The cliche football term “3-yards and a cloud of dust” is the type of washed-up phrase that football coaches have ripped out of their playbook and thrown in the trash. The NFL is trending in a different direction pointed towards passing the football, but you already knew that. And you know identity of the Dallas Cowboys.
“It’s a passing league,” is a more common phrase that gets us modern football fans hot and heavy. Every move made in football is guided by the offensive outburst lead by the eruption of air-raid. Signings, coaching hiring, and draft picks all pointed to either combatting or pushing the pass.
Almost every franchise seems to be all-in on the pass except for America’s team. You guessed it, the Cowboys. They still have faith in “ground and pound.” While the rest of the league is zigging towards the pass, the Cowboys are zagging back towards power football.
Elliott may be the star, but the Cowboys heart and soul start with the big dogs up-front. The Cowboys are the definition of a team built through the trenches. Since 2011 the Cowboys have drafted three of it’s starting offensive linemen in the first round. In the last two drafts, the Cowboys have used their second pick on offensive linemen, Connor Williams and Connor McGovern to add to their repertoire of big uglies.
Before extending Elliott, the Cowboys made it a priority to lock-up offensive guard, La’el Collins. Collins is a key cog on the interior of the Cowboys offensive line that was set to hit free agency this offseason.
What about coaching? Where does Jason Garrett fit into the Cowboys grand plan to bring back power football? Well, before we answer that question, here’s one more: what word would you use to describe Garrett as a coach? If you guessed conservative, you’re correct, kind of.
Conservative may be one way to call-it or is Garrett just showing his commitment to power football? The Cowboys have been in the top-ten in rush attempts per game since 2014. Garrett’s offense rushed the ball on first down 35% of the time in 2018. The sixth highest clip in the NFL.
The rest of the league is leaning into getting younger offensive minds at head coach. “Offensive innovator” is a term that gets attached to many new hires. Teams across the league are desperate to find the next Sean McVay, but Garrett has stuck around in Dallas with his consistent commitment to the run-game. If a new coach comes in and says their first commitment is to running the football they might get shown the door, but it’s what kept Garrett in Dallas for so long.
The Cowboys have their guy in Elliott, but now where does Dak Prescott fit into the future. Prescott has shown the ability to be a franchise quarterback, but really how much money can the Cowboys shill out. Even after locking up Elliott, The Cowboys have to pay Prescott, Amari Cooper, and Byron Jones.
Prescott will demand the highest number out of this group, but do the Cowboys need to pay him? With the beef on their offense and their solid defense do the Cowboys need to pay a premium on a quarterback?
Could we see the Cowboys opt to let Prescott walk in favor of a younger quarterback to build around Elliott and their offensive line?
As for Cooper, he fits into the team’s plan by being a threat to take the top off defenses. One way to stifle the run is to stuff the box, but Cooper’s game-breaking ability will hold defenses at bay. Cooper’s simple ability to be a threat on the outside fits into the Cowboys plan for power football.
Interesting times in Dallas ahead, but there’s no doubt their main commitment is to run the football even in the modern age of pass-happy football.