Mike McCarthy is coming back for 2024. Fan outcry went unanswered, and the Cowboys have opted to stick with the same coaching leadership and hope it produces better results next winter. But like every offseason, successful or otherwise, changes are still expected across the roster and on the coaching staff.
Offensively, things went well for McCarthy during his first year as a Cowboys play caller. Dallas finished the season first in points, second in EPA/play, and third in success rate. They picked up where Kellen Moore left off and made a superstar out of WR CeeDee Lamb in the process.
But for as successful as the passing game was in 2023, the offense was alarmingly one-dimensional.
Gone was the heavy use of outside zone rushing that made Tony Pollard so successful a season before. The Cowboys would now use more inside zone rushing schemes.
Under new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and new offensive line coach Mike Solari, the Cowboys altered their identity as a rushing team. They bounced between various blocking philosophies and demanded a lot from their offensive line in the process.
The transition became too much for the Cowboys offensive line to handle. Despite boasting three Pro Bowl-level talents on their line, Dallas struggled to consistently move the ball on the ground. They posted -0.061 in EPA/play, 41.3% in success rate and they finished 15th in total rushing yards.
The running game routinely disappeared in 2023, and a postseason gameplan that unsuccessfully called for a truckload of early-down runs ultimately proved be the offense’s undoing.
Coaching on the last year of his own deal, no one expects McCarthy to start over at offensive coordinator in 2024. But the same can’t be said for position coaches like the one leading the offensive line. A team with Zack Martin, Tyler Smith and Tyron Smith should not be struggling to run the ball. Most teams would kill for that trio, yet under Solari, the Cowboys essentially wasted them.
Instead of leaning into his team’s strengths, Solari seemingly kept everyone off balance. The running game was a massive disappointment for the Cowboys in 2023 and while some of that is because Pollard began the season less than 100 percent, the bulk of the blame falls on the blocking scheme.
If the Cowboys make one change to their offensive coaching staff in 2024, let it be for the offensive line. Regardless of who lines up at RB1 next season, it’s important the offensive line leans into their own strengths and gets the most out of their star players up front. The offense is built on their offensive line and it’s time to embrace it.
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