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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 offensive line that season, DeMarco Murray 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 Tony Romo and Dez Bryant feasted on defenses through the air as a result of Murray’s production.

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Headlines - 2016 to be A True Test for OC Scott Linehan

The 2016 Dallas Cowboys are on a mission to re-create their winning ways of 2014. Led by their offensive line that season, DeMarco Murray 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 Tony Romo and Dez Bryant feasted on defenses through the air as a result of Murray's production. This Dallas offense was good enough to win the NFC East at 12-4, and march down the field when it mattered the most at the end of the Wild Card Playoffs 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, Darren McFadden 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 Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden, and Lance Dunbar. Jerry Jones would come out and say before the season that he felt the offense, at the running back 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 running game, as the only back that survived the season was McFadden. DMC was force fed the ball with the likes of "Matt Cassel and Kellen Moore 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 Ezekiel Elliott, 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 passing game - 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 Super Bowl 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 Brice Butler, Lucky Whitehead, Darius Jackson, and Cole Beasley 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 Cowboys Nation 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.

Tell us what you think about "2016 To Be A True Test for Scott Linehan" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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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2 Comments
  • http://PigskinHub.com 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.

  • http://PigskinHub.com 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.

Dallas Cowboys

Which Cowboys Benefit From David Irving’s Suspension?

Jess Haynie

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David Irving

While losing David Irving for the first four weeks of 2018 is a bad thing for the Dallas Cowboys defensive line, it does create opportunities for some of the other defensive tackles. Who has the most to gain from Irving's suspension?

Because he was mostly going to be used inside as the 3-technique DT, David's absence will naturally benefit the guys who are best suited to play that role. Thankfully, Dallas isn't lacking for those types of players.

Veteran Tyrone Crawford can use all the playing time he can get. As a likely salary cap casualty next year, Crawford doesn't want to get buried on the depth chart as Dallas focuses on their younger players who project to stick around beyond 2018.

With Irving out, Dallas will likely lean on Tyrone as they often do when someone is missing on the defensive line. With more talent now at defensive end, Crawford was going to be competing with Irving, Maliek Collins, Jihad Ward, and other younger guys for work at tackle.

But now there's a problem, and it's easy to slide Crawford into the 3-tech role that Dallas once envisioned him being a star at. Remember, it was their projection of Tyrone as a breakout DT that got him his big contract to begin with.

Yes, Irving's only gone for four weeks. Dallas will still be giving him work in camp based on the role he should fill for the majority of the season. But that's why a veteran like Tyrone Crawford is a great temporary plug-in, because he doesn't need all of the practice reps to step in and perform.

Maliek Collins

Dallas Cowboys DT Maliek Collins

Another key beneficiary could be third-year DT Maliek Collins. Last season, Collins got stuck playing 1-technique and not getting the same opportunities to make plays and get noticed that he had his rookie year.

But now Dallas has several guys in Jihad Ward, Richard Ash, and Brian Price who can play the 1-tech role, which will hopefully get Collins back where he belongs. Maliek's athleticism belongs a little further away from center, letting him try to take on guards in single coverage.

Collins is dealing with a foot issue now but should be back for the preseason. That's enough time for him to be where he needs to be Week One, provided he's healthy.

How Dallas would balance playing time between Collins and Tyrone Crawford could be a matter of how much they play certain schemes. One could see Collins, the bigger guy, playing more in the base defense and then Crawford being used in passing situations.

There is always a lot of rotation in a Rod Marinelli line, so discussions about playing time can get a little silly. Unless you're a true stud like DeMarcus Lawrence who you don't want to take off the field, the Cowboys like to keep guys fresh.

But that's why this is a big opportunity; David Irving has that stud potential. He's the kind of talent who could keep solid players like Crawford and Collins out of view if he hits his stride.

For the first four weeks, though, Irving will be in the NFL doghouse and Dallas will likely lean on its two most experienced defensive tackles to fill the void. There will be more reps for guys like Datone Jones and Jihad Ward too, but Crawford and Collins have way more skins on the wall

That trust should keep them on the field more while David Irving's suspended, and perhaps beyond.



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Player News

BREAKING: David Irving Suspended For 2nd Consecutive Year

Mauricio Rodriguez

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David Irving

For the second consecutive year, Defensive Lineman David Irving is being suspended for four games by the NFL. This time, the suspension comes after Irving violated the NFL's policy on substance of abuses, as Ian Rapoport reported.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

Cowboys DL David Irving is being suspended 4 games for violating @NFL policy on substance of abuses, sources say. Another big-time D-linemen hit with a suspension for Dallas.

Irving will play for the Dallas Cowboys after the team placed a second-round tender on him earlier in the year. Why no team was interested in picking such a talented defensive tackle for a second round pick is becoming clearer and clearer as the time goes on.

In April, when David Irving got hacked by his former girlfriend one of the tweets that stood out the most was one which said "Wait until you all find about his failed drug tests." Now, we're seeing what the tweet was about.

Irving is a very talented player that could have a great career ahead of him. Of course, with this being the second consecutive year in which he receives a suspension to start the season, one could question how much he wants it.

The Cowboys will play the Panthers, Giants, Seahawks and Lions to start the season. They'll have to do it with one of their most promising defensive players in David Irving.

Here at Inside The Star, we'll keep you updated with this story and every Dallas Cowboys news.

Tell me what you think about "BREAKING: David Irving Suspended For 2nd Consecutive Year" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Offense Finds Rhythm to End Minicamp, Hurns and Gallup Stand Out

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Offense Finds Rhythm to End Minicamp, Hurns and Gallup Stand Out 1

The Dallas Cowboys are back in offseason mode, concluding their OTAs and minicamp from The Star. With a hiatus until training camp, it was important for several high-profile players to make a strong first impression on the 2018 season. From the start of mini camp, these impressions were left mostly by Rod Marinelli's defense and -- more specifically -- Kris Richard's young group of cornerbacks.

Still working through significant change on the offensive side of the ball, the Cowboys did rally on day three under Quarterback Dak Prescott to put out a better performance. The Cowboys coaching staff should love their lasting memories of both FA acquisition Wide Receiver Allen Hurns and rookie Michael Gallup.

There is a strong chance that these two receivers will be the Cowboys starters in Oxnard for training camp. We have heard a lot about the impact new WR Coach Sanjay Lal has had on his group, slowing the game down to focus on route running. This will give the team's rotation of unproven receivers a chance with Prescott, as he can focus on throwing to a 'spot' more often.

One spot that Prescott has struggled to hit in two seasons as the starter in Dallas is the back of the end zone for fade routes. A red zone go-to under Scott Linehan, free agent WR Dez Bryant was often the intended target on these missed passes.

Cowboys Offense Finds Rhythm to End Minicamp, Hurns and Gallup Stand Out

Dallas Cowboys WR Allen Hurns

Less of a route running technician and closer to the mold of a physical player like Bryant, Allen Hurns emerging as the Cowboys #1 option would solve a lot of uncertainty at the WR position. In yesterday's practice, Hurns was able to haul in a perfect ball from Prescott on the fade as he beat Byron Jones.

It's going to take some time for Jones to readjust to playing cornerback, but the vision for Kris Richard of him and Chidobe Awuzie starting on the outside is a great one. In a battle of proven players, Hurns got the best of Jones to spark the Cowboys offense at the right time.

Overall, there should be no reason to panic about (well, really anything from mini camp) the Cowboys offense right now, and plenty of reasons to be excited about what this defense will develop into.

Once the pads come on at training camp, the players the Cowboys are paying to play at an elite level will start to shine, including their newly re-signed Guard Zack Martin -- the highest paid guard in the league now. There are no doubts that the bread and butter for this offense will be handing the ball to Ezekiel Elliott behind this wall of an offensive line.

From this increase in competition in the trenches, we'll also get more meaningful battles along the defensive line. In shorts and helmets for now, the Cowboys secondary was given their chance at mini camp, and came out solid early.

Another player they've struggled to truly corral though is Michael Gallup. Perhaps pressing a bit thanks to his limited opportunities thus far, Jourdan Lewis was taken across the field by Gallup on a misfire from Cooper Rush.

This is nothing new for Gallup however, who's been ahead of the curve on creating the desired separation as a "violent" receiver on the outside.

A steal with the 81st overall pick in this year's draft, Gallup has a long way to go in beating out the likes of Terrance Williams, Cedrick Wilson (limited through this portion of the offseason with injuries), and even Cole Beasley, who's received some reps on the outside.

With both Hurns and Gallup making plays on the Cowboys final practice until late July, it's easy to let the mind wander with possibilities of the Cowboys offense playing at full strength against a defense that might be up for the challenge better than ever compared to year's past.

As always, the practice fields of Oxnard will serve as a battle ground for a young but deep Cowboys team to earn their spots on the 53-man roster, one that surely won't have room for all of the wide receiver hopefuls seen this week in mini camp.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Offense Finds Rhythm to End Minicamp, Hurns and Gallup Stand Out" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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