On the NFL Kickoff, the Dallas Cowboys proved the hype was real. They have one of the best offenses in the NFL and if they tighten things up in the red zone, they can beat anybody in the league. Once again, Dak Prescott proved his worth with consistent accuracy in the passing game and the ability to make explosive plays.
When the offense takes the field on Sunday to take on the 1-0 Los Angeles Chargers, they’ll get a chance to prove it again. Only this time, patience will be key to winning the football game.
That will be tough to understand given the Dallas Cowboys’ situation on defense. Without their top two pass rushers and potentially down two starting safeties, this promises to be an offensive shootout that will be left in the hands of Prescott & Co.
But even though they should probably stick to the aggressive game plan of passing the ball on early downs – they passed the ball 82% of early downs in Week 1 – they’ll need patience. Otherwise, beating Brandon Staley’s defense will prove a hard task.
Staley, who comes from the Vic Fangio coaching tree has been one of the leading forces in the NFL to adjust to the modern offense’s tendencies to stretch the field vertically. More than anything, his defense focuses on limiting the big-chunk plays of 30, 40, or more yards. For his defense, it’s about stopping the pass on early downs instead of prioritizing defending the run.
A modern defense for modern offenses, after all.
Among many of this defense’s characteristics is playing a modernized version of Quarters in which the deep defensive backs are not line up at the same depth pre-snap. Instead, the safeties will line up even deeper since their run responsibilities are removed.
Robert Mays from The Athletic does a great job of breaking it down further.
Although Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb can both be deep threats in the passing game, Sunday will be all about sustaining long drives with quick throws. Prescott had an average of 2.39 seconds to throw in Week 1, which ranked second-lowest in the NFL.
It’s tough to put together long touchdown drives in the NFL, but that’s what Staley’s defense asks you to do.
One big difference we could see from Kellen Moore’s approach on Sunday is run frequency. Although Ezekiel Elliott will be very important in helping out Terence Steele deal with Joey Bosa, he’s likely to see more carries. The Chargers will allow more runs on early downs plus they don’t have the same scary defensive line that the Bucs had in Week 1.
Of course, this will change, but hello Cowboys. Also, hello Chargers. Over / under opened at 52 and is now at 55.
— Mauricio Rodríguez (@MauNFL) September 14, 2021
Hopefully, this doesn’t steer the Cowboys away from a pass-happy game-plan, though. Justin Herbert and the Chargers ranked 7th in early-down pass frequency. If Dallas wants a chance at winning this game, they’ll have to keep up with the aggressiveness.
Balancing aggressiveness with patience is not an easy task. Especially when the pressure will likely be turned on with a porous defense. But if the Dallas Cowboys want to avoid the dreaded 0-2, that’s exactly what they’ll need to do in Los Angeles on Sunday.
Featured image via Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports