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3 Ways Scott Linehan Can Get Cowboys Offense Back On Track

Brian Martin

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The Dallas Cowboys are coming of one of their worst performances that I have personally witnessed. There is no need to sugarcoat things, the Denver Broncos simply made the Cowboys look like they were the Cleveland Browns. Fortunately, I think we will see a bounce back performance this week against the Arizona Cardinals and I believe offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will have a lot to do with that.

Arguably the most surprising thing last week for the Cowboys was how god-awful the offense performed against the Denver Broncos. It didn't matter if they were trying to run or pass the ball, the Broncos seemed to have the answer for everything. This is simply unacceptable, especially with all the firepower the Cowboys have on offense.

I personally believe the playcalling needs to improve and that's where Scott Linehan comes in. Linehan has far too many weapons at his disposal for any defense in the NFL to shut them down the way the Broncos did last week. Luckily, I  believe there are 3 ways he can get the Cowboys offense back on track this week.

QB Dak Prescott

(AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

Help Dak Prescott Settle In Early

It's no secret that QB Dak Prescott has been uncharacteristically inaccurate in the first two weeks of the 2017 season. It's really nothing to be too alarmed about considering the Dallas Cowboys have played two really good defenses who have Pro Bowl caliber cornerbacks, but it still seems as if his confidence is just a little bit off. Fortunately, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan should be able to help with that.

Dak Prescott seems to struggle the most with his accuracy early in the game, at least these first two games anyway. It seems take him a little while to settle down, so I think Linehan would be wise to help him settle in early. Linehan can do that by designing some easy completions early on to build Prescott's confidence. This is not a new concept/idea, but it means the playcalling needs to improve or the execution, possibly both.

With all of the weapons the Dallas Cowboys currently have on the roster this shouldn't be a problem. It could be a simple dump off pass to Ezekiel Elliott or even a high percentage throw on an intermediate pass to Cole Beasley. Then again, Jason Witten has been the most consistent so far this season and could be the beneficiary. My point is there are endless possibilities, but Scott Linehan definitely needs to do a better job in order to help Prescott get going early.

Find Mismatches For Dez Bryant

This may surprise a lot of you since there are those among you who believe Dez Bryant isn't the player he once was, but I assure you that's inaccurate. I've been hearing far too often that the Dallas Cowboys need to trade or cut Bryant because he's not worth the money he is making. But, OC Scott Linehan has been doing him a disservice with his playcalling.

The way that Dez Bryant has been utilized in these first two games of 2017 season really plays right into the hands of the opposing defenses. He has had to go up against Pro Bowl caliber CBs against both the Giants and Broncos, and has been at a disadvantage from the get-go. Linehan has been lining him up out wide where the CB can get their hands on #88 and be physical/handsy before he can even get into his route.

Dez Bryant would be much better utilized on the move or out of the slot where he can actually use his own physicality to his advantage. If Linehan were able to get the ball to Bryant on the move on crossing routes, it would be a huge advantage to the entire offense. Instead we are seeing a lot of 50/50 contested passes thrown his way or back shoulder fades. There just needs to be more passes thrown his way that have a higher chance of being completed.

RB Ezekiel Elliott

RB Ezekiel Elliott

Create More Opportunities For Ezekiel Elliott

We heard all off-season that the Dallas Cowboys were planning to use Ezekiel Elliott more in both the running and passing game, but that has yet to come to fruition. Now, I understand the Cowboys have gone up against two pretty good defenses, but there have been missed opportunities for Elliott, especially in the passing game.

Personally, I was shocked that Scott Linehan didn't try to get Elliot the ball out in space against the Broncos last week. The Broncos defense completely sold out to shut down the running game for the Cowboys, and it worked. But, with all of the Broncos defenders focusing on the run, there were still opportunities to get Elliott the ball in the passing game.

There were several instances where there was just one defender covering Elliot in the passing game. I don't know about you, but I like the odds of Elliott beating that one defender and picking up a good chunk of yards. They were just simple dump off/swing passes, but it would've helped Elliott get more involved and put the Broncos defense on their heels a little bit more.

Can Scott Linehan turn things around for the Cowboys offense?



Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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24 Comments
  • dallas1966

    Brian, You’re on fire. It appears that Linehan is in a slump and opposing defensive coordinator have figured the Cowboys offensive tendencies. It’s time for Linehan to mix it up, starting with the Cardinals on Monday Night, to get the Cowboys offense back on track and. Especially, with Dak, bringing him back to his 2016 form.

    • Brian Martin

      Thanks for the compliment. When you get punched in the mouth you only have two choices. You can either fight back or lay down. The Cowboys got punched in the mouth last week and I’m expecting them to fight back against the Cardinals. Hopefully, Linehan fights back as well.

  • Hobbes49

    Totally agree with you Brian. I also think it would be wise for them not to target Dez so much early. Let the other guys carry the weight early, so the defense has to make adjustments to stop it, then set Dez loose later.

    • Brian Martin

      I don’t have a problem with them targeting Bryant early. I have a problem with the kind of targets he’s seeing. Most of the targets he’s receiving are low percentage completions. I would like to see him targeted early with high percentage passes. i.e. slants, crossing routes, comebacks, etc.

      • Hobbes49

        I definitely agree with that. It just feels like if we got Beasley and Williams more involved earlier, it wold better open up the offense for Dez and Zeke.

        • Brian Martin

          The same can be said for getting Dez and Zeke started earlier. I think Linehan and Prescott just need to do a better job of spreading the ball around so that defenses can’t focus in on one specific player/area.

  • Steve Johnson

    Felt they trying to force the ball to Dez.

    • Brian Martin

      I think it kinda feels that way because of the kind of passes thrown to him. So far this season the majority of the passes have a low percentage chance of being completed. 50/50 passes and back shoulder fades. I think they need to simplify things and try and get him more easily completed passes. Slants and crossing routes would be a good place to start.

      • Don

        Keep in mind too, every time Dez comes to the huddle he’s saying I’m open get me the ball..That probably screws with Daks head. I know he did that to Tony as well

  • John Horn

    I agree with the above statement, but there is one thing that I see is a problem. Over 50% of offensive plays are in spread, empty or shot gun formation with the focus on the shot gun formation. Prescott to me is better when he is under center. Defense want be able to read so early.

    • Brian Martin

      I partially agree. I do believe Prescott is better under center, but I think that’s because opposing defenses have to respect the run/play action passes more. Prescott is really good with his ball fakes, which is why play action is so effective. It’s more difficult to do when in shotgun, but that will continue to be a big part of their offense.

  • Cellphone Chris

    Is it just me, or have we not seen many plays with a FB lead blocking for Elliott?

    • Brian Martin

      It’s not just you. The Cowboys have seemed to believe it has been best to try to spread out the defenses they have faced so far. It is kind of a surprise, because I believed Keith Smith would be involved more on offense this season. Maybe we see more of him this week.

      • Cellphone Chris

        We did see more I formation!

        • Brian Martin

          I’m pretty sure it will be a game by game decision. I think Elliott is probably best as a single back, but I think we could see more I formation in short yardage situations.

  • Jonathan Young

    Ryan Switzer, Cole Beasley, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten,
    Run double slots. You can have Cole and Ryan on the same side and put Dez in the slot and Jason on the other side.
    Would love to see Ryan play on offense some/more!!!

    • Brian Martin

      There are endless possibilities of how creative Linehan can get with all of the offensive weapons at his disposal. Hopefully we start to see that soon, because something needs to change.

  • Tim Rafferty

    Brien , so glad I refound this site , absolutely love your articles and honest assessment of issues facing our team . Keep up the great work !! Thanks again for all you do man . As a Rabbit Cowboys fan and living outside of Boston , it’s refreshing to to have this site to help my obsession… Everything COWBOYS!!!

