Entering the season heavy favorites to win NFC East division, as well represent the conference in the Super Bowl, the Cowboys find themselves in an adverse moment, earlier than many would have thought. While Dallas still boasts as much talent on the offensive side of the ball as any team in the league, it was the conservative scheme they showcased last Sunday night, that has been the cause of much of the concern.
Having parted ways with long time head coach Jason Garrett in the offseason, Jerry Jones had hoped to install a leader capable of maximizing a roster many agree should be in contention. Though they accrued the second most yards on offense, in the NFL last season, the Cowboys were a putrid 2-6 against teams above .500 and regularly failed to score against some of the more sophisticated defenses in the league. It was this inability to adjust and raise his team’s level of play, that ultimately spelled the end for Garrett in Dallas, despite a respectable 83-67 career record over a 9 year period.
The past week however, has seen criticism leveled at new head coach Mike McCarthy, that is eerily similar to that which Garrett received. Working with receivers known for their ability to get downfield, as well as a quarterback capable of meeting them there, Dallas’ coaching staff instead chose to operate primarily in the middle of the field, averaging 6.8 yards-per-attempt according to NFL.com. While the pass rush of the Rams certainly forced the Cowboys’ hand at times, the lack of adjustment by McCarthy to buy Prescott more time was certainly noticeable, especially when considering the secondary issues Los Angeles contended with most of last season. That Dallas was also the victim of recurring screen plays on the defensive side of the ball, only underscores this.
Though it would be a mistake to write the Cowboys off should they fail to win Sunday against Atlanta–a game they are favored to win–a loss would place a heavy emphasis on McCarthy’s ability to make schematic adjustments in order to save their season. After what we saw in week 1, Cowboys fans might not feel so confident at that prospect.