Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman, who led the Dallas Cowboys to three Super Bowl titles, has watched his former team play in two of their first three games as a member of the FOX broadcasting crew, the opening loss to the Carolina Panthers and last Sunday’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Aikman says the Cowboys have a strong running game and play good defense but they will continue to struggle to win games because of their inept passing game in a league that favors the pass offenses.
The Cowboys have the league’s 31st ranked pass offense and quarterback Dak Prescott has failed to pass for over 200 yards in each of the first three games and nine of the last 11 dating back to last season.
“When they have to get in situations where they have to throw the football it’s a game that they struggle to play,” Aikman said during a FOX conference call leading up to Thursday’s game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Minnesota Vikings. “They are going to continue to have a hard time beating good teams until that part of the game gets better. This coach speak of running the football and stopping that’s been pounded into everybody’s head sounds great but it’s not realistic to the game that is being played today. You have to be able to make plays in the passing game in order to win consistently.”
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Aikman says Prescott has not been great and can play better. But he said the problems for the Cowboys are bigger than the quarterback.
He says there is a lack of chemistry and cohesiveness with the passing game because they have so many new receivers with limited time together because of injuries and a lack of time together in training camp and the decision to rest starters in the preseason.
”A lot of new faces. Guys didn’t play. They had some injuries. They rested some players. Dak took three weeks off before the season opener,” Aikman said. “It’s just a group that has not yet come together. And when it doesn’t come together then you start to press and that doesn’t help anything. Right now it’s been really hard on them.”
Aikman also blamed a decline in play from the offensive line and the receivers not always beating one-on-one coverage. He said solving the problems include more than just better play from Prescott.
“I think Dak certainly can play better,” Aikman said. “There have been opportunities for him in some games and he’s missed those opportunities. He’s talked about it. He has been pressing a little bit. The offensive line has not protected him as well as they have in previous years. There have been things down the field and the protection has not held up. And then at times receivers have had a hard time shaking one-on-one coverage. I think it’s a lot of things. I would not say hey if Dak was better they would be doing so much better. I don’t agree with that. I think it’s a collection of everything that is going on to where they have not been able to get on the same page.”
Aikman does think the Cowboys have the right coaches to get things turned around but he said it will take more than just calling different plays.
To that end, Aikman addressed his on-air, allegedly arm-chair quarterback, criticism of the coaches for a lack imagination against the Panthers.
“Living in Dallas I am certainly familiar with the organization and what the intentions were,” Aikman said. “The discussion was maybe we don’t have a No. 1 guy but we have some really good receivers and all these guys can do a lot of different things and we can use them in a lot of different areas. We don’t have to just put Dez on the outside and line up there. We can move all these players.
“So we are in the game and Tavon Austin, they said he might be in the backfield. He might be in the slot, might be lined up outside. And none of that was happening so that was my comment. It wasn’t that they lacked imagination. It was I heard these things. I am not seeing them. I am not seeing the imagination I heard I was going to see when those players were brought in. So that was that. Do these coaches have the creativity or are they the people who can get it done? Yeah, absolutely they are. Scott Linehan has been doing it a long time. Jason has been around a lot of good football and different kinds of players. They have the imagination and the creativity to do it. But there is more to offensive football than simply saying ‘let’s do this and let’s do that’.”