When the Dallas Cowboys initially signed Allen Hurns, many in Cowboys Nation were cautiously optimistic excited or at least intrigued by the idea of Hurns playing opposite former Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Dez Bryant. When you looked at the signing, it seemed Hurns would be brought in to compete for snaps with Terrance Williams and whatever rookie they drafted in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Then the Dallas Cowboys front office made the decision to move on from Bryant, which pushed every one of the outside wide receivers up a notch. Terrance Williams got hurt and wasn't available much in the 2018 season and it left Allen Hurns in an unfamiliar role as the lead wide receiver on the outside. The wide receiver group was a disaster for the first half of the season.
Hurns, was by no means the best wide receiver in the NFL, but for what they signed him for (2 years $10 million), he was a pretty nice addition. With the Jacksonville Jaguars, Hurns posted a 1,000 yards season and caught 10 touchdown passes with Blake Bortles as his quarterback in 2015. Injuries and a decline in play for Bortles led to a decline in Hurns production in Jacksonville, leading him to the Dallas Cowboys where an inconsistent passing game -- and misuse of personnel, Hurns in particular -- led to Hurns posting the worst numbers of his career.
In 16 games this season, and seven starts, Hurns only posted 20 receptions on 35 targets for 295 yards and two touchdowns.
Even for the contract that Hurns signed in the 2018 offseason, that's an atrocious return. So why would I be suggesting that Hurns be the wide receiver to replace Cole Beasley if he were to depart in free agency? Because it's in the slot where Allen Hurns does his best work.
In that 2015 season where Hurns went for more than 1,000 yard receiving on just 65 receptions to go along with 10 touchdowns, Hurns caught 29 passes out of the slot and seven of his touchdowns. He can be a really effective player and has good route running ability when he's given more than just come back routes.
I went back through some game film to see what's been going wrong with a wide receiver that was really effective with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but is all of a sudden struggling to find his niche in the Dallas Cowboys offense. So I went and watched some All-22 film from one of his best games in 2017 and from several games with the Dallas Cowboys to try to find the problem.
Of Allen Hurns' tape, I watched the Carolina Panthers, New York Giants, and the Detroit Lions games from this season and the AFC Championship game and the Indianapolis game in week seven of 2017.
Here's what I came up with.
Scheming Ain't Easy
Dallas Cowboys Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan takes a lot of flak for the -- at times -- failures of the Dallas Cowboys offense. When they struggle, he's the worst play caller in the world, but we're not giving him a ton of credit when the offense does well. Some of Allen Hurns struggles and lack of production are partly due to not being a great fit for Scott Linehan's offense. Or rather, Scott Linehan not tailoring his offense to fit the strengths of his players, which is part of the reason Linehan was shown the door.
At some point, certain guys just have to fit into the scheme. This is where I think some of the disconnect lies with Allen Hurns. If you watched much of Allen Hurns at Jacksonville, and when I turned on the tape, I noticed that the Jaguars ran Hurns on a lot of routes that allowed him to break quickly at an angle or to run horizontally. Routes like slants, posts, out and in breaking routes, and shallow drags, which allowed him to find room against zone coverage to give Bortles room to throw.
With the Dallas Cowboys, Hurns has been asked to run routes that are much more of the slower-developing and downfield type of routes. Go routes, 15 yards in-breaking routes, and a lot of deep comebacks to the sidelines. On occasion, he was asked to run a shallow crossing route like a drag or a slant route, but generally it was comebacks or deep outs.
Here's an example of what I'm talking about when I say, "slow developing."
Here it's 3rd and 11 and Hurns is lined up in a tight split so that he has some room to work the sideline in his route. He doesn't help himself by running right into the defender before making his cut. I can't tell if Hurns is supposed to run a 15 yard out and Dak just doesn't get the ball to him, or if he's supposed to run a comeback to the sideline and he just rounds his route off too much. Either way, it's not a route that Hurns is all that effective at running, but the Dallas Cowboys had him run it A LOT.
That isn't Allen Hurns' strength. Here's an example of what Hurns does really well.
Hurns is lined up in the slot here with New England showing cover two before moving into man-to-man across the secondary with the linebackers dropping into zone. You can see Hurns get just behind the linebackers in the middle of their zone and underneath the safety charged with covering him. It's a quick post route from play action and a big chunk play. Hurns shows nice hands and zone awareness to turn back to the ball.
Again, Hurns is lined up in the slot and New England again runs man-to-man. On a straight play action, Hurns works his man up the field and then runs a deep out as the outside receiver runs a skinny post clearing the sideline for Hurns to work. It's a quick cut that allows Hurns to separate from his man and make the big play. The design is nice because it clears a lot of room toward the sideline for Bortles to find Hurns for another big play.
And then here's an example from this year.
Hurns is on the outside to the right of the quarterback. Dallas runs a run-pass option (RPO), with Hurns running a slant route. You can see that it's an RPO because the offensive lineman on the left side of the line are run blocking. Hurns makes a quick move on the slant and Dak Prescott puts the ball right where it needs to be on the play. Hurns is very effective at running slant routes from the slot as you see above and something that the Cowboys asked Cole Beasley to do from the slot as well.
From his time with the Jaguars, Hurns had to run a variety of routes including posts from the slot, short to intermediate crossing routes, double moves, option routes, and they're putting him in combo routes out of bunch formations.
The Dallas Cowboys are asking him to try to use his speed to push the defensive backs downfield and run a lot of comeback routes. From what I can tell on the film, he's not nearly as comfortable running comeback routes as he is running slants, posts, and drags. Dallas needs to get him running routes, like the slant off of the RPO. Like I said before, you can't always accommodate every player in the offense, but there are ways to get him running things he's more comfortable with.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
Allen Hurns still has a road to recovery from his gruesome broken ankle he suffered in the Dallas Cowboys wild card win over the Seattle Seahawks. If anything can be gained from a four word tweet, it looks like he's about a month away from getting back to the grind of preparing for the NFL's regular season. He'll have some rehab to do, but he should be ready for training camp if everything goes smoothly.
1 month out
As easily Hurns could be Beasley's replacement in 2019, he could also be out the door if the Dallas Cowboys want to save some money by releasing him.
Route running is a subtle art form and from what I could tell, he isn't the same player that he was in Jacksonville. He has a knack for getting open in the middle of the field and shows nice hands. Prior to the Amari Cooper trade, Hurns had his best games of the season against the Washington Redskins before taking a backseat to Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup.
With changes to the offensive coaching staff and potential opportunities at WR, Hurns could be the guy the Cowboys look to in 2019 to man the slot. He isn't Cole Beasley, but with Amari Cooper leading the way, you don't need him to be. You need a reliable receiver and in the slot, Hurns is very reliable.
Urban Meyer Says He’d “Absolutely” Take Cowboys’ Head Coaching Job
Typically, when a coach is asked about a potential future coaching job that is currently occupied, he'd never openly admit to eyeing that position. He'd dodge the question, lie, and say he's enjoying his time away from the game at the moment.
Former college coach Urban Meyer, however, was extremely clear in how he feels about the potential opening at head coach in Dallas with the Cowboys.
Fox Sports' Colin Cowherd asked Urban Meyer outright if he would take the job if offered, and Meyer made no mistake about it.
While it feels to me like Meyer is breaking some sort of unspoken code between coaches with these comments, it wouldn't be the first time he operated in shady waters.
But I digress.
Of course, Urban Meyer had incredible success at the collegiate level. He won multiple national championships and did a lot of winning at multiple programs. In addition, he was the college coach of Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott, who the team just extended with a monster contract. Meyer also won with quarterbacks who can utilize similar skill-sets to Cowboys starter Dak Prescott, something Jerry Jones and company would want to see in any potential head coaching candidate.
With all that being said, though, it's important to mention the Cowboys head coaching job is not open. At least not yet.
Jason Garrett's contract expires at the end of this season, and unless he can make sure that he continues coaching this team through January, it's seeming increasingly likely that this will be his final contract with the team.
Garrett's Cowboys face their biggest test of the season on Sunday night, with the Philadelphia Eagles coming to Arlington and looking to take first place from their grasps.
This will be the first step of many that Garrett will need to take if he wants to keep the Urban Meyers of the world from coming for his job.
QB Dak Prescott Confident Cowboys Can Right The Ship Sunday
Dak Prescott is a warrior.
The Cowboys starting quarterback has spent his entire NFL career proving doubters wrong. From fourth round compensatory pick to Pro Bowl quarterback and the leader of America's Team, Prescott has come a long way in just four years. And he hasn't gotten here by giving up nor giving in.
This week, to put it lightly, Prescott's Cowboys are in a tough spot. Having lost three straight games the Cowboys have fallen back to earth quickly, and now sit tied for first place in their division with this week's opponent, the Philadelphia Eagles. They're also only a game up of the 2-4 New York Giants, who are favored at home against the Cardinals this very Sunday.
Dallas has to have this one at home. And despite the team's recent struggles, Dak Prescott remains confident that his bunch can get it done.
"We're right there," Prescott told the Dallas media Thursday, "We’re a good team that hasn’t been getting it done."
Prescott certainly isn't incorrect in his evaluation. He and this offense were flying high the first three weeks, and although they've taken a step back in recent games they still sit 2nd in offensive DVOA this season.
They have gotten off to slow starts in each of their last two losses, however, scoring just 9 points over their last 4 first half quarters. This first half output is unacceptable, but Prescott remains confident that the Cowboys are going to get things right on Sunday.
The biggest factor holding the Cowboys back? According to Prescott, it's themselves. Dak also told the media that the offense just needs to "get out of our own way," referring to the penalties, sacks, and general mistakes this team has made in seemingly every key moment during this losing streak.
Luckily for Dak Prescott, he should be getting some reinforcements to protect him from the Eagles fearsome front. Both La'el Collins and Tryon Smith have been active at practice this week, and even wide receiver Amari Cooper remains optimistic despite not practicing yet since his quad injury.
It feels like Cooper will likely be out on Sunday, but increasing their help across the offensive line will be a massive boost for this offense.
Still, in the end, it's the Cowboys defense which needs to step up and play better than they have on Sunday. Carson Wentz and the Eagles offense have been strong in recent weeks, and they are looking to take over first place in the NFC East in primetime.
Cowboys en Español: El Verdadero Status de Jason Garrett
Estamos aquí de nuevo. Con los Dallas Cowboys y un récord de 3-3 después de seis semanas y tres derrotas consecutivas, el Head Coach Jason Garrett es la conversación principal entre aficionados de los Cowboys. Tras iniciar con el pie derecho esta temporada, las cosas han tomado un giro muy desafortunado para el equipo.
Desde que se convirtió en el head coach del equipo en 2010 (cuando se volvió el head coach coach "interino"), los Cowboys de Jason Garrett tienen un récord de 80-62 (56.3%) en temporada regular y un triste desempeño de 2-3 en postemporada. Tiene un premio de Coach del Año en 2016. No hay manera de negarlo... Algunas cosas han sido buenas durante la era de Garrett.
Sin embargo, no ha sido lo suficiente. Los Dallas Cowboys siguen buscando su ansiado regreso al NFC Championship Game y por supuesto, al Super Bowl. Año tras año, el equipo "se ha quedado corto." De todas las estadísticas que pueden definir lo que ha sido Jason Garrett en Dallas, mi favorita es la siguiente: En la era de Garrett, los Cowboys no han estado en los playoffs en años consecutivos. Insisto, buenos, pero no lo suficiente.
Este 2019, los Cowboys están en riesgo de perderse los playoffs esta temporada. Este domingo pelearán por el liderato de la división contra los Philadelphia Eagles en lo que debe de ser uno de los duelos del año. Ambos equipos tienen talento y han decepcionado tras sus primeros seis partidos. Los dos tienen una oportunidad de remediar sus defectos. A pesar de que empezaron con una marca de 3-0, Cowboys se encuentra en modo de pánico rumbo a la semana 7.
Tras perder contra los New York Jets - quienes no habían probado la victoria antes de enfrentar a Cowboys - la afición vaquera llegó a conclusiones a las que ya ha llegado anteriormente. "¡Jason Garrett se tiene que ir!" "Ahora si no terminará esta temporada en Dallas." Y más.
Pero, ¿en qué riesgo está realmente Jason Garrett? Los Cowboys han estado en situaciones similares antes, solo para mantener a Garrett a la cabeza del equipo. El año pasado, Dallas llegó a tener un récord de 3-5 antes de terminar la temporada con diez victorias y un pase a playoffs. Una y otra vez, la directiva ha confiado en Garrett.
Pero ahora la diferencia es fácil de identificar. Este año, los Cowboys tomaron una decisión a consciencia de no extender a su head coach. El simple hecho de estar bajo contrato de un año significa que está en el denominado "asiento caliente." No importa lo que los Jones digan en la radio. Las acciones dicen más. Si Jerry Jones dijera la verdad cuando dice que ni siquiera ha pensado en ello, Garrett tendría un contrato más amplