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Nick at Nite

Nick at Nite: This offense can bring the motion


FRISCO, Texas — Going into the bye week, it was clear that there was just something missing on the offensive side of the ball.

It wasn't like the offense was incapable or even bad. It's just that it was…alright.

It could drive down the field, utilize multiple weapons, and find long continued success over the course of a drive. But it would also stall in the red zone, fail to establish a running game, and see long stretches of three-and-outs at critical points.

The bye week came at a good time – which is funny to think when I think back to when the schedule was released and remember absolutely hating the early bye week – as the Cowboys' offense got an opportunity to look in the mirror and find the missing element. That included the team participating in "across the hall" meetings that saw groups of players get different perspectives from different coaches on their positives and negatives.

"Across the hall is one of the best things that we do," Dak Prescott said. "Obviously, there's not a lot of times that you have that you can implement that in your schedule. When they went in and dissected us from a defensive coordinator's point of view and gave us some good things, it was just all around awesome."

The fresh point of view allowed the offense to come out hot against the Rams in week eight, score a touchdown on the opening drive and carry sustained success all day in all parts of the field on its way to a career day for CeeDee Lamb and a season-high 304 yards for Dak Prescott.

And again, it's not like we saw anything on the field concept-wise that was too different or just a complete shock towards the offensive system that had been in place. It was more about seeing what has worked and exploring those aspects of the offense.

Now, not everything was accomplished in just one game. The running game still failed to find a large amount of efficiency (3.9 yards per carry), but something that was integrated into the pass offense might lay the foundation for sustained success against Philadelphia in week nine and beyond.

The plea for more creativity in the offense ahead of the bye week, in my eyes, included wanting to see more motion get integrated into the offensive system. The lack of misconception had Dallas at the bottom of the league in utilizing pre-snap motion (33 times in six games) and failed to put any receiver not named CeeDee Lamb in a position to produce consistently.

Let's break it down.

What is the purpose of pre-snap motion?

We've seen weapons like Tyreek Hill and Justin Jefferson excel by starting to move before the snap – which isolates the defensive assignment if in man coverage by having the assigned defender to trail the motioned receiver or identifying a zone coverage based on there not being a trailer. The motion allows for the offense to get a head start on the defense right as the ball is snapped, and with speed weapons like Hill and Jefferson, that can get dangerous in a hurry.

Which brings us back to the Cowboys' offense and its lack of wanting to put speed weapons like CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks and KaVontae Turpin in those situations to create some open looks in the quick game.

Well, the pleas were heard. Dallas came out of the bye week and used motion on a season-high 18 (!) plays as it allowed for offensive success from top-to-bottom in the pass game. Lamb with his career high 12 receptions for 158 yards, Brandin Cooks picking up more footing with Dak Prescott and 11 different pass-catchers getting involved throughout the game.

"The cool thing about that motion is that it creates windows," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. "It's nothing crazy. It's truly a short motion in or out, but it does open up windows in zone. We definitely have shifts and motions that we use, but it was something in this game plan that we felt really good about that we wanted to use. Each week is different, it depends on the opponent you're playing."

Now, it seems as though that the use of motion was matchup-specific to the Rams based on Schottenheimer's quote on Monday afternoon, but when you find that much success in something that is also being used more throughout the league, why not continue to explore it?

I compare it to utilizing Dak's mobility more. It's something we've seen in the past that is starting to rear back around with good graces. If the motion in the offense can also be an added layer on a week-to-week basis, do you find just as much or more success?

A receiver that doesn't use motion a whole lot is typically the bigger, stockier weapon that would rather out-muscle you off the line than motion out/in and try to beat you with an extra step. But when you look at this offense, it's really only Michael Gallup and Jake Ferguson that match that trait. With Lamb, Cooks, Turpin and Jalen Tolbert, the weapon is their speed and quickness. Hence, motion.

Will it work against every team? Definitely not, there's some truth in that. Take Philadelphia this weekend for example whose defense halted one of the hotter offenses to start a season in NFL history when they held Miami to just 17 points – against a group that utilizes the most motion of any team in the NFL.

But against secondaries that the Cowboys can take advantage of an extra step against and extra diagnosing from Dak Prescott pre-snap without post-snap disguising, there is a big opportunity to find some success. The only difference between me making that statement last week versus this week is that now the proof is in the pudding.

You see offensive motion in week eight, you see offensive success in week eight. One-for-one. Where does it go from here?

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