensive backs making him hard for Dak to target.
Another problem is there are times where receivers have been open in the redzone, but because of pressure coming at Dak he’s not been able to get the ball to the receivers. Then when the offensive line gives Dak time in the pocket, the receivers get jammed or fail to separate.
“Is it time for Mike McCarthy to hand over play-calling duties?”
(Jossy Farries via Facebook)
Brandon: I wouldn’t say just yet. The thing about Mike McCarthy finally taking over the play-calling from Kellen Moore is that I think he’s willing to see this through whether it ends in a successful season or not. Now, if things get really out of hand and the Cowboys are on a three-game losing streak, then things might change.
Hopefully, the coaches used the bye week to figure out where they could improve on offense to help McCarthy get on the same page with Prescott. This offense can be dangerous if both men can finally click and are in sync. Remember—this is only the first year of McCarthy calling plays, so that can take time.
Mike: Again last week against the L.A. Chargers the play-calling was suspect. It looked repetitive, lacking purpose during moments of the game and confusing. Now on the flip side of that, they did make more of an effort to target CeeDee Lamb a lot more, and they got Brandin Cooks more involved which had positive results. These are positive steps that things are levelling out, but the concerns on the play-calling are warranted. My only worry about giving the play-calling over to Brian Schottenheimer is whether the disruption would set the offense back further. But also whether he is the guy to help the passing game with his play-calling. While he was with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2021, the team finished 11th-worst in the league in passing yards per game.
“With the trade deadline coming up, what areas might the Cowboys address to strengthen?”
(@MrEd315 via X)
Brandon: On X or Twitter, I posted a thread of two players the Cowboys could trade for if they wanted to improve at linebacker. The names were Frankie Luvu of the Panthers and Azeez Al-Shaair of the Titans.
Both players are on expiring contracts with minimal base salary for 2023, which could be favorable for the Cowboys. They are waiting to see what they have in Rashaan Evans, but I still believe they need one more piece at linebacker.
Al-Shaair is your traditional run-and-hit linebacker. He’s a ferocious player who can sometimes get in trouble with his aggressive nature but has a nose for the football—his time in San Francisco to start his career helped his overall development.
Luvu is used similarly to Micah Parsons. He’ll line up all over the defensive line and can apply pressure from different spots. He had a career season in 2022, totaling over 100 tackles and recording seven sacks. Having him and Parsons on the field simultaneously would be a scary combination for Dallas.
Mike: With the draft capital the Cowboys have left I’m a little worried about selling off any more draft stock for this year. If they are thinking of trading picks though, then it’s going to be a high draft pick they need to use as the only draft picks left for the Cowboys of any worth is their first, second and third round picks. Trading one more would leave them with only five draft picks in this year’s draft (before compensator picks).
So the thought would have to be what player would the Cowboys be willing to trade in order to secure help. The strongest position on the roster for Dallas is their pass rushers, but I’m not sure I like the idea of shipping off a player from a position of strength. Could the Cowboys maybe dangle a guy like Neville Gallimore out there for a bite? Trade him for depth at cornerback or offensive line perhaps? Or use a more valuable player and go up market for a wide receiver or running back to help in the redzone? Either way I don’t see it and see the Cowboys adding a free agent player if they add anything at this stage.
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