Get ready to hear the Dallas Cowboys use the phrase “Dak-friendly” often this off-season.
That appears to be the No. 1 priority for the team going into 2018 — catering the offense to fit the needs of quarterback Dak Prescott better.
Prescott had one of the best seasons by a rookie quarterback in league history in 2016. Last year, though, he regressed by throwing fewer touchdowns (23 to 22), more interceptions (4 to 13), completing fewer passes (67.8 percent to 62.9) and seeing his passer rating drop (104.9 to 86.6).
Call it a sophomore slump. Owner Jerry Jones won’t hold it against you.
“[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, smirking. “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 that doesn’t necessarily mean the Cowboys will utilize Prescott’s running ability more even though, as Jones said, “We all know he can run and it creates a problem for defenses.”
Instead, the Cowboys are banking on their new assistants figuring out ways to better utilize the talent on the roster.
Jones raved about landing Sanjay Lal to coach the wide receivers, saying Lal is one of the most sought-after assistants he’s seen in years. He also likes the addition of veteran offensive line coach Paul Alexander.
The Cowboys will have a new voice at quarterbacks coach with former backup Kellen Moore assuming the role, and a to-be-named tight ends coach. The only holdovers on the offensive side are coordinator Scott Linehan and running backs coach Gary Brown.
“I’m really excited about the changes we’ve made on the coaching staff,” Jones said. “All of those give us a chance to improve and we really are pleased with the availability of the coaches we’ve got and so I think that will help us. It was all done with the personnel we have and the moves we might have in mind.”
For now, those moves are going to be centered on being “Dak-friendly.” But that doesn’t necessarily mean an overhaul on the personnel side.
Jerry Jones and Stephen Jones each said wide receiver Dez Bryant is “under contract” and gave no indication of possibly moving on from him despite another disappointing season.
Instead, the hope is the updated coaching staff finds more ways to put Bryant and the rest of the receivers in better positions for success.
Neither of the organization’s top decision-makers said the Cowboys had to add another weapon to make the offense more “Dak-friendly.”
“I don’t know if we need another player. You automatically will add some players at some level on offense,” Jerry Jones said. “But what you need to do is to maximize what you got and I think we can do that better with some of the things we’re doing with the staff and some of the things we’ve looked at that we’re proponents of that we’re going to be installing.”
Added Stephen Jones, “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 off-season. 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.”
That’s part of the reason why the Cowboys opted to leave the entire coaching staff in Texas instead of sending them to this week’s Senior Bowl to interview and evaluate college prospects. Ironically, this is where the Cowboys got their first look at Prescott when they coached the North team at the Senior Bowl in 2015.
For now, the coaching staff is focused on discussing philosophy and dissecting other offenses around the league. In other words, spending time on “Dak-friendly” initiatives.
“The offense will have adjustments,” Jerry Jones said. “It will have adjustments by design throughout the season and I think you’ll see an expanded playbook.”