The Dallas Cowboys Need a More Balanced Offensive Attack

Sep 11, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Alfred Morris (46) runs the ball against the New York Giants in the third quarter at AT&T Stadium. New York won 20-19. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 11, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Alfred Morris (46) runs the ball against the New York Giants in the third quarter at AT&T Stadium. New York won 20-19. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

The Dallas Cowboys need to gameplan a more balanced offensive attack in order to keep opposing defenses more honest following their first loss of 2016.

The Dallas Cowboys loss to the New York Giants last Sunday is dedicated to all the fans in Cowboy Nation and members of the coaching staff that thought it was necessary to see if our veteran quarterback Tony Romo knew how to throw a football during preseason. In the comments of my article requesting that preseason games be eliminated, BeirutWedding wrote, “Honestly, one of the things some of us wanted to see was whether or not Romo could take an NFL hit.”

My reply was: “I didn’t need to see if Romo could take a hit. I was looking forward to him handing the ball to Ezekiel Elliott, throwing TD passes to Dez Bryant and beating the Giants at the last second with throws to Jason Witten. If Romo finished the season with 0 sacks, 0 hurries and 0 QB pressures – I could totally live with that. Let Romo hurt his back by lifting the Lombardi trophy!”

I’m betting that Jerry Jones would rather be 1 – 0 during the regular season instead of seeing Romo play during preseason. Romo would’ve gotten us red zone touchdowns and that’s why he’ll get the keys to the spaceship back when he’s ready to return. That’s not a knock against our rookie quarterback Dak Prescott, I think he played well. However, you have to question when the offensive game plan changed.

In 2014, Romo played in 15 games and had 435 passing attempts – that’s an average of 29 times per game. That number of passing attempts gave the Cowboys a balanced offensive attack and kept defenses honest. The offense averaged 30.9 rushing attempts and 29.2 passing attempts during the regular season in 2014.

With the Cowboys best year coming with Romo throwing 29 times per game, it’s questionable why offensive coordinator Scott Linehan had Prescott pass 45 times with 30 rushing attempts to start 2016. We had at least four running backs on the active roster: Lance Dunbar, Ezekiel Elliott, Alfred Morris and Keith Smith. Elliott is our future, but Morris is the better back right now. Linehan needs to balance the rushing attempts (Elliott : 20, Morris : 7) or give Morris the start – especially against his old team.

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There are other things Cowboy Nation would like to see from our offense that shouldn’t be hampered by Prescott’s inexperience. Put Bryant in motion and in the slot like they did last season. The last time I remember seeing Dez in the slot was against the Miami Dolphins last year and it resulted in an easy touchdown. It could be helpful to alter Bryant’s routes and add a few quick slants and wide receiver screens to Dez instead of tight end screens to Jason Witten.

Defenses might call a timeout if Elliott and Morris are in the backfield together. They are both capable runners without being behind a fullback, both can catch passes in the flat and both excel in pass protection. Combine two weapons with screens, play-action passes and draw plays / delayed handoffs and you could punish defenses for days with Prescott scrambling too. This isn’t new – everybody that plays the Madden video game immediately replaces their fullback with the second running back.

I would love Linehan to explain why he lines running backs in the wide receiver position. Most cornerbacks can cover running backs, so it’s not creating a mismatch. You want to force the defense’s linebacker to cover the running back in space and that moves the advantage to the running back. He did this same formation a lot last season with Darren McFadden, but usually has the running back return to the backfield pre-snap. Dunbar is the only running back that runs routes from the wide out position.

Teams are never going to respect Lucky Whitehead as a vertical threat until he’s thrown some deep passes. It seems to me that a player capable of catching punts and kickoffs should be able to catch a deep pass. Having Whitehead and Brice Butler sprinting deep on both seams would occupy both safeties and eliminate safety / corner double teams on Bryant.

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Linehan has moments where he gets safe and predictable with his play selection. He is slow to implement things offensively too. Last year, we didn’t see Whitehead on jet sweeps until after the Week 6 bye. Cowboy Nation shouldn’t hold it’s breath expecting change – but let’s remain optimistic.

Byron Jones Stat Watcher: 1 tackle.


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