Mike McCarthy is the new head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, and he’s kept Kellen Moore as the offensive coordinator and play caller of the Cowboys offense. McCarthy has said publicly that he doesn’t want to mess with the success Moore had with Dak Prescott and the Cowboys’ offense last season, and he has good reason to keep Moore around.
Last season, the Cowboys offense ranked first in total yards, second in passing yards, fifth in rushing yards, sixth in points, and they were tied for the ninth fewest turnovers. Yet, with a new offensive minded head coach pulling the reins in Dallas, expect some changes to the Cowboys offense.
Mike McCarthy, during his time as the Packers head coach, was known for two things: implementing his version of the West Coast offense and shying away from running the football.
Let’s start with McCarthy’s version of the West Coast offense. In Green Bay, McCarthy liked to run long drives headlined by short intermediate passes to create sustainable scoring efforts without turning over the football.
To be successful, McCarthy liked to throw the football on early downs, and barely relied on the run. In his 13 seasons as the Packers head coach, McCarthy had only five seasons where a running back had at least 240 carries, meaning that Ezekiel Elliott will probably not get his 300 carries he had last season.
In Green Bay, McCarthy liked to run a pass happy offense that regularly featured 65 percent of plays throwing the football. Yet, with Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield, McCarthy is going to need to tailor his offensive mindset to incorporate the running game.
The good thing for us is that we know what McCarthy wants to do when he hands the ball off. McCarthy has talked about copying what Kyle Shanahan has done in San Francisco with two running back sets.
For those who don’t know, the 49ers utilize two running back sets more often than any other team in the NFL. Kyle Shanahan does this not only to create mismatches, but to fit their style of running the football. The 49ers like to run a wide zone run scheme which happens to be what Dallas is good at. Plus, new offensive line coach Joe Philbin specializes in that same running scheme, meaning that Cowboys fans should expect the Cowboys to be ultra successful running the football. After all, San Francisco was the second best run team last season, and although the Cowboys lost Travis Frederick this offseason, Dallas’ offensive line is still superior, and Ezekiel Elliott is far more talented than any of the 49ers running backs.
Yet, Mike McCarthy went downhill in Green Bay because he failed to scheme receivers open and relied on their natural ability too much. Yet, with Kellen Moore as the offensive coordinator, that shouldn’t be a problem. Moore last season implemented route trees and different route combinations to scheme guys open, meaning that McCarthy and Moore working together could really take Dallas’ offense to the next level.
Also, don’t expect Dallas’ offense to stick to McCarthy’s offensive strategy of playing meticulous football. After all, Kellen Moore showed that the vertical passing game could work extremely well in Dallas last season.
Additionally, expect most formations to implement three receiver sets, as not only did Dallas have 67 percent of their plays come from three receiver looks, but McCarthy’s offenses in Green Bay were known for similar designs at the line of scrimmage. With McCarthy’s diligent, yet pass happy mentality mixing with Kellen Moore’s reliance on the vertical passing game, expect for Dak Prescott to thrive next season. Mike McCarthy brought out the best of Aaron Rodgers, and I’m very confident that he can do the same with Prescott.
Yet, the one big question mark for next year’s Cowboys offense is how Ezekiel Elliott will be used. Elliott has been the Cowboys workhorse running back ever since he was a rookie, but with a coach who has already proven his distaste for running the football, what will Elliott be able to do next season?
In 2019, the Cowboys were one of the more run oriented offenses in the league, and if Mike McCarthy makes the Cowboys even more reliant on the pass than they were a year ago, I’m afraid that Dallas may lose their offensive identity. At the end of the day, offenses are all about balancing weapons and figuring out what works, which is something McCarthy has done successfully in the past. With that in mind, expect the Cowboys to throw the ball just under 60 percent of the time, and have one of the most elite, high powered, and high scoring offenses in the NFL next season.