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Dallas Cowboys: Fixing the Cowboys’ offense: It’s time to unleash Dak Prescott and let him run more 

Editor’s note: This is the first in a five-part series looking at ways to fix the Cowboys’ offense heading into the 2019 season. Find the entire series at the conclusion of this post.

In one of the quintessential plays of Dak Prescott’s young career, the Cowboys quarterback used his feet. Late in January’s wild-card playoff game against Seattle, he kept the ball on third-and-14, found a lane and finished the 16-yard burst with a twisting cartwheel to the 1.

It set up his keeper for the touchdown on the next snap, sealing the postseason win for Dallas.

In all that night, he ran six times for 29 yards.

In the ensuing divisional-round loss to the Los Angeles Rams, Prescott rushed only twice, and not until the fourth quarter.

Defensive looks and matchups, of course, are going to vary game-by-game. But if Prescott’s mobility is one of his strongest skills, why are the Cowboys hesitant to consistently make it part of the offensive formula?

Dallas is wise to want to protect its quarterback’s health, and no one is calling for a dozen carries a game. But the Cowboys, under new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, could incorporate more purposeful intention for No. 4 to run, making sure defenses honor the threat. It’s a commitment to making the mix of designed runs, bootlegs, zone-read, run-pass options and scrambling part of the offensive creed.

“Obviously … it was a great play call, just with the quarterback draw and the long third down,” Prescott said last month after defeating the Seahawks. “It’s about picking your spots. And then also when the game’s on the line, the game’s on the line. It’s what it means to you and what are you going to do to get it done.”

The problem

The Cowboys have been keen on finding the right balance of how much to run Prescott, but the result has been inconsistent.

He did rush 75 times, a season franchise record for a quarterback, for 305 yards and six touchdowns in 2018. He averaged 4.7 attempts per game, up from the 3.6 his first two seasons.

And Prescott has notched 18 rushing scores since his rookie season, the most by any quarterback from 2016 to 2018.

But after the shutout loss to Indianapolis in December, even Prescott found himself wondering over the stat sheet — he’d played the entire game without a single rush. That has happened three times during his NFL career.

Prescott finished second among NFL quarterbacks in rushing touchdowns, fifth in attempts and ninth in rushing yards.

The statistics indicate the Cowboys are better when Prescott uses his mobility and physicality, something he showcased regularly at Mississippi State.

The Cowboys are 5-10 when he rushes two or fewer times, including 0-4 in 2018. They are 28-8 when he rushes three or more times and 14-4 when he rushes five or more times, including playoff games.

The solution

Prescott and the Cowboys need to improve the passing game’s consistency, sure. But even then, Prescott won’t likely make defenses uncomfortable by only dropping back in the pocket and dissecting defenses with his arm.

His mobility can be used more effectively to keep defenses guessing, which will in turn open things up for running back Ezekiel Elliott and receivers such as Amari Cooper. A commitment to use his full range of talents — even if the final total of rushing yards is minimal — is the key.

Prescott’s high-flying flip against Seattle looked scary — and he did ding his knee on the play. There are some elements he can’t control, especially when his competitiveness takes over. But for the most part he’s shown good judgment in protecting himself when he can, getting out of bounds or sliding.

His mobility is particularly effective inside the opponent’s 20, and if used more could help the Cowboys improve one of the NFL’s worst red-zone offenses last season.

Player Team Att Yds Avg Long TD 1st downs

Lamar Jackson

Bal

147

695

4.7

39

5

45

Cam Newton

Car

101

488

4.8

29

4

36

Deshaun Watson

Hou

99

551

5.6

34

5

33

Josh Allen

Buf

89

631

7.1

45

8

41

Dak Prescott Dal 75 305 4.1 28 6 25

Fixing the Cowboys’ offense

Part I: To advance past divisional round, Dallas must shed its disdain for creativity

Part II: How to prevent Dallas’ passing attack from short-circuiting again in 2019

Part III: Dallas’ red-zone woes could improve with these changes from within its own roster

Part IV: It’s time to unleash Dak Prescott and let him run more

Part V: Coming soon…

Twitter: @khairopoulos

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