Red zone woes have to be fixed for Cowboys

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red zone
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) celebrates his touchdown against the New Orleans Saints with quarterback Dak Prescott (4) in the first half of an NFL football game, in Arlington, Texas, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

The Dallas Cowboys struggled in the red zone in 2018, and the situation has to be an area the club improves in their NFC East title defense.

Dallas produced a 48.0 percent red zone conversion rate last year, which was fourth-lowest in the NFL. The Cowboys were tied with the Minnesota Vikings for 16th-most red zone trips with 50, but had the ninth-fewest touchdowns with 24. The Cowboys and Houston Texans (tied for fifth-fewest at 50 percent) were the only playoff teams in the bottom-10 of red zone conversions.

Some of the Cowboys’ red zone problems had to do with the utilization of running back Ezekiel Elliott. While Elliott finished the season as the NFL’s rushing champion for the second time in his three-year career, his five red zone rushing touchdowns were tied with New England Patriots running back Sony Michel for the lowest in the NFL among backs with at least 100 carries inside the 20-yard line.

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Incidentally, Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott had a higher number of red area rushing touchdowns than did Elliott, which isn’t a problem because the Cowboys are using one of Prescott’s best attributes, his size and agility, to get six. It is no coincidence that the Cowboys were 5-1 in games where Prescott scored a rushing touchdown inside the 20-yard line. The only game they lost was the initial bout with Washington at FedEx Field, a bizarre game that ended with a missed field goal. Every other game that Prescott scored inside the 20-yard line, Dallas prevailed.

Coach Jason Garrett is on the last year of his contract, and he has turned the keys to the offense over to first-year offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. While the organization has qualms about Prescott as a runner, they need to take a few antiemetics when it comes to Prescott running inside the red zone. The 2019 Cowboys have to overcome their problems scoring touchdowns from inside the 20-yard line by any means necessary.