The Cowboys regressed in many areas outside of the win-loss column but showed some bright spots along the way. In this two-part series, we are going to go position by position breaking down performance and grading each based on such. First up, the offense.
Dak Prescott had a better season than most give him credit for. He finished with 3,324 yards and 22 touchdowns through the air and added 357 yards and six touchdowns on the ground despite being sacked 38 times. Without most of his starting offensive line, lauded by some as the best in football, his backfield mate Ezekiel Elliott for the majority of the season and a shaky receiving core those numbers are solid. He did throw 12 interceptions but a lot of those came when forcing the ball trying to make a play. Backup Cooper Rush didn’t get an opportunity to show much this season but based on what we saw from him in the preseason has a bright future.
In a suspension-shortened season, Elliott toated the rock 242 times for 983 yards and seven touchdowns while hauling in 26 passes for 269 yards and two scores through the air. The true impact of Elliott was evident in the six games he was out as the Cowboys totaled 22 points in the first three games without him. Alfred Morris filed in admirably rushing for 547 yards and one touchdown on 115 carries behind a patchwork line at times but is nowhere near the threat Elliott is. Fullback Rod Smith benefited the most receiving 55 carries for 232 yards and four touchdowns even adding a touchdown through the air. Another backfield mate is needed. Badly.
Wide receivers/Tight ends
Besides the offensive line, this was the biggest disappointment of the season. Star Dez Bryant who struggled with drops, nagging injuries, and chemistry issues all season long still managed to snag 69 catches for 838 yards and six touchdowns. That stat line shows the impact that even a 75 percent Bryant can have. The main problem with Bryant this year, along with the receiving core as a whole, was consistency. There were games where he completely disappeared which can’t happen to a teams number one receiver. Slot Cole Beasley, who dealt with injury issues of his own, also had a down year catching 36 passes for 314 yards and four touchdowns. Terrance Williams, who was his usual inconsistent self, managed to haul in 53 catches for 568 yards but failed to find the end zone. At least tight end Jason Witten proved he has something left in the tank.
The offensive line could and probably should be graded based on how they performed when healthy and not healthy. The only problem with that is they were never fully healthy. Left tackle Tyron Smith dealt with lingering back problems all season long and got so bad at times he was forced to miss games. That forced backups Chaz Green and Bryon Bell into action and that’s where it gets messy. Messy as in Green allowing eight sacks to Atlanta Falcons defensive Adrian Clayborne. Messy as in Bell’s penchant for holding at inopportune times. If any position is to blame for the offensive woes it is this one. All-Pro guard Zach Martin and center Travis Fredricks were their ever steady selfs and La’el Collins made the transition from guard to right tackle relatively well. Allowing 38 sacks has to be fixed immediately.