Aug 25, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys receiver Dwayne Harris (17) dives for a first quarter touchdown against the St Louis Rams in the first quarter at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

The Dallas Cowboys can Benefit from a little Blackjack


Jason Garrett has long been known in NFL coaching circles for his offensive genius. With the September 5th season opener looming on the horizon, Jason Garrett might have to change things up a little bit. In the preseason opener, a missed blocked lead to a busted play that lead to a ‘slightly’ lacerated spleen for Jason Witten. This injury, although it won’t require surgery, will make Jason Garrett change up a large majority of his offensive game plan.

Aug 25, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys fullback Lawrence Vickers prior to the game against the St Louis Rams at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

Last year, Jason Garrett loved to use “12″ personnel. In English, it simply means that there will be one back, two tight ends.  The remaining personnel are covered by the six bodies used for Offensive Line and QB (six total) and the remainder are used for wide receivers. This formula is commonly used to describe formation personnel.  For example, “22″ personnel means two backs, two tightends, and one wide receiver.

As reported by ESPN Dallas’, Tim MacMahon, Garret used “12″ personnel on 53% of his plays last year, (third most in the NFL) and gained an average of 7 yards per play. The reason behind Garrett’s use of the “12″ personnel was easy, formerly departed tight end, Martellus Bennett, was a blocking machine, and Jason Witten was so versatile he could be used as a blocker, a tight end, or a slot receiver.  This lead to immense amount of confusion, and a defensive game “where’s Witten” (formerly “Where’d Waldo” and invented by the Eagles with their creative use of Brian Westbrook).

The news is good, for Cowboys fans.  With Witten not requiring surgery, and his mandatory “sit and wait” timeline officially over, Witten rehabbed with resistance cords; although his status for the season opener one week from today is still uncertain. Backup tight end, John Phillips, has had yet another eye-opening preseason. He is making grab, taking hits, and getting first downs.  He would be credited with another catch if replay officials didn’t botch a “completion of the catch” call on Saturday night.  It was a nice, one-handed grab that sadly didn’t count.

The answer to how Jason Garrett will replace Jason Witten is simple; the Cowboys dont’ need no stinkin’ “12″ personnel.  With arguably the best full back in the NFL, Lawrence Vickers is going to pave the way to ‘pay dirt’.  (For those wondering, Vonta Leach, of the Baltimore Ravens, is the other full back considered in that conversation).  Jason Garrett needs to run “21″ personnel as often as possible.

This will allow several advantages for the Cowboys if Witten cannot play. The first is a viable blocker in the box. Bennett, as I said previously, left in the off season to go play for the New York Giants.  His loss can be accounted for by placing the best full back in the league near the line of scrimmage, and having him attack linebackers.  Putting this additional blocker will also have the Cowboys leaning more on the run game, leading to less opportunity for mistakes from Romo.

The second advantage is that the Cowboys can put the third wide receiver candidate on the field instead of an additional tight end.  Between John Phillips and James Hanna, both are ‘ok’ pass catchers, but none of them have the same ability as a Dwayne Harris, or Kevin Ogletree.  With more viable options in the passing game, the defense will be more spread out, and this will, in turn, aid the run game.

Losing Jason Witten isn’t something the Cowboys will be able to easily over come.  But with a little creativity in Jason Garrett’s playbook, and a willingness to give up his favorite personnel package, “12″ personnel, the Cowboys will have a fighting chance on offense to be among the top five offenses in the NFL.

Tags: Dallas Cowboys Jason Garrett NFC East NFL

  • http://twitter.com/mymules Darin Bratcher

    Hopefully Dallas can clean up @ the poker football table this season with all their talent.

  • californy

    Hey if the boys have to run more a double TE,it because they are hiding the fact this team has a poor offensive line. In the Ram game Tyron got beat 6 times in less than a half of a game against a vertial unknow player in Quinn DE. Unfortunately Hanna is not known for his blocking so it must be Vicker to the rescue.

  • californy

    By the way In no way do I see JG as a NFL genius, if that the case it must be a small circle of people who do. IF JG want to protect Romo he will go more to a running game and short passing game. This still can be very effective. NO and GB use to run this type of offense.

  • ctcowboy1968

    Regarding less “12″ personnel, you got to the right conclusion. Don’t use this formation. It’s not about the TEs. Use the “I” formation and our WR talent more.
    As for JG, he doesn’t even have the G in genius. IMO, he is closer to idiot than smart. He cost this team the playoffs last year. Sure Tony threw those interceptions vs Detroit, but it was JG’s play calling that sucked. Should have been running every play, not passing in the 2nd half. I don’t need to mention the ice your own kicker. Then vs the Pats with the worst pass d in the league, JG insists on running the ball. JG is a total IDIOT!