Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, and Michael Gallup helped the Cowboys' offense finish in the top 10 in nearly every major offensive category in 2019. All told, the Cowboys' offense finished sixth in the league in scoring, second in passing, fifth in rushing, and second in third-down efficiency. Elliott earned his third Pro Bowl selection, while Cooper (who was also selected to the Pro Bowl) and Gallup each broke the 1,000-yard receiving barrier. Prescott set career highs by throwing for 4,902 yards and 30 touchdowns.
If last season set the bar for what this group of skill position players can do moving forward, the expectation for the Cowboys' offense was further heightened after Oklahoma receiver CeeDee Lamb, one of the top prospects in this year's draft, fell to them with the 17th overall pick. Lamb, a 6-foot-2, 189-target who caught 32 touchdowns in three seasons with the Sooners, will look to replace Randall Cobb, who caught 55 passes for 828 yards and three touchdowns as Dallas' slot receiver in 2019.
Before the Cowboys' offense takes the field in 2020, we decided to rank, by year, the best skill position groups in franchise history, a group that this year's team will surely look to join this time next year. Several of these groups helped contribute to the team's collection of Lombardi Trophies, a distinction Prescott and company are surely hoping to accomplish in 2020.
Honorable Mention: 1968
The '68 Cowboys, fresh off of two consecutive NFL title game losses to the Packers, led the NFL with an average of 30.8 points per game. Leading the way on offense was quarterback Don Meredith, who earned Pro Bowl honors for a third straight year while setting career highs in passing yards and completion percentage. Meredith had a talented supporting cast that included receivers Bob Hayes and Lance Rentzel, who combined to catch 107 passes for 1,918 yards and 16 touchdowns.
That Cowboys were exceptionally deep at running back, led by Pro Bowler Don Perkins. Perkins amassed over 1,000 all-purpose yards that season, while complemented by Craig Baynham, Walt Garrison and Dan Reeves, who combined to amass 1,462 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Dallas' offense was stuck in neutral in the '68 playoffs, however, as four turnovers largely contributed to the Cowboys' loss to the Browns. The loss to Cleveland was the final game in a brilliant career for Meredith, who helped the Cowboys blossom into a championship contender during the franchise's inaugural decade.
The 2007 Cowboys flaunted four Pro Bowlers at the skill positions that included quarterback Tony Romo, running back Marion Barber, tight end Jason Witten, and Hall of Fame receiver Terrell Owens. Dallas' offense that season also included running back Julius Jones and receiver Patrick Crayton, who combined to amass 1,488 yards and nine touchdowns.
In his second season as the Cowboys' starting quarterback, Romo completed 64.4% of his passes while setting Cowboys single-season records with 4,211 yards and 36 touchdowns. Romo often found success throwing to Owens, who tallied 1,355 yards and 15 touchdowns while averaging 16.7 yards per catch. Owens' brilliance was complemented by Witten, who recorded 1,145 receiving yards and nine touchdowns while pacing the Cowboys with 95 receptions. Barber, a hard-nosed runner, scored 12 touchdowns while averaging 4.8 yards per carry.
The Cowboys' offense was seldom stopped during the regular season. It averaged nearly 38 points per game during the first month of the season, and would score at least 28 points 10 times. One of the Cowboys' most memorable performances that season came against the visiting Packers in Week 13. In front of a national TV audience, Romo out-dueled Aaron Rodgers (who entered the game after Brett Favre suffered an injury), throwing four touchdown passes in a 37-27 win.
After helping lead the Cowboys to a 13-3 regular season, Dallas' offense was not able to sustain that level of excellence in the playoffs, as Romo and company, a group that averaged 28.4 points per game, was held to just 17 points in an upset loss to the Giants. New York's defense made a habit of making elite offenses look average during that postseason, as the Giants would later upset the undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.
While Owens was long gone by this point, the Cowboys put up even better numbers in 2014. That season, the Cowboys averaged 29.2 points per game while featuring the talents of Romo, Witten, running back DeMarco Murray and receiver Dez Bryant.
That season, Romo led the NFL by completing 69.9% of his passes. He also threw 34 touchdown passes that included 16 to Bryant, who led the NFL in touchdown receptions. Romo was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time since '07, while Bryant earned All-Pro honors for the first time. Also earning Pro Bowl honors that season was Witten, who caught 64 passes for 703 yards and five touchdowns. Dallas also possessed a talented supporting cast in the form of receivers Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley, who combined to catch 74 passes for 1,041 yards and 12 touchdowns.
An All-Pro that season, Murray, who joined Emmitt Smith as the only players in franchise history to lead the league in rushing, broke Smith's 19-year-old franchise single season rushing record, rushing for 1,845 yards and 13 touchdowns while averaging over 115 yards per game.
Unfortunately for Dallas, the Cowboys' 2014 team is mostly remembered for Bryant's controversial non-catch that contributed to the team's second-round playoff loss to the Packers. Bryant's non-catch helped inspire a rule change that determined that receivers no longer had to "survive the ground" while making a catch. Had this rule been in effect then, Bryant's catch would have counted, and Dallas would have likely advanced to its first NFC title game since 1995.
After doing their part in helping the Cowboys win their second Super Bowl in six years in 1977, the Cowboys' skill position players were even better in 1978. That season, Dallas led the NFL in scoring while capturing its fifth NFC title.
Roger Staubach became the first quarterback in franchise history to break the 3,000-yard passing barrier, and his 25 touchdown passes ranked him amongst the league leaders. While he continued to have a successful partnership with veteran Drew Pearson, Staubach found an immediate connection with rookie Tony Hill, who earned Pro Bowl honors that season while averaging nearly 18 yards per catch. Staubach also utilized the talents of tight end Billy Joe Dupree, who earned Pro Bowl honors after leading the Cowboys with nine touchdown receptions.
Dallas' rushing attack was spearheaded by future Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett, who amassed 1,703 all-purpose yards while scoring nine touchdowns. Dorsett was complemented by veterans Preston Pearson and Robert Newhouse, who combined to tally 1,390 all-purpose yards. Newhouse scored 10 total touchdowns that included a team-high eight on the ground.
The Cowboys' offensive stars continued to shine in the playoffs, as Dallas scored 27 and 28 points respectively in wins over the Falcons and Rams. Facing the vaunted Pittsburgh "Steel Curtain" defense in Super Bowl XIII, Staubach and company more than held their own. Dorsett amassed 140 all-purpose yards while leading both teams in rushing with 96 yards (on just 16 carries). Staubach threw three touchdown passes, which would have been a Super Bowl record if it wasn't for his counterpart that day, Terry Bradshaw, who threw four touchdown passes in the Steelers' 35-31 victory.
Roger Staubach, a full-time starter for the first time in his career, earned his first Pro Bowl selection after going a perfect 10-0 as a starter in the regular season. Staubach's favorite receiver that season was future Hall of Fame receiver Bob Hayes, a former U.S. Olympic gold medalist who used his speed to catch eight touchdowns while averaging 24 yards per catch.
Staubach had two other Hall of Fame targets to throw to in receiver Lance Alworth and tight end Mike Ditka. A six-time All-Pro with the Chargers, Alworth, in search of his first championship ring, signed with the Cowboys -- who lost the previous year's Super Bowl by three points -- before the start of the season. Ditka, a former All-Pro who helped George Halas win his eighth and final NFL title back in 1963, signed with the team before the 1970 campaign.
The Cowboys also possessed a three-headed monster behind Staubach in Duane Thomas, Walt Garrison and Calvin Hill, father of future NBA star Grant Hill. The trio amassed 2,483 all-purpose yards and 26 touchdowns while helping the Cowboys post an 11-3 record.
Dallas' offensive mastery was put on display in Super Bowl VI. Matched up against Miami's formidable "No Name" defense, the Cowboys rushed for a then-Super Bowl record 252 yards, with Thomas leading the way with 95 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. Staubach took home MVP honors after throwing touchdown passes to Alworth and Ditka, as the Cowboys defeated the Dolphins 24-3 to win their first of five Lombardi Trophies.
The Cowboys' Triplets, consisting of Hall of Famers Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin, were at the peak of their respective powers in 1992. That season, Aikman completed 63.8% of his passes (an incredible mark at that time) while setting career highs in passing yards and touchdown passes. Irvin pulled down 78 passes for 1,396 yards and seven scores, while Smith took home the NFL rushing title by amassing 1,713 yards to go with his 18 touchdown runs.
The Triplets were complemented by a talented supporting cast that included receiver Alvin Harper, tight end Jay Novacek and tight end Darryl "Moose" Johnston. Harper caught four touchdowns while averaging 16.1 yards during the regular season. An All-Pro in 1992, Novacek pulled down 68 passes with six touchdowns. Johnston, arguably the best fullback of his era, consistently made room for Smith while also offering sturdy protection for Aikman.
Dallas' explosive offense put on a show in Super Bowl XXVII. After the Bills jumped out to an early lead, Aikman responded by throwing three touchdown passes -- one to Novacek and two to Irvin -- to help give the Cowboys a 28-10 halftime lead. Smith, who helped set up one of Aikman's touchdown passes with a 38-yard run, put the game on ice with his 10-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Harper, who predicted before the game that he would score the game-winning touchdown, caught a 46-yard touchdown pass at the start of the fourth quarter that essentially put the game out of reach.
When the dust settled, the Cowboys scored a whopping 52 points, the second-highest total in Super Bowl history. Smith became the first rushing champion to win the Super Bowl, while Aikman earned MVP honors after completing 22 of 30 passes for 273 yards and four touchdowns.