In 2020, Dak Prescott had the most 400+ passing performances despite suffering a season-ending knee injury in week 5. Despite losing Prescott, Andy Dalton played well for Dallas from weeks 11-16. However, Dalton ended the season with a dud in week 17. Furthermore, Andy was a game manager who distributed the ball quickly rather than a prolific passer.
Ezekiel Elliot was one of the most scrutinized RBs in the league. Despite being the league's high-paid running back, Elliot ranked tenth in rushing yards and tied 19th for rushing TDs. To make matters worse, Zeke had a league-high six fumbles and lost five of them. While Zeke encountered many issues, he did force 43 missed tackles, which ranked him in the top seven for RBs. Furthermore, Elliot and his backup combined for 2,023 total yards and 13 touchdowns, which is quality offensive production.
Protection & Blocking
Dallas' offensive line suffered numerous injuries that devasted their offense. Notably, the Cowboys lost OTs La'el Collins, Tyron Smith, Center Joe Looney, and OL Cam Erving and Zach Martin. Therefore, it wasn't surprising that Dallas' OL ranked in the bottom ten for both pass and run-block PFF grades.
Dallas' three-headed monster of Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup played well in 2020. Each of those receivers produced 800+ yards and five touchdowns. Moreover, Dalton Schultz was a solid safety valve who caught 63 catches for 615 yards and four TDs. However, these pass catchers were the only WRs and TEs who had more than 32 targets. Therefore, Dallas could add another TE or wideout to add depth.
Skills Analysis Notes
During the season, the Cowboys ranked 14th for passing yards per game and 18th for points per game, which is average. When you look at the Cowboys skill position players, they lack a running back, wideout, or tight end with blazing speed. As a result, they had to rely on moving the chains steadily rather than big-plays. According to sharp football stats, the Cowboys ranked 24th in the NFL for explosive play rate. Furthermore, they ranked in the bottom five of the league in terms of red zone TD percentage according to teamrankings.com.
Dallas DL fell below expectations. Gerald McCoy injured his quad tendon early in the season, Dontari Poe was released from the team for being too fat, and Everson Griffen was traded midway through the season. Fortunately for the Cowboys, edge rushers Aldon Smith, Demarcus Lawrence, and Randy Gregory were great pass-rushers. Nevertheless, the interior of the defensive line was horrible at stopping the run. As a result, Dallas allowed the 2nd-most rushing yards per game.
The Cowboys linebacking corps was garbage in 2020. Jaylon Smith, Joe Thomas, and Sean Lee were all liabilities when it came to run defense. While Leighton Vander Esch was a better run-stopper, he played horribly in coverage and posted an approximate 14% missed tackle rate. Therefore, Dallas lacked a versatile LB who could excel in Mike Nolan's scheme.
Dallas' secondary struggled in 2020. During the first six weeks of the season, Cowboys rookie corner Trevon Diggs got torched by Atlanta, Seattle, and Arizona. While Diggs rebounded, the rest of Dallas' corners posted coverage grades of 52 and below. Overall, Donovan Wilson was the only Cowboys DB who posted a pff grade of 70+.
Controlling Field Position
Special Teams and Coaching
Overall Unit Analysis
Greg Zuerlein was a great kicker from 0-49 yards. However, he only made three out of his nine FGs from 50+ yards and missed three extra points. Of the Cowboys' 50 total punts, only 18 landed inside the 20.
Overall Coaching / School Analysis
The Cowboys' coaching was a tale of two parts. Offensively, OC Kellen Moore was a terrific play-caller whose quick passing scheme and creativity steadied the Cowboys' offense with Andy Dalton at the helm. Besides a few bad games, the Cowboys offense executed well, especially the skill position players. On the other side of the ball defensive coordinator, Mike Nolan was not as successful. Linebackers like Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch failed to mesh in Nolan's scheme, and the entire defensive interior failed to execute on run defense. As a result, it was no surprise that he got fired in the off-season. Additionally, head coach Mike McCarthy struggled with key decisions. Whether it was calling a horrible fake punt against Washington or failing to challenge a key play with their season on the line, McCarthy routinely made the wrong decision.
When QB Dak Prescott went down with a fractured ankle early in the season, the Cowboys struggled to replace his production. To make matters worse, the team lost way too many OL as well. Fortunately for Dallas, they bounced back due to their receiving corps and regression from the rest of the NFC East. Nevertheless, their inability to stop the run on defense ultimately prevented them from reaching the playoffs.
Did the team's performance
meet your expectations?
The Cowboys have multiple areas they need to address in the off-season. While they are primed to re-sign Dak Prescott to a long-term extension, Jerry and Stephen Jones desperately need to find a replacement for the habitually injured LT Tyron Smith. Defensively, they need to attack the DT position to prevent teams from literally running all over them. While I expect both linebackers Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith to rebound next season, Dallas will need to find a defensive coordinator to maximize their speed and power.