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5 Bye Week Decisions the Cowboys Hopefully Made

Brian Martin

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5 Bye Week Adjustments Cowboys Hopefully Made
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The bye week for the Dallas Cowboys quite possibly came at the perfect time. After two close games that probably should've gone in their favor, it was time to take a step back and regroup, while also evaluating everything in order to figure out exactly what's working and what's not.

The Dallas Cowboys coaching staff is probably going to have to make some tough decisions if the evaluation process turns out the way I think. It is not always easy to make these kind of decisions, but sometimes you have to do what is best for the team in order to get the right players on the field.

That is why I decided to put together a list of five bye week decisions I am hoping the Dallas Cowboys made in hopes of putting the best possible team on the field the remainder of the season. Continue to read below to see which five decisions I'm hoping the Cowboys made during the bye week.

WR Brice Butler

Dallas Cowboys WR Brice Butler

1. Promote Brice Butler over Terrance Williams

Dallas Cowboys fans have been hankering to see Brice Butler receive more playing time over Terrance Williams for a couple of seasons now. It has been a hot topic the last couple of off-seasons, but nothing has ever materialized. Hopefully, that may change if the Cowboys coaching staff sat down and really evaluated how both of these receivers have performed through the first five weeks of the 2017 season.

Butler has clearly outperformed Williams so far this season and absolutely deserves more playing time. He already has accumulated 207 receiving yards and two touchdowns compared to Williams' 180 yards and ZERO TDs. Also, Butler provides something Williams doesn't… big ability. It's something the Cowboys offenses has been lacking and definitely something it needs.

It's time that offensive coordinator Scott Linehan really opens things up for Dak Prescott and having Butler's deep threat ability does just that. Opening up the entire offense for Prescott is even more important while Ezekiel Elliott serves his six-game suspension. It's past time the Cowboys offense spreads things out and force opposing defenses to cover the entire field.

QB Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports)

2. Move the pocket for Dak Prescott

You may or may not have noticed, but Dak Prescott has been somewhat erratic with some of his throws this season. I honestly believe that has a lot do with the fact he has been asked to throw out of the pocket more often this season, whereas last season he threw on the move more. I think that is what the Dallas Cowboys need to get back to and where Prescott is the most dangerous.

The Dallas Cowboys need to move the pocket for Prescott coming out of their bye week. Opposing defenses know this is where Prescott is at his best, but it's still difficult to defend. I'm hoping we see much more bootlegs, misdirection, and run/pass options (RPO's) as the season progresses. Prescott is much more accurate when he is on the move and is a threat to pull the ball down and run with it on any given play. It really puts opposing defenses in a difficult situation.

5 Bye Week Decisions the Cowboys Hopefully Made

Dallas Cowboys LG Jonathan Cooper

3. Make Jonathan Cooper the starting Left Guard

If we are being completely honest with ourselves, neither Jonathan Cooper or Chaz Green have been overly impressive as the Dallas Cowboys starting left guard so far through the first five games of the season. There is no doubt they are the weak link along the offensive line, but it's time for the Cowboys to settle on a starter and I think that is Jonathan Cooper.

I think Jonathan Cooper and Chaz Green are both on equal playing ground so far through five games, but I'm giving Cooper the advantage because he has been the more healthy of the two. If the Cowboys coaching staff wants to create continuity for the OL, then Cooper without a doubt gets the nod. Green might be the more talented player with the more upside, but he simply can't stay on the field.

DE Taco Charlton

Dallas Cowboys DE Taco Charlton (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

4. Replace Tyrone Crawford with Taco Charlton

To say Dallas Cowboys fans have been angry about the play of Taco Charlton so far through the first five games of the 2017 season would be an understatement. He has basically been in the visible and has had very little impact. So, why on earth would the coaching staff replace Tyrone Crawford with Charlton? Well, let me try to enlighten all of you.

Tyrone Crawford has been playing ahead of Taco this season, but it has been in large part to try to help the Cowboys' porous run defense. In Week 5 against the Green Bay Packers, Crawford struggled against the run, and the Packers took full advantage of that and continuously ran the ball his direction. Crawford will also count $9.1 million against the cap next season in 2018 and likely isn't in the Cowboy's long-term plans any longer.

That is why I believe Taco Charlton needs to be promoted. He provides youth and length to the defensive line, and that something Rod Marinelli loves. The start to Charlton's NFL career has been far from promising, but added snaps could help him find his groove. It's not like Tyrone Crawford is tearing things up either. It's time to see if Charlton can provide a boost at the DE position.

S Jeff Heath

Dallas Cowboys S Jeff Heath

5. Bench Jeff Heath for Chidobe Awuzie

I think we can all agree that the Jeff Heath experiment as a starting safety should come to an end as quickly as possible. Heath has actually been one of the worst Dallas Cowboys defensive players through the first five games of the 2017 season and it's past time for a change. That is why I believe it's time to bench Jeff Heath and insert Chidobe Awuzie into his place opposite Byron Jones.

Awuzie has struggled staying healthy so far this season due to a reoccurring hamstring injury, but hopefully the extra rest in the bye week solved that problem. Awuzie the has ability to play any position in the Cowboys secondary, but I think he fits best at safety long-term. He has the size and play making ability to be an upgrade. Unfortunately, the only thing holding him back right now is his health.

Of course, fellow rookie Xavier Woods is another option, but he has already been playing really well out of the slot, so I would keep him there for now. Whether it is Chidobe Awuzie or Xavier Woods, it's time to move on from the Jeff Heath experiment as a starting safety. Hopefully the Dallas Cowboys came to that conclusion as well during the bye week.

Do you agree or disagree? Let me know what you think in the comment section below or feel free to hit me up on Twitter @BrianMartinNFL.



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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21 Comments
  • Randy Martin

    Since his arrival in Dallas I have often spoke out against Butler. Until this year he has been a disappointment in my eyes. There has been a BB bandwagon trying to leave the station since OTA’s and training camp but I’ve refused to get on it simply because a leopard seldom changes their spots. It’s easy to look at Williams, especially after that game changing bounce off the hands against GB but he still has a 76% catch ratio this year. That being said Butler has caught 8 of 11 for 207 yards and 2 TD’s. The problem is I don’t know that you can take that and substitute him for Williams and extrapolate that over the season. Butler may simply be that big play guy that does what he does and leaves you wanting more. Is it worth an experiment over a few games? Why not, something needs to change. On Taco, I think we ask and expect too much of him. It’s not his fault we took him in the first round. We knew he needed work and everybody has expected him to be a plug n play guy and he just isn’t yet. Personally I think he and Lawrence should swap sides. Taco would have a better chance against RT’s than LT’s who is usually the better player of the two. But I agree it’s time to get him in there and get the game experience. He only needs one…success begets success. It seems like everybody but the FO knows that Heath is a dime package guy and a ST guy. Whether it’s Awuzie or Woods one of them should be playing. Unless Cooper or Green can master that position Guard looks like an early priority in the draft next year. A guy like Quenton Nelson or Martez Ivey come to mind. And while we are at it, it’s time to be planning for LAD…life after Dez. He does not appear to be the game breaker he was with a team worst 43.8% catch rate. That is among the leagues worst for #1 receivers. I don’t think Db’s fear him any longer. Whether it’s these 5 or any 5 I hope they took some serious introspection during the bye week to look at changes because what they’ve been doing hasn’t been working.

    • Brian Martin

      Randy, thanks for commenting. I agree with everything you said. I’m not ready to completely move on from Williams yet, but benching him for Butler might be good for him. The Cowboys could see of Butler is the better of the two, while the benching could help modifier under Williams. I would personally give it a try to see what happens.

      I also agree with you about Taco. I always thought he was better as a LDE, but getting him reps on either side would be a good thing for him.I don’t think he would be any worse than Crawford, but you never know.

      I think finding a left guard is a priority, but I doubt it happens in the first few rounds of the draft. A WR1 might be a bigger priority, but they also need to upgrade the LB, DE, CB, and S positions as well.

      • DevilDog58

        LDE would be going against their ROT, right? If so, then I whole-heartedly agree. Having ANY rookie going against team’s best pass protector week after week is just lame and a great way to destroy a rook’s confidence. As to Brice, the one thing he brings that NO other WR brings is Take-The-Top-Off speed. Even if he and Dak don’t connect on a deep pass, we should try 2-4 of them per game just to give the opposition something else to prepare for. The more looks/plays you throw at a team the more they have to spend valuable practice time covering them. To me that’s much smarter than the over confident practice of letting a team know EXACTLY what you’re going to do every week like running the ball and saying, “This is what we’re gonna do, now try and stop us.” Or just using the same pass plays and formations each week. Garrett and Linehan need to open up or expand the playbook not just for the opposing team’s detriment but for Dak’s benefit. He’s a second year pro now and with his brains there’s no doubt in my mind he can handle it. Plus, let the guy run the ball when he’s wide open. They obviously didn’t learn from Romo taking a beating trying to stay in the pocket when he was younger and getting the sh*t kicked out of him. If you remember, he was a fair scrambler when he was younger but was never close to Dak’s ability to create in that sense, not to mention Dak has tree-trunk legs and resembles Cam’s whereas Tony was more in the mold of Roger but they took that option away from him, just like they’re doing to Dak. At least when a QB is running he can slide or run out of bounds to protect himself vice standing tall in the pocket when no one is open and having a 4.5, 250 lb. LB running full speed and just laying the wood on a stationary target. It’s every defensive player’s dream scenario while watching a QB run for a first down when your Secondary has shutdown all his receiving options is not only frustrating but can be downright disheartening.

    • Russ_Te

      “It’s not his fault we took him in the first round”

      Hilarious…

      ;^)

  • Hobbes49

    I agree with 4 of the 5 observations completely, and see your point on the Taco over Crawford. To me the Heath change is a stone cold no brainer, I will be truly mystified if they don’t change to either Woods or Chido. Cooper has looked a little better each week, and you hope the osmosis of playing with the other studs continues to develop, as does the line continuity, which is critical. Butler definitely has earned more reps, and Dak has shown how downright dangerous he is on the move, so that seems a no brainer as well. Taco needs more consistent snaps,but I don’t don’t believe the staff is going to make that happen. If they won’t replace Heath, no way they replace Crawford. Hopefully they will do both. Time for change has arrived, and your suggestions are solid!!

    • Brian Martin

      Yeah, I kind of doubt the Cowboys replace Crawford with Taco either. They seem to stick with their veteran players too long, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they start increasing Taco’s reps. I actually think Taco could be just as good, if not better than Crawford as he grows more comfortable with what he’s asked to do. Only time will tell though.

      • Hobbes49

        You drafted him in the first round, you really have to give the guy a legit shot. To me, this is partly the failure of the coaching staff to get him ready to go as well. We shall see what happens.

        • Brian Martin

          I don’t mind him being in a rotation as a rookie, but even in the rotation he is not seen very many snaps. I think that should change.

  • DevilDog58

    I have to say that I pretty much agree with you in this article. The way the team is playing now we’ll never see the post season. First off for me is Heath. He has been absolutely dreadful and his terrible play is affecting the whole D. I’ve also never been a big fan of the huge contract they gave Crawford. He has never played well enough to rate such big bucks. As a number one pick, Taco needs to be put in a position to suceed, wherever that is on the D-Line. I also agree with giving Butler more chances for the ball since Williams seems to have disappeared this year, much like he did when Dez was injured in years past. Dez has lost something although I am not sure what it is. I don’t think it’s a step as he’s never been a burner. It really could correlate directly to Linehan’s penchant for trying to keep Dak in the pocket instead of letting him do what he does so well which is throw on the run or tuck and run or juse roll out and create. Why anyone wants to take the nightmare of facing that possibility away from opposing DCs is beyond me. The OL has struggled but I think with continuity (as you pointed out) they’ll be OK. One thing no one is talking about is the fact that Witten is finally showing his age. One of the greatest TEs of all time seems to have lost two steps, plus he’s either not sitting down in the seam past the first down markers like he used to and he’s actually dropped a couple of passes. Again, this also could be traced back to the head-scratching move of reining Prescott in. I’d also offer up the fact we just aren’t using our players that we’re drafting in the ways they should be used. Instead of just returning punts, Ryan Switzer should be another Danny Amendola or Cole Beasley (which is another player who seems to have disappeared). I’m kinda wondering what’s going on with our OC and why or run defense has gotten so bad so quickly while we finally found a pass rush(er). I knew there would be growing pains on defense but this has just been a strange season. Yet, I will stay eternally optimistic until I know we’re done.