    • Brian Martin

      Tim, thank you for your kind words. I’m glad you found our site again also. Even though I’m a Dallas Cowboys fan, I try not to sugarcoat things too much. It’s a little difficult sometimes not to be biased, but I think my readers appreciated. Thanks again and please continue to read our articles.

  • Spoonydawg

    Maybe Dak is not as Good as we all thought.. after all he was a 4th round pick..

    • Brian Martin

      Prescott is going to be just fine. He’s had to face two really good defensive teams to start out the 2017 season. Both secondaries of the Giants and Broncos have Pro Bowl caliber CBs, but that won’t be the case for the rest of the season. You have to remember, Prescott is still developing/learning. He didn’t have the benefit of sitting behind a vet QB for a year or two like Tony Romo. He was thrust into action almost immediately with very little time to prepare. I think he will be just fine.

  • Spoonydawg

    Maybe the game has passed scott by, he’s not creative enough. its pretty obvious he has no clue as to maximize dez talents, he will probably let #10 go to waste as well…look what Carolina is doing with their little rookie RB… swing passes eat…. won’t happen but maybe a time for a change,,,
    .. but i think Scott needs to step up…

    • Brian Martin

      I keep hearing everyone want to blame Jason Garrett. A lot of people keep telling me that it’s Jason Garrett’s offensive system and Scott Linehan is just calling the plays. So, it’s refreshing to hear from someone else that Linehan might just be the problem. And by the way, I agree with you. Linehan either needs to step up or ship out. I would personally like to see a new OC.

      • Spoonydawg

        Agreed

Game Notes

Cowboys, Falcons Week 11 Injury Report

Jess Haynie

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Zack Martin

The Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons are both 4-5 and playing to keep their seasons alive. It's a mutual must-win game, and both will have to try to win it without some key players. Once again, we look at this week's injury reports.

Let's begin with your Cowboys, whose report is getting longer as the season wears on:

Dallas Cowboys

  • WR Tavon Austin (groin) - OUT
  • DE Taco Charlton (shoulder) - OUT
  • DT David Irving (ankle) - OUT
  • DT Daniel Ross (calf) - OUT
  • LB Sean Lee (hamstring) - OUT
  • DT Antwaun Woods (concussion) - Doubtful
  • G Zack Martin (knee) - Questionable
  • G Connor Williams (knee) - Questionable
  • DT Maliek Collins (knee) - Questionable
  • LB Joe Thomas (foot) - Questionable

The biggest news is the guy who won't miss tomorrow's game; All-Pro guard Zack Martin is expected to play despite his knee injury from last Sunday night. The Cowboys, already dealing with Travis Frederick's absence and now health issues at left guard, could ill afford to go without Martin in such a pivotal game.

Even if he was healthy, rookie Connor Williams might have a hard time getting in the game. Backup Xavier Su'a-Filo looked like an experienced former second-round pick last week, and he may be the better player for now.

The defensive line has been hit hard, particularly in the middle. With Irving and Ross out, Woods doubtful, and Collins uncertain, Dallas called up DT Christian Ringo from the practice squad. They will also be without Taco Charlton, who could play inside some. Veteran Caraun Reid will be seeing a lot of playing time.

Sean Lee's ongoing absence has become almost an afterthought now with the stellar play of Leighton Vander Esch. We've seen in the past when missing Lee meant disaster on defense, but Dallas' first-round rookie has helped mitigate the damage.

Atlanta Falcons

  • LB Deion Jones (foot) - OUT

It's a short list for Atlanta, but the one name on it is a big one. Arguably the team's best defensive player, Deion Jones will miss the game with a foot injury.

The Falcons' injury issues have been more in players suffering season-ending injuries. Both starting guards, Andy Levitre and Brandon Fusco, are on injured reserve. Star running back Devonta Freeman is also there, and those losses help explain Atlanta's 30th-ranked rushing offense.

