Mandatory Credit: Photo by Ron Jenkins/AP/Shutterstock (13488843by) Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy signals from the sideline during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, in Arlington, Texas Lions Cowboys Football, Arlington, United States – 23 Oct 2022
Presnap penalties still problematic for Cowboys offense
Despite an offense that has sprung to life over the last three weeks of the season, the Cowboys continue to struggle with penalties.
The Dallas offense has put up over 1,300 yards and close to 100 points while fighting through 28 penalties for 288 yards in battles with Green Bay, Minnesota, and the New York Giants. That’s a lot of flags and a lot of yards to overcome when the margin for error between winning and losing in the NFL is paper thin.
“If you look at our efficiency the last month, particularly on offense because that is where a lot of these pre-snap penalties occur, we are definitely hitting the target,” Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said. “We had sixty rushes and completions against the Giants. Sixty-six of them against the Vikings. So, there are a lot of really good things that are moving forward and trust me; I am clearly on top of things that are not going well.”
Despite going 2-1 during the stretch, the Cowboys got superior play from quarterback Dak Prescott. As he has gotten healthier, the aggressiveness of his game has returned, and he’s looking to take advantage of the defense on every play.
But with that comes added pressure for the offensive lineman to get in the right protection or scheme while keeping up with the changing of the calls at the line of scrimmage.
Everybody must be on the same page, which doesn’t always seem to be the case.
“Just clearly understanding when there is a shift, or is there a motion, or a shift and a motion, because you are seeing some patterns that have occurred,” McCarthy said. “I just think, like anything, it is great to be on the ball and getting in plays that you want to be in all the time, but it stresses your center and your up-front people more.”
That stress causes mistakes in the form of mental breakdowns or pre-snap infractions.
Penalties in the heat of battle are something coaches can live with. Those committed because of a lack of pre-snap discipline are drive killers, and Dallas has committed 36 of them this season.
That is just over 43% of all the penalties the team has committed through 11 games. Included in those three-dozen pre-snap infractions, however, are eight that have come in the last three weeks – four false starts, three offsides, and one illegal shift.
Three of those false starts came inside the red zone, not something most teams can overcome.
“We talked a lot about it, from a position to an offensive standpoint to a team standpoint, and that’s something that we need to, quite frankly, shut off,” Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore said.
But how do they do that? If they knew, they would have already implemented those fixes.
“We are doing a lot of things in that area, but we need to be better, clearly,” McCarthy said. “So just highlighting the specific things that have occurred, but more importantly, how can we be better.”
“I am going to look at every possible way to navigate this thing,” Moore added.
Even though McCarthy and Moore know the team must get it fixed, they aren’t willing to dial back the aggressiveness in the offense, where Prescott is free to go for the juggler when the situation presents itself.
“Penalties, penalty prevention and education is clearly something we are spending more time on,” McCarthy said. “But I don’t want to lose the aggressiveness of our play style and efficiency we have established this last month. Because, if we can continue to get better then it’s all in front of us. So, we are putting the time in on it, I can promise you that.”
The Cowboys hope to put that discipline on display Sunday night when they take on Indianapolis at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.