The Dallas Cowboys have the weapons on offense that scare defensive coaches but one formation makes them almost impossible to defend.
The Dallas Cowboys have the names on offense but it was a struggle for the team at times last year to put up points on the board. The offense’s identity in the past was to play ball control and have the defense play as least as possible.
Now that the Dallas Cowboys have a new coaching staff, I wonder how much of the offense will remain the same but more importantly, what will be the identity on offense? If I could offer any advice, my suggestion would be to play as much 11 personnel as possible.
For those who aren’t familiar, 11 personnel, put as simple as you can, is when you remove the fullback from a traditional formation and add in another receiver. So that means three receivers, which presumably would be Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb.
The lone running back would be Ezekiel Elliott and the tight end would be Blake Jarwin with quarterback Dak Prescott obviously commanding the ship. The thing about 11 personnel is that the formations could all look the same but run different plays or line up differently and use the same concepts.
Whether you want Lamb or Cooper in the slot, Jarwin inline, or split out wide, the defense has to account where everyone is lined up. The defense now has to decide if they want one or two defensive backs which makes them vulnerable to the run. A linebacker covering Blake Jarwin is a matchup I am all for.
A great example of this package would be the Los Angeles Rams. In 2018, the year the Rams went to the Super Bowl, the team ran over 90% of their plays in 11 personnel according to NFL’s Next Gen Stats. Who could forget when their two-headed rushing attack of Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson ran all over this Dallas Cowboys defense in the divisional round.
That kind of production only adds fuel to what could be a play-action happy offense where Dak can either throw from a play-action play or run more and slides safely after nice pickups if the defense doesn’t bite. Dak running more in this offense only makes him a much scarier player.
I can say without a doubt that this current Dallas Cowboys wide receiver trio is better than the Rams trio of 2018. I can also add in the fact that Zeke is a better running back than Todd Gurley. Add in a running Dak Prescott and a dash of Blake Jarwin and Tony Pollard and the Dallas Cowboys could be a devastating offense.
Having Elliott running into lighter boxes with the fear of the quarter bootleg off of the play-action certainly makes Zeke a nightmare to plan for. Don’t forget that Pollard can also benefit from this type of formation creating a two-headed monster at tailback for the Cowboys.
Last year the Dallas Cowboys ran 11 personnel 67% of the time according to NFL Networks Micheal Fabiano but the issue was how effective was tight end Jason Witten? In this package, the tight end could either play on the line or split out wide. I don’t want to type this but Witten offered very little split out wide.
I think Blake Jarwin could explode in this offense if he could become more of a functional blocker. Play action block and release would make the defenders have to read the play rather than simply blow right past Jarwin en route to a tackle for loss.
How much can Dak Prescott improve running 11 personnel as their primary formation?
Now let’s talk about commanding the ship. Rams quarterback Jared Goff looked like a lost puppy his rookie year under head coach Jeff Fisher. In his second year under Sean McVay, Goff looked like a first-round quarterback. The reason is Jared Goff makes simple throws to most of his receivers based off of play-action 11 personnel grouping.
Take a look at the Dallas Cowboys-Rams Week 15 matchup last season. The Rams ran 11 personnel only 72% of the time last year. In this game. Goff and the Rams were playing from behind meaning that Goff had much more straight dropbacks than usual. Goff went 33-51 and had 284 yards passing.
Goff has still not progressed as a straight dropback passer and relies on this grouping more than we realize. This gets me to my point. Dak Prescott is an above-average straight dropback passer. If the Dallas Cowboys are behind, he gives the Cowboys more of a chance than Goff gives the Rams.
The best part of this formation is that it gets Dak moving in the pocket which gives this offense a different dynamic that the opponent has to account for. It also creates easier passes and creates space for receivers in their crossing routes.
Does everyone remember the Jeff Heath divisional round play where Jared Goff ran for a first down and eliminated the Dallas Cowboys from the 2018 playoffs? Now envision Dak Prescott doing that with the type of runner he is compared to Goff. It’s a different animal if you ask me.
If the Dallas Cowboys can play upwards of 85% of their plays out of this grouping, I believe that the Dallas Cowboys can have similar results like the 2018 Rams. Without the Super Bowl loss of course.