Dec 2, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys tackle Doug Free (68) and guard Mackenzy Bernadeau (73) and center Ryan Cook (63) and guard Nate Livings (71) and tackle Tyron Smith (77) in the huddle during the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Cowboys Stadium. The Cowboys beat the Eagles 38-33. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys O-Line Not the Weakest Link? (Part 2)


Last week, I discussed how the Dallas Cowboys’ offensive line was not the weakest link (Part One is here). Part one of this article focused on the offensive line’s pass blocking skills and the injuries that occurred. Realizing that quarterback Tony Romo was sacked 36 times after 648 passing attempts caused me to give them some credit for their pass protection prowess. However, Cowboy Nation immediately screamed, “What about the running game?”

Dec 2, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys tackle Doug Free (68) and guard Mackenzy Bernadeau (73) and center Ryan Cook (63) and guard Nate Livings (71) and tackle Tyron Smith (77) in the huddle during the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Cowboys Stadium. The Cowboys beat the Eagles 38-33. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

During the offseason, Jerry Jones fired running back coach Skip Peete the day before firing defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Offensive line coach and offensive play caller, Bill Callahan wasn’t released, but a poor running game is a reflection on both units. Gary Brown is the new running back coach and doesn’t have any prior experience with Callahan. Brown will need to both learn and teach Callahan’s offensive line blocking scheme to our running backs.

Last season, Felix Jones failed the basic conditioning test and had two bad knees. If Felix Jones wasn’t Jerry Jones’ personal first round draft choice from his alma mater Arkansas, there’s a chance that Felix Jones would’ve been released last season. The Cowboys used four running backs last season: DeMarco Murray, Felix Jones, Phillip Tanner and Lance Dunbar.

Player Name

Experience

Attempts

Yards

Average

TD’s

DeMarco Murray 2nd year

161

663

4.1

4

Felix Jones 5th year

111

402

3.6

3

Phillip Tanner 2nd year

25

61

2.4

0

Lance Dunbar Undrafted Rookie

21

75

3.6

0

 

In limited opportunities, I liked what I saw from Lance Dunbar. Dunbar’s 3.6 yard average equaled the Cleveland Browns’ first round draft pick Trent Richardson and former Atlanta Falcons’ star, now free agent Michael Turner.  The Cowboys only attempted 335 rushes last season for 1,265 yards (3.6 yard average).

The low number of rushing attempts won’t be repeated with Bill Callahan calling the plays. Jason Garrett seems to have forgotten that Troy Aikman handed the ball to Emmitt Smith during our Super Bowl years. In 1995, Smith lead the league in rushing, Michael Irvin had 111 receptions and Aikman ranked 13th in passing yards and only threw for 16 touchdowns.

The fault with the running game seems to be on Jason Garrett instead of the offensive line. Yet some things leave me baffled. Why did the Cowboys average less yards per attempt in the second and fourth quarters?

Quarter Attempts Yards Average
First

96

446

4.6

Second

81

215

2.7

Third

96

398

4.1

Fourth

77

197

2.6

 

Only Jason Garrett knows why the Cowboys had 162 passing attempts and only 36 rushing attempts on third downs. Any attempt at offensive balance went completely out the window. On third down, with the Cowboys needing three to eight yards, they attempted 84 passing plays but only seven rushing plays. On those seven rushing plays, they managed to average five yards per carry.

Down

Passing Attempts

Rushing Attempts

First

267

194

Second

221

122

Third

162

36

Fourth

8

3

 

There is also a problem with the direction of the running plays. You do need to mix things up, but you also need to be successful. These numbers indicate that the Cowboys were better when running plays to the left sideline. The right side of the offensive line had the worst average, yet that’s where they ran the ball the most.

Side

Rushing Attempts

Yards

Average

Left Sideline

44

198

4.5

Left Side

79

331

4.2

Middle

84

310

3.7

Right Side

92

285

3.1

Right Sideline

39

163

4.2

NFL offenses averaged 4.23 yards per rushing attempt. That’s with four teams averaging more than five yards per rushing attempt. The Dallas Cowboys averaged 3.6 yards per rushing attempt. That’s only .63 yards less than the league overall average or 1.89 feet or 22.68 inches.

What if Jason Garrett had called less running plays to the right side of the offensive line? What if Jason Garrett had ran the ball more on third downs? What if the Cowboys averaged half a yard more in the second and fourth quarters? What if DeMarco Murray hadn’t missed six games and Felix Jones had two good knees? What if the running backs simply extended their arms and stretched for that extra yard when tackled? What if the offensive line hadn’t suffered a multitude of injuries?

Would it be awesome if the Cowboys were one of the teams that averaged more than five yards per carry? Absolutely! But just to be on par with the league average, we are talking about a distance that’s less than 2 feet. A mere 22.68 inches more per rushing attempt and we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Blame the low rushing average on Jason Garrett’s poor play calling, but the Cowboys’ offensive line was not the weakest link.

Tags: Dallas Cowboys

  • jrcowboy49

    You win football games in the NFL by running the football and stopping
    the run. The Cowboys simply could not run the football last season. That issue
    needed to be addressed in the 2013 draft with an influx of talent on the
    offensive line. The Cowboys passed on a hard to find talent in Round 1 of
    the 2013 draft, were under-compensated for trading their 18th pick, and then
    reached for a position of need when making their selection. That encapsulates
    the NFL draft experience for Cowboy fans when Jones has been in charge. The
    running game will be average at best without addressing RG and RT in the past draft.