Both starting safeties are also on IR; Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal. Atlanta has one of the league's worst passing defense this year without them, ranking 30th in yards allowed and 28th in opponent passer rating.

So yes, the Falcons injury report compared to the Cowboys' may raise some eyebrows. But in terms of who has most of their key guys, Dallas is arguably still better off.



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Dallas Cowboys

4 Best Candidates for Cowboys’ Next Offensive Coordinator

Shane Carter

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Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan

The big word around the Dallas Cowboys lately is about Jason Garrett and the future of the head coaching job. Some have speculated that either Quarterback Dak Prescott or Jason Garrett will get axed, and the other will stay.

Owner Jerry Jones was quoted on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas about his young quarterback, putting to bed at least half of the conflict.

"Dak is the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. He’s young and he’s going to get extended."

This shut the door on the idea of Prescott being replaced.

As far as Jason Garrett? Jerry Jones has been less than committed.

"I’m not in the business of backing anybody; the head coach, or offensive coordinator, I just don’t back them publicly." Jerry Jones said.

So it seems that Jason Garrett’s future is up in the air.

But what about offensive coordinator Scott Linehan? What’s held the Cowboys back this year has been the offense, and a lot of it can be contributed to their predictable play calling and inability to adapt to today’s game and its current players.

Whether or not Jason Garrett retains his job, Scott Linehan’s job doesn’t seem near as secure. His scheme doesn’t really mesh with Dak Prescott and how the offense could look. There’s only so many times you can run a three tight end set and not get furious.

Cowboys fans may want Garrett gone but they might have to settle for a new offensive coordinator instead.

The good news is that there are many options out there. Options that not only could work well with Dak Prescott, but could bring the Cowboys offense into the 2010s.

Shane Waldron

Jerry Jones once said how the Cowboys offense was like the LA Rams. If they are able to sign their Co-Offensive Coordinator, then they could be.

When Matt LaFleur left to become the Tennessee Titans OC, the job became a shared job between Waldron and Aaron Kromer. I wonder if Waldron would rather have the job all to himself?

What makes Waldron so appealing is he is also the Rams tight ends coach and passing game coordinator. Those are two areas where the Rams excel and where the Cowboys need help.

Teams are going to start copying the offensive juggernauts of the NFL and the Rams are definitely one of them. The Cowboys should do themselves a favor and get out in front before other teams beat them to it.

Scott Turner

Cam Newton is having one of his best seasons. Not only is he an MVP candidate but he’s set to have career highs in completion percentage and QBR, as well as a career low in interceptions. Cam Newton is a very talented quarterback but some of this has to be attributed to his new Quarterback Coach, Scott Turner.

The son of Norv Turner, Scott has seemingly helped mold Cam into a more accurate passer without compromising who Cam Newton is as an athletic quarterback. That has Dak Prescott written all over it.

He's got NFL lineage and a new, scary Cam Newton to add to his resume. He may not have as impressive a track record as others on here but he looks like he could be a chip off the old block and get the Cowboys where they need to be going.

Lincoln Riley

A popular head coach candidate, Lincoln Riley has shown his creativity and offensive innovation during his short time as Oklahoma’s head coach. It’s uncertain if he’ll get any real offers to be a head coach, but as an OC, he would be a serious grab.

Everyone has seen the work he’s done with Baker Mayfield and now Kyler Murray. How he’s able to incorporate different formations to open up the pass game and have the run game seem unstoppable. Just imagine what he could do with the weapons he would have at his disposal in Dallas.

It's likely that Lincoln Riley is a hot commodity for a head coach position, especially in Cleveland where he could reunite with Baker Mayfield. That shouldn’t stop the Cowboys from trying to lure him to Dallas, though. Lincoln Riley could be the real missing piece that Dallas has been looking for.

Eric Bieniemy

Another product of Andy Reid, Eric Bieniemy is the offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs. The former running backs coach has the experience under Andy Reid on not only how to run an offense but to use your weapons at your disposal to the fullest.

Maybe I’m over-hyping this man but when you see the work he helped put in with Pat Mahomes and how he uses those weapons around him, it makes me imagine what he can do for the Cowboy offense.

The team has no shortage of weapons and could benefit greatly from a guy like this.

If the Chiefs make it past their first playoff game, Bieniemy could become a more attractive name when it comes time for new head coaches. However, if Jerry Jones comes calling and the right offer is met, who’s to say?

If Kris Richard can be lured from Seattle to fix the Cowboys defense, Eric Bieniemy can be lured from Kansas City to fix the Cowboys offense.



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Game Notes

Cowboys Have Already Corrected Biggest Mistake From 2017 Loss in Atlanta

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Have Already Corrected Biggest Mistake From 2017 Loss in Atlanta

The Dallas Cowboys play their next three games in 13 days, all critical to their hopes of winning the NFC East despite alternating wins and losses since week one. For the Cowboys to earn consecutive road wins, their first coming on Sunday night at the Eagles, they'll have to come out of Atlanta in much better shape than they did just a year ago.

As expected in the NFL, a lot has changed in this year. The Cowboys 27-7 loss at the Falcons in their first game without Running Back Ezekiel Elliott was the beginning of the end on a season that forced a multitude of coaching changes in Dallas.

The Cowboys stubbornness in allowing Falcons DE Adrian Clayborn to sack Dak Prescott six times by beating Chaz Green and Byron Bell is something they hoped to move past when new positional coaches were brought in at OL, TE, QB, and WR.

It took the team admitting that these moves below Offensive Coordinator Scot Linehan were not all correct two weeks ago for the Cowboys to see any real progress, but with their win last week there's hope that the Cowboys are the improved team expected weeks ago - arrived just in time for Thanksgiving.

Firing Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander was the first move, as the Cowboys named Marc Colombo OL Coach and Hudson Houck his assistant. Colombo told 105.3 The Fan in Dallas this week that he has injured Center Travis Frederick on a headset during games as well.

Colombo, Houck, and Frederick have the Cowboys offensive line confident in their ability to play to their strengths, rewarded with a renewed faith in the zone blocking scheme that was forgotten under Alexander.

If the Cowboys offensive line was their first problem in last year's Falcons loss (it was), it's becoming their biggest strength at the right time in the season.

The Cowboys necessary changes didn't stop here though.

In desperate need of a play maker on the outside, the Cowboys are seeing their investment into Wide Receiver Amari Cooper pay off so far. Cooper is averaging 3.2 yards of separation on his routes this season, ahead of Cole Beasley's 2.6 yards as the next closest pass catcher.

Cooper's presence was a big part of Ezekiel Elliott's 151 yard rushing performance at the Eagles. A player that can win on the outside with ease and dictate coverage has benefited Prescott and the Cowboys game plan on offense enough to send away a first round pick.

It will be up to this "rebuilt" Cowboys offense to match the Falcons on Sunday. Atlanta is averaging 27.1 points per game this season, but a much more dangerous 32.2 at home. After a 1-4 start, the 4-5 Falcons are playing in front of their home fans for the first time in two weeks, losing at the Browns in week ten.

The Cowboys felt they'd be prepared for games like this after their offseason moves, instead needing to show the type of in-season urgency that's been rare for Jason Garrett's team. The same can be said about a Falcons team that's experienced playing with their backs to the wall much sooner than the Cowboys have this season, setting up a big NFC match up in the early slot Sunday.

Dak Prescott will be thankful that Chaz Green nor Byron Bell are protecting him, wanting nothing more than to deliver another win for the Cowboys to take into Thanksgiving against the division-leading Washington Redskins. Not all of the coaches responsible for the lack of adjustment in last year's game are gone. What the Cowboys do have are tangible new ideas from coaches that understand they need more than a win at the defending Super Bowl champions to call this Cowboys season a success.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Have Already Corrected Biggest Mistake From 2017 Loss in Atlanta" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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