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2016 To Be A True Test for Scott Linehan

The 2016 Dallas Cowboys are on a mission to re-create their winning ways of 2014. Led by their that season, led the league with 1,845 rushing yards.

Murray's dominance made things easy for Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan, as he called his number to carry the football about 24 times a game on average (24.5).

When Murray wasn't churning out yards on the ground, a healthy and feasted on defenses through the air as a result of Murray's production. This Dallas offense was good enough to win the at 12-4, and march down the field when it mattered the most at the end of the to defeat the Lions and send the Cowboys to Green Bay.

In the Divisional Playoffs, the offense should have again had their signature moment, as Romo and Bryant channeled their inner Aikman and Irvin on a late fourth-quarter, fourth down attempt that was wrongly reversed from a goal-line reception to an incomplete pass.

This ended the 2014 season, and sent the Cowboys into a tailspin that few saw coming in 2015. Suffering through the bulk of their 16 game season without Tony Romo or Dez Bryant, became the team's best weapon week in and week out.

This was far from the expectation fans set entering the season, as the departure of Murray left Linehan with , Darren McFadden, and . would come out and say before the season that he felt the offense, at the position, was better off than it was with Murray – since the combination of all three backs brought more to the table.

Almost unfairly, we would never get to see how Linehan planned on utilizing these three to emulate the 2014 , as the only back that survived the season was McFadden. DMC was force fed the ball with the likes of “ and starting at QB, and was able to have some success once the Cowboys shifted their entire running game philosophy away from the zone blocking scheme.

The blessing in disguise from this season ended up being , who was in a prime position to be grabbed by the Cowboys with their 4th overall pick. Elliott has a chance to be Linehan's new Swiss army knife in the backfield, as the entirety of the Cowboys staff agreed that adding one solidified player on offense like Elliott – who can run the ball in the zone scheme, catch the ball out of the backfield, and block in the – could have huge implications for the entire squad.

Scott Linehan will certainly be putting Elliott to the test right away, as the Cowboys have little time to waste if they want to build a contending team with Romo as the starting QB.

The danger of trying to do this simply through turning the clock back to 2014 is that the word is out on exactly what the Dallas Cowboys did to be so successful. While the offensive line is still in place, opposing defensive coordinators are going to be diving into the film to try to exploit any weaknesses they may see.

To counter this, it will be up to Linehan to creatively use all of his weapons in place. Elliott, Bryant, and Romo will get the bulk of the attention, but players like , , , and will be just as important in keeping this offense fresh and creative for Linehan.

If Scott Linehan can adjust to make Darren McFadden the fourth best rusher in the league, behind the same offensive line that Zeke Elliott will run behind, there should be no excuses for his offense to put up very many clunkers this season.

The 2014 Cowboys were a joy to watch, and is eager to see that same type of team take the field in 2016 after what we witnessed in 2015. The key for this to happen?

Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan.

Sean Martin

Written by Sean Martin

Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

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Zac Fields

This year is definitely crucial for the future of Scott Linehan, I think. The Cowboys have made a substantial investment in replicating the tools he had to work with in 2014 and in fact, I would argue Zeke Elliott is very likely to be better than DeMarco Murray in terms of ability. It is now up to Linehan to prove that 2014 wasn't a fluke.

I was disappointed in the Cowboys' inability to have a better showing in 2015 in Romo's absence. To this day, I still believe Matt Cassell is a fine backup quarterback, and Brandon Weeden is substantially better than he showed as well. Dez Bryant's absence didn't help matters but I think Linehan could have done a better job of leveraging Cassell and Weeden's abilities. Instead, it seemed like he used the injuries as an excuse to dial down the offense in hopes of minimizing mistakes.

It certainly left me with a bad taste in my mouth about his ability to be a great OC when the environment isn't perfect (which, it often isn't). I would argue that 2016 could be a "make or break" year for Linehan. Either the offense will be fantastic, or someone else will be calling plays in 2017.

Zac Fields

This year is definitely crucial for the future of Scott Linehan, I think. The Cowboys have made a substantial investment in replicating the tools he had to work with in 2014 and in fact, I would argue Zeke Elliott is very likely to be better than DeMarco Murray in terms of ability. It is now up to Linehan to prove that 2014 wasn't a fluke.

I was disappointed in the Cowboys' inability to have a better showing in 2015 in Romo's absence. To this day, I still believe Matt Cassell is a fine backup quarterback, and Brandon Weeden is substantially better than he showed as well. Dez Bryant's absence didn't help matters but I think Linehan could have done a better job of leveraging Cassell and Weeden's abilities. Instead, it seemed like he used the injuries as an excuse to dial down the offense in hopes of minimizing mistakes.

It certainly left me with a bad taste in my mouth about his ability to be a great OC when the environment isn't perfect (which, it often isn't). I would argue that 2016 could be a "make or break" year for Linehan. Either the offense will be fantastic, or someone else will be calling plays in 2017.

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