    • Hammer33

      This isn’t the first time I’ve read someone say Heath’s play has effected the entire defense, and in defense of Heath this is absolutely absurd. First let’s deal in facts, them opinion.

      Heath’s ranking is often stated. I’m assuming this comes from PFF since that’s the only place that publishes rankings. But up until LA they had him in the top 30. He played well against Green Bay, but that seems to have been overlooked by many here and on fan blogs.

      What PFF doesn’t seem to track are targets and completions per target. Wonder what that grade would be for Brown or scandrick. Even jones who has real trouble with zone concepts and that’s troubling for a safety.

      You’d also need to know the coverage calls which seems to be tough for the press. An example being the TD against AZ, which everyone said Heath should have been on top of. That wasn’t the call, and if brown wasn’t going to honor Fitzgerald then Heath had to. They were in quarters if you didn’t know. Judging by most of what’s written, I’m going to assume you don’t.

      Chido proved Sunday he can miss a tackle in the open field as well a Heath. Nothings said. Jones is not where he’s supposed to be on the Nelson TD, nothings said. Brown?? Nothings said.

      So heaths had a couple of coverage mistakes, but not as many as people believe, missed a few tackles, as has everyone on D, including Lee, and generally played better than or worse than everyone else. But let’s name him the culprit. Everyone else gets a pass.

      If you choose to have an opinion try to be fair. That doesn’t seem possible with Heath. I’ve read the press and I’ve followed the entire D. I know some about the game. I also know when someone’s getting the shaft. Not only from the fans but the press as well. If you think anything I’ve said is untrue may I suggest you take another look. Especially the coverage lapse’s. Aside from the Two or possibly 3 man errors, like falling down, wait, didn’t Lewis do that in Denver too? You’ll find he’s been solid on the back end. Sacks are caused by coverage too. Doubt heaths guy or zone was open but the QB didn’t see it.

      And by the way. Woods has looked good in a very limited man/zone window. He’s being protected in coverage. That’s why he’s not in front of Heath. He’s not better.

      But of course, what do coaches know.

      • DevilDog58

        How you came up with me laying the entire blame of the Defense’s poor play entirely on Heath makes me think you read the first few sentences of my post and stopped. I said it AFFECTS the entire Day just as any other player’s poor play affects the entire D. I don’t go by what PFF or any other ranking organization writes, I go by what I observe when watching the games. Except for Lee and Lawrence, nobody on the D is beyond reproach. And since I don’t know what each player’s responsibility is on every play, I can’t speak to that. Only the coaches can, IMO. All I’m observing is a lack of a nose for the ball. Heath, whatever his responsibilities on a given play does not demonstrate one. Sure, even Lee misses tackles, but not often. I don’t come on here to argue with anyone or start fights, just give my opinion on what I see which I freely admit doesn’t make me right. We do have a young Defense and Lee is a young guy (at 26) but I’ve yet to see him play a dominant game like Lee in the 4+ years he’s been playing. Still, there’s plenty of blame to go around. I’m just saying the same thing I’ve been saying for years and that is that we need two good to outstanding Safeties in the Backfield.

        • Michael Barthel

          He really just took up for heath. Wow heath is terrible always has been had a couple good games and plays then all of sudden he should be starting and church gone. Church was so underrated and I miss church he is balling in Jacksonville. Woods and Jones need to start at safety. Lewis and scandrick start at corner. They should go out and sign perry riley Jr to help the linebackers he’s a good run stopper and been a good player in this league. Carr Claiborne and church all left and are playing better than their replacements here in Dallas. We always screw up on defense with draft picks n stuff on defense. Gregory was a mistake. Claiborne couldn’t stay healthy and we traded a decent amount to move up to get him. Marquez white needs to be brought up from the practice squad dude only gave up 2 tds at Florida State. He’s tall physical corner we need that right now. We need to go sign Darrelle Revis or a proven veteran to help these young corners. Scandrick is not helping the way we thought. It’s time to see a big change with this defense us fans are tired of seeing this defense get man handled every week. We haven’t had a respectable defense in 10 years plus. Marinelli is the problem and I don’t think he is with us next year

          • DevilDog58

            Yeah, I see what you’re saying about his sticking up for Heath, I guess I just don’t get why. I thought Church started well at Safety but then slowed down. But you are right, like so many other Defensive players we draft they seem to thrive once they’re on different teams/under different management/coaching. I always liked Marinelli but maybe the game HAS passed him by. I don’t know. I was pissed when they let go of Mike Zimmer, who I always knew was an excellent coach. Look at how he’s turned around the Vikes. I think Jerry and Co. blamed him for his porous defenses but it turned out he was coaching the crap out of some pretty average players (mixed with a few good to very good ones) as we found out. I believe the same situation exists today. I keep getting the feeling that we’re good at drafting Offensive players but not so successful at drafting Defensive players. And I’m not sure it’s the Coaching Staff as much as it is the owner/GM staff. It seems since Jerry and Jimmy broke up Jones has created a losing atmosphere much like the Redsocks and Cubs had for years. The same situation seems to exist in Cleveland. It could be the only answer is new ownership and we all know that will NEVER happen.

          • Michael Barthel

            Also because Garrett is a offensive minded coach. I was pissed when Zimmer left as well but they should of moved wade Phillips to dc instead of completely firing him. Garrett is an average coach if that. 4 8-8 seasons. 1 4-12 and 2 seasons with 12 plus wins. 1 playoff win. I mean we can’t have that at all. They love picking offensive players but every year you hear analyst say well they have a great offense but I’m worried about that defense. Every single year. They think oh well if we control the ball 35 minutes a game we will win alot of games I understand that but what happens when a team shuts you down like Denver did and you can’t do anything on offense well your defense suffers and gives up points. We have given up 34 plus points in the 3 losses this year. If they ever want to win anything you need a good defense. Even new England last year had a pretty good defense. Also Seattle Carolina Denver Atlanta Kansas city etc. Have all proved you need a defense to make it far in this league. To much pressure on dak Elliott dez and this offensive line. When u have a good defense you can say oh ok well we didn’t get it done that drive but our defense won’t allow them to score. When our defense goes on the field it’s oh damn here we go there going to score and were going to lose. It’s not good and if Garrett finishes with 8 or less wins this season we need a new coach. I’m so sick of his damn hand clapping when things go wrong. If you are scoring 30 plus points at home you should not lose period. Marinelli Garrett and linehan should all be fired if we finish with less than 8 wins and be average

          • DevilDog58

            I feel just like you do on so many of these topics. A team with a great defense and a decent offense can win a SB. A team with a great offense and a decent defense probably won’t. A team with a great D and a very good offense like ours could win multiple SB’s. I think Jerry is trying to keep coaching continuity, which is a good idea, as long as you improve each year. It’s not such a great idea when the team yo-yo’s constantly, season after season. Bottom line is you and I are right: to be a consistent SB contender you MUST have a great defense, period. If we had the same picks Cleveland has had for the past 8 or so years I think we’d be in a SB. They keep changing Head Coaches which is why I think they aren’t. Jones has tried to avoid that but it’s not working. It too Coach Landry 11 years to win a championship. But his teams improved each year, ESPECIALLY after he drafted Staubach in the last round of the draft.

          • Hammer33
    • Russ_Te

      I used to think Taco would end up at DT because of the players ahead of him at LDE. But he seems to have trimmed up since draft day, and with Lawrence now the anchor at LDE, it’s best to use Irving next to him at LDT. You can’t double both of them, and that should result in more pressures.

      Which leaves Taco looking for a role. I agree he’s probably not a downgrade from Crawford at RDE, but I would be shocked if he could beat starting LOT’s with any regularity as a pass rusher.

      He has straight-line burst but not much first-step, and less agile than Lawrence to my reading. You’d like to use his arm span to obstruct throwing lanes. I think this year is a bust for Taco, and he should bulk up to move inside for 2018.

      • DevilDog58

        I would like to see them trying flip-flopping Taco and Lawrence. I thought I read somewhere that Taco’s natural position is RDE. Whatever it is the Cowboys need to find it fast and put that kid in a position to succeed. It takes an extremely tough minded man to be labeled a bust and then come back from that and play at a Pro Bowl level (which is what you want from ALL1st round picks. Didn’t he play DE at Michigan? Was he called a “Tweener” or what they are now calling an “Edge” player when he came out? After thinking about my last post above, I’m more and more concerned about our coaching staff putting players in their correct or “best chance to succeed” spots.

        • Russ_Te

          Right, DE at Michigan. He only started as a senior according to his Wikipedia page. Taco is definitely looking like a reach now as a #1, but probably has enough physical attributes to develop a game at LDE or inside at DT. He just has to tune out the noise and keep working IMO. If Lawrence is not re-signed, he’ll get a chance at LDE.

          • DevilDog58

            Thanks Russ. Appreciate the help. I definitely think they should be putting this kid against the weaker pass-protectors the DL faces each week (if they’re not already). To me, building a rookie’s confidence is the best thing a team can do for him. He should be playing opposite DeMarcus for as many snaps as is feasible every week IMO.

  • Jerry Norman

    cheeto

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Linebacker Group Key to Cowboys’ Defensive Success in 2018

John Williams

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Less Is More For Sean Lee And Cowboys' LBs?

In 2017, it was evident just how much the Dallas Cowboys were hurt by their lack of linebacker depth. When Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens were injured, especially Lee, the defense struggled. Look to the games against the Green Bay Packers and Los Angeles Rams and it's easy to see just how ineffective the defense was without their top two linebackers.

With more and more teams employing RPO and read-option concepts, more is expected of linebackers as they read the quarterback.

With teams like the Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia Eagles, Houston Texans, Washington Redskins, Seattle Seahawks, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Tennessee Titans all on the 2018 schedule, the Dallas Cowboys' linebacker corp is going to have their hands full each and every week defending quarterbacks who are really good at utilizing these concepts.

While the edge defenders are instrumental in containing the run concepts in the read-option and RPO, the linebackers are the next line of defense against the run and their discipline in the run-pass action is monumental to defending the passing concept of the RPO.

Jeff Ratcliffe from Pro Football Focus broke down who the best and worst teams using RPOs were in 2017 by quarterback yards per attempt and quarterback yards per carry.

The Philadelphia Eagles ran the most RPOs and, as Ratcliffe described in his article, "For Doug Pederson, no run concept could not have an RPO attached to it."

The Kansas City Chiefs were second in the NFL in the amount of RPOs utilized with quarterback Alex Smith, now with the Washington Redskins, under center. Speaking of the Redskins, with Kirk Cousins at quarterback, they accrued the highest yards per attempt of any team in the NFL when throwing out of an RPO.

So, if you do the math, you can bet that the Washington Redskins will utilize a lot of RPO and read-option concepts in their offensive game plan.

Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers, the Cowboys' week one opponent, ran RPOs the fourth most of any team in the NFL and had 5.5 yards per carry when Cam Newton kept the ball himself. Cam is one of the best running quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. Newton is the only quarterback since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 to rush for double-digit rushing touchdowns twice in his career. Before he did it in 2011, no quarterback had accomplished the feat since Daunte Culpepper in 2002. The Dallas Cowboys and their front seven will have their hands full containing Newton in week one.

Also according to PFF's Ratcliffe, the New York Giants were the fifth best team in 2017 when the quarterback decided to keep the ball and run as they averaged 5.5 yards per carry out of RPOs. That has to be the most shocking element of his post. When you think of Eli Manning, you don't think of a running quarterback.

That just shows you how effective the RPO and read-option can be in the NFL.

With the speed of the game light years faster than it was 20 or 30 years ago, teams are having to use more and more misdirection to gain an edge in the run and pass game.

Another team on the Dallas Cowboys schedule was very effective throwing out of RPOs: the Jacksonville Jaguars. In the AFC Championship Game, they made a lot of headway against the New England Patriots using this concept.

Mike Renner on Twitter

Will be interesting to see how the Pats gameplan for the Eagles RPOs. Jaguars shredded them with same RPO 4 times in first half last week https://t.co/gYJWIPYIjj

In 2017, the Jaguars averaged 8.2 yards per attempt, the fifth best number in the NFL, just 0.3 yards per attempt behind the Philadelphia Eagles, who were fourth in the league when throwing out of RPOs.

This note from Jeff, I found particularly interesting:

"When the quarterback did pull, league-wide last year, the average yards per attempt was 6.52 and there was a 78.8 completion percentage. Once again, easy money."

Jeff Ratcliffe - Pro Football Focus

Most of the NFL is beginning to employ more and more RPO and read-option concepts into their offensive game plans, making the defense's job a lot more challenging. Especially at the linebacker level.

No longer can the linebacker just simply read run or pass based on the way the quarterback drops or turns to hand off, but they have to determine:

  • Is the quarterback giving the ball to the runner?
  • If the quarterback kept it, is he looking to run?
  • If he's going to pass, where's the ball going?

All of that has to be decided within one to two seconds of the play. A linebacker is taught to read and react to the play as quickly as possible, which can create a significant advantage for the offense if the linebacker reads wrong.

The whole point of the read-option and the RPO is to create a lose-lose situation for the defense.

No matter what they do, it's a wrong choice.

If they read pass and drop into coverage, the ball carrier gets an advantage as he begins to go downhill. If the linebacker reads run and begins to attack the line of scrimmage, the QB pulls it and throws it to the spot vacated by the linebacker.

Having linebackers with elite athleticism, range, and coverage ability, like the Dallas Cowboys do in Sean Lee and potentially Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, will help them minimize the damage potential as they face increasing RPO usage.

Even if we talk about standard run and pass play calls, the defense was a much better unit when Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens were in the game. Points per game, rushing yards per game, and passing yards per game were all lower when those two were available. When the team had to rely on Jaylon Smith and Damien Wilson as their top two linebackers, they were lit up like a pinball machine.

The Cowboys hope Jaylon Smith can return to the All-American type of player he was with Notre Dame, but if he doesn't, Vander Esch is a good insurance policy for 2019.

The Boise State product is good in the run game, but he excels in the passing game when he drops into coverage.

Having three linebackers that can play the run and pass like these three potentially can will be a huge key to the Dallas Cowboys success on defense in 2018. They will make life a lot easier for the rest of the defense if they are able to maintain play discipline against the read-option and the run-pass option.

Having these three linebackers and their dual-threat ability in the run and pass game will help the Dallas Cowboys be in far less lose-lose situations than they might otherwise be. And for the Dallas Cowboys to achieve the goals the hope to achieve, namely a sixth Lombardi Trophy, these three will be the key to that success.



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Star Blog

Can TE Rico Gathers be More Than a Just Receiving Threat?

Brian Martin

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Rico Gathers, Rams

Rico Gathers is trying to follow in the footsteps of Tony Gonzales, Antonio Gates, and Jimmy Graham as someone who has successfully made the transition from college basketball player to tight end in the NFL. Unfortunately, that transition hasn't gone quite as smoothly as he probably would've hoped.

To date, Gathers really hasn't been able to put a lot on tape. He spent his rookie season on the practice squad with the Dallas Cowboys, but did gain some valuable experience working with Tony Romo. Last year he was just beginning to show what kind of threat he could be in the passing game when he unfortunately sustained a concussion in practice, pretty much ending his season.

As you can imagine, Rico Gathers still has a lot to prove heading into the 2018 season. In no way is his roster spot guaranteed right now. He may still be the most talented and physically gifted TE on the Cowboys roster, but that will only get him so far.

I for one think Gathers can be a tremendous threat in the passing game. I think the flashes we saw in preseason a year ago are exactly the kind of weapon he can turn into for Dak Prescott. He is even working a route running guru, David Robinson, to become even better in the passing game. But, we all know the Cowboys coaching staff demands a lot more from their tight ends.

Rico Gathers, Dalton Schultz

Dallas Cowboys TE Rico Gathers

In the Cowboys offensive scheme, the tight end is an important position. They have to be able to block in several different areas depending on the formation, especially at the point of attack as an in-line blocker, sometimes being left one on one against a defensive end. That means they have to be assignment sound pre and post snap, with the ability to make the right adjustments in a split second.

For Rico Gathers, this is the area of his game holding him back the most right now. We all know what kind of threat he can be in the passing game, but the Cowboys coaching staff wants someone they can trust to leave on the field down after down. This is where Gathers will have to prove himself the remainder of the offseason.

The Dallas Cowboys knew Rico Gathers was a developmental prospect when they drafted him in the sixth-round of the 2016 NFL Draft. They didn't know how long it would take for him to be be able to contribute, but that time may be running out. Year 3 could be his last chance to prove himself in Dallas.

Gathers is a mismatch player in the passing game against smaller defensive backs, but that might not be enough for the Cowboys coaching staff to keep him around. I would personally get him involved in the receiving game, especially with all the new faces Prescott will be throwing to this season, but unfortunately I'm not making those decisions.

Do you think Rico Gathers is more than just a passing game threat?



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Star Blog

Tony Romo Documentary in the Works

Jess Haynie

Published

on

Cowboys Blog - 5 Most Heartbreaking Losses Of The Tony Romo Era

If you've missed seeing Tony Romo on the field, an upcoming documentary may be the cure. The former Dallas Cowboys quarterback is reportedly the subject of a film chronicling his football career going all the way back to high school.

"Now or Never" will tell Romo's incredible story, going from undrafted to one of the top passers in the history of the Cowboys' storied franchise. It's being produced by a Texas-based company run by Christian Hanna (no known relation to James).

According to an article from MyRacineCounty.com, Romo's hometown newspaper, the tale of Tony's football career will be told going back to his days at Burlington High School in Wisconsin. It will follow him to Eastern Illinois University, the same QB hotbed that more recently produced Jimmy Garoppolo.

But what most of us will want to relive is Tony's amazing NFL career, which stands out among the most unexpected rises to stardom of any player in league history.

Romo, who was an undrafted free agent signed by the Cowboys in 2003, didn't play in a game for three seasons. He rose the QB depth chart through practice and preseason play, eventually becoming the backup and earning the respect of then-coach Bill Parcells.

 - Tony Romo, #9

Former Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo

In Week 7 of 2006, Parcells pulled struggling starter Drew Bledsoe at halftime and went with his intriguing young prospect. Tony's first pass in the NFL was one to forget; an interception.

About a decade later, Romo would retire as the Cowboys' all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns. He currently ranks fourth all-time in NFL history for passer rating.

Tony's career never saw the playoff and Super Bowl success of predecessors Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach, but he remains a beloved figure in team history. The controversial end to his football career, losing his job to rookie phenom Dak Prescott in 2016, created a major rift among Cowboys fans.

While no longer playing, Romo remains one of the hottest names in football. His charisma and football acumen have him in a featured role with CBS Broadcasting.

From obscurity to "anointing oil" to one of the most discussed names in sports, Tony Romo's story is fascinating. This documentary crew picked a great subject, and we look forward to enjoying their work and revisiting the Romo Era once the film is released.



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