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The Cowboys have already made some progress this offseason. But it’s a baby step.
The Cowboys have accepted the reality that their 2017 offense needs some help.
The first step in solving a problem is recognizing there is one, right? So, the Cowboys are at least that far along.
They want their offense more “Dak-friendly,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Tuesday during the first day of Senior Bowl practices.
Jones said the first step was to make sweeping changes on the offensive coaching staff to add some fresh voices with new ideas. The Cowboys will have four new offensive assistant coaches.
Jones said the entire Cowboys’ coaching staff stayed back in Dallas this week and didn’t make the Senior Bowl trip to interview draft prospects and evaluate players because the club believed it was the best use of their time. Instead, the coaches are evaluating personnel and discussing philosophy. Jones also said the staff is studying other offenses.
“We just need to take advantage of what we have in Dak,” Jones said. “A part of that is expanding the playbook and becoming more problematic for defenses. That’s what this offseason is about. That’s what these positions coaches are about. To change it up, change it up more during the season, from the beginning to the middle to the end of the season. I think you’ll see a lot more variation in what we’re doing. Variation in terms of schemes, technique.”
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Year 2 wasn’t as friendly for Prescott as his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2016. Prescott’s numbers declined across the board last year, including throwing nine more interceptions than he had the previous season. All the Cowboys’ receivers had down years and the offense sputtered even more when running back Ezekiel Elliott was suspended for six games.
“In his second season, [Prescott] didn’t have the stats and we didn’t have the year, and I think it’s convenient to call it a sophomore slump rather than a Sports Illustrated curse,” Jones said. “But you might call it that. There’s no question he didn’t have the year he had the year before, whatever. I know this: He’s a better quarterback now than when he started last year. He’s got a lot of experience and we can build [on that] and intend to take many of the things he does and experience he’s got and shake it up on offense.”
But does that mean more running plays for the dual-threat Prescott?
“I don’t want to go there,” Jones said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that. We all know he can run and it creates a problem for defenses.”
The Cowboys believe Prescott will continue to get good advice from third-string quarterback Kellen Moore, but even more so now that he’s the new quarterbacks coach. The Cowboys also didn’t want to completely overhaul the offense be replacing coach Jason Garrett or offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.
“Part of making our organization Dak-friendly was keeping things that he was really comfortable with, and that being Scott and Kellen and Jason and really keeping some consistency there in terms of his development,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said Tuesday. “He’s just really come a long ways, 32 regular-season games, a playoff game and a bunch of preseason activity. He’s played a lot of football and we also want to keep that going in the right direction.”
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Stephen Jones said the Cowboys will make offensive scheme changes, including adding to the playbook.
“There are some things that we think we can do that would really be good for us that we’ve seen in terms of what we can do with Dak and what he can be successful doing and expanding some things here in the offseason,” Stephen Jones said. “Scott has some great ideas, and Dak really likes them. So do our other guys in terms of what we can do to change some things up.”
New offensive line coach Paul Alexander could make changes to the run game. He’s well-versed in the Cowboys’ zone blocking ground attack, but he also used some power and trap schemes in Cincinnati.
Jerry Jones said new receivers coach Sanjay Lal is a key addition. He said he’ll immediately improve receivers’ routes.
“He’s a real find for us,” Jerry Jones said. “He was one of the most-sought after coaches in the offseason that I’ve seen in a long time. I don’t know when I’ve seen when a position coach has been more sought-after than he was in the offseason.
“I think we can really improve our passing game.”