(Football season is finally approaching. After a long offseason, the Cowboys are set to depart for training camp on July 25. During this final month before they begin practice in Oxnard, Calif., the staff of DallasCowboys.com is going to preview the 20 biggest questions facing the Cowboys heading into 2019.)
FRISCO, Texas – A quick rundown of Kellen Moore's evolution in the Cowboys organization:
2015-17: Backup quarterback (and sounding board for starter Dak Prescott from 2016-17).
2018: Prescott's position coach.
Now, the 30-year-old Moore is in charge of the Cowboys' offense.
The son of a coach, and widely regarded as a bright offensive mind, Moore is replacing his mentor, Scott Linehan, who ran the offense the past five years. Will Moore take the offense to new heights in his first season as offensive coordinator? That's the next installment in our 20 Questions series.
Rob Phillips: We don't know exactly what a Kellen Moore offense will look like, and as CBS Sports' Tony Romo said this week, that should be an early-season advantage for the offense. One thing Moore has mentioned is the importance of versatility – having a lot of talented guys who can line up in multiple spots and keep defenses guessing. More big plays are critical to improving their scoring average from last year's 21.2 (ranked 22nd). Of their 39 explosive pass plays (20 yards or more) last season, 23 were in the final nine games after Amari Cooper's arrival. Quarterback Dak Prescott had an outstanding offseason, and his development is as important to the offense's growth as anything differently they might do scheme wise. Moore's job is to put Prescott and the group in the best position to succeed. The Cowboys believe he can.
Mickey Spagnola: The acquisition of Amari Cooper went a long way toward fixing the offense last year, if you figure the Cowboys scored at least 27 points in five of the final eight games after scoring no more than 20 points six of the first eight games. And two of the three they didn't score more than 27 those final eight, the Cowboys scored 22 to beat Atlanta on the road and 13 to beat the Saints. So, fix to me means how do they accentuate what they already have. First of all, the Cowboys have to do a better job of scoring touchdowns in goal-to-go situations. Last year the Cowboys only converted 13 of their 25 possessions in goal-to-go situations into touchdowns (52 percent). Gosh, with their talent that needs to be about 80 percent. Improve that and they will significantly improve their production inside the 20 where they finished 29th scoring touchdowns, 24 of 50, just 48 percent. Only the Jets, Jacksonville and San Francisco were worse, and their 40 total scores (16 field goals) ranked tied for 29th. When posed with that question, Moore, and maybe he was being coy, said, "We have to run the ball better." That would be a start, and also better production from now a more experienced tight end position. The other fix for the offense needs to be improved protection for Dak Prescott, who was sacked 56 times last year, 17 more times than the Cowboys' defense sacked opposing quarterbacks. Better protection for Dak and his much-improved familiarity with his receivers will aid the fixing.
Lindsay Draper: If by 'fix' we mean 'tweak,' I'm on board with this statement. My colleagues have already told you about the numbers this offense puts up, and they're not to be overlooked. This group simply needs to – dare I say it – execute. Moore will do his portion of putting them in the right place to succeed; I have faith that he will avoid overthinking and outsmarting himself, even in his first year. But if the Cowboys sneak into the shadows of a championship this season, it won't be "because the OC fixed the offense." It'll be a product of executing when he puts them in more favorable situations.
Nick Eatman: I don't know if I want to call an offense that has five Pro Bowlers last year completely broken, but obviously there was a reason the team parted ways with the offensive coordinator. To me, all Kellen Moore needs to do is take the offense to another level. Just be a little better than it was last year. Don't get shut out in Indy. Don't put up 50 yards rushing in the playoff game. Figure out a way to use your offensive weapons and speed. All we've heard this offseason from the players is how the plays are pretty much the same, just have a different disguise in the pre-snap. If that works, then I'm sure it'll be an easy transition for everyone. I do think Kellen Moore will provide a fresh approach without being too predictable. Again, they don't have to be way better than last year, just figure out a way to score more TDs in the red zone, connect on a couple of more big plays down the field and that should be enough to see a noticeable difference.
David Helman: This is the most important question facing this team, as far as I'm concerned. We know the defense is good, and there's no reason not to believe in the guys coaching them. This offense features eight Pro Bowlers. Eight! Out of 11 positions! The talent is clearly there to be among the best in the league. You can't blame every, single problem on Scott Linehan, but it's pretty obvious that scheme was holding these guys back. Kellen Moore doesn't need to reinvent the wheel, but it shouldn't be asking too much of a group this talented to be among the top 10 or 12 in the league. I'm not convinced Moore is going to light the league on fire, a la Sean McVay, but I honestly think it'll only take a few tweaks to get this thing humming. At the bare minimum, I think they'll be in the top half of the league, if not top 10.
Bryan Broaddus: Jason Garrett is betting his job that Kellen Moore can fix this offense. There are those that believe that Moore might not be the answer and when push comes to shove Moore will just revert back to what we've seen previously with Scott Linehan. I am going to take the approach that Moore will take this collection of talent on offense and in fact make things work. While in Green Bay, I was with two future head coaches that were sharp offensive minds: Jon Gruden and Andy Reid. Both Gruden and Reid were young coaches at the time and were looking to make a mark in the game, so each day they were studying opponent's scheme around the league. Both Gruden and Reid were stealing ideas from those schemes and bringing them forward for Mike Holmgren to consider. I see Moore in a similar light. He's too young to have all the answers but smart enough to know that he needs to develop his own identity. This offense will have some similar base concepts we've seen in the past, but the majority be Moore's ideas, and that will lead to an overall improvement.