Three things the Cowboys offense must do to beat New England


I’m not here this week to vent about the Dallas Cowboys losing to the New Orleans Saints in overtime. I would like to begin by stating that we should be undefeated. I’m even willing to go on record to say that we should defeat the New England Patriots. There’s a few things that are missing from last year’s version of our Cowboys offense and I’m not talking about quarterback Tony Romo, wide receiver Dez Bryant or running back DeMarco Murray.

I’ll start by saying that we are missing two “hans”. The first of which is former offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Bill Callahan. Callahan is now offensive line coach of our division rival – the Washington Redskins. Four weeks into the regular season, the Redskins are currently averaging 5.4 yards per attempt. That trumps the Cowboys average of 4.6 rushing yards per attempt.

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I credit the difference to Callahan because the Redskins offensive line isn’t as talented as ours. They only have two first round picks draft picks leading the way for running backs Alfred Morris and Matt Jones. Reports from Valley Ranch stated that Callahan’s replacement Frank Pollack would be up to the task of coaching our offensive line. That hasn’t been the case, in fact, the offensive line as a group seems to have regressed.

Last year, the offensive line opened up holes that made owner / GM Jerry Jones believe he could gain three yards per carry before contact. This year, you could put two camels through the eye of a needle and have more room than running back Joseph Randle trying to gain a yard on third and one. It’s the offensive line and they need to play better for the running backs and quarterback Brandon Weeden.

The second “hans”, we still possess but he hasn’t been himself lately and definitely needs a Snickers bar. I’m calling out offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. Point blank, his plays have been basic and unimaginative. I’m not taking about trick plays, but I’ve seen better designed schemes at my son’s Pop Warner football games.

Take the last game against the Saints. Weeden takes the snap and hands off to Darren McFadden. The offensive line is going left, the defensive line is going left, the linebackers are racing to the left and then McFadden sprints left. After a minimum gain, they do the same thing to the right. The running back may have cut-back, but there wasn’t a designed counter play. No pulling guards and tackles getting clean blocks on second level defenders. The running backs never took a jab-step in the opposite direction. Misdirection kills an aggressive defense.

Another item missing from the Cowboys playbook was the play action. The Cowboys ran play action one time. The result of the play was a 67 yard bomb to wide receiver Brice Butler. With one catch, Butler has nearly double the total receiving yards with the Cowboys than two year veteran Devin Street (36 yards) despite being active for 20 games. What’s crazy is that the Cowboys never went back to play action.

Against the Saints, the Dallas Cowboys offense left meat on the bone like a vegan during Thanksgiving dinner. With Linehan’s play calling and the blocking of the offensive line, poor Weeden was at the mercy of the opponent’s defense. The entire game it was obvious if the Cowboys were going to run or pass with the exception of the one play action play.

I’m not mistaking Weeden for Tony Romo at all. Behind the same offensive line and without Dez Bryant, Romo takes the snap, picks the ball up off the turf, pats the ball twice, does the spin move (for no reason), points down field, pays for items with Visa Checkout and throws a strike to Jason Witten for the game winning touchdown. Fans of the New York Giants claim that play lasted 8 minutes.

Weeden takes the snap and looks left, continues looking left, then lays down in the fetal position and waits for the referee to blow the whistle. The kid can throw the football but he took three untimely sacks. When they used play action to slow down the pass rush, Weeden dropped it down the sideline from a clean pocket and looked like he “coulda been a contender“.

It’s going to take a minute to find the moment that made Weeden uncomfortable in the pocket. I’m sure he was the quarterback of the Cleveland Browns and playing against either the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Baltimore Ravens. There’s a moment when he dropped back to pass and was crushed by possibly Ray Lewis, Troy Polamalu or James Harrison. That hit that made him uncomfortable in the pocket because it shows. Weeden lacks the poise and pocket presence that’s visible in other quarterbacks that trust their offensive line. To make Weeden stand tall in the pocket, he has to feel untouchable. Linehan and the offensive line must provide him a clean pocket.

These are minor things: misdirection in the running game, play action passes and helping Weeden feel comfortable in the pocket. For some reason, these things have disappeared once Romo was injured. Our vanilla offense has averaged 24 points in two games. Nothing’s wrong with vanilla, I believe you can win games with vanilla. It’s the number one, highest selling ice cream flavor for a reason. But every now and then, you gotta add some sprinkles on top of the vanilla. It will be those sprinkles that help the Cowboys defeat the New England Patriots this Sunday.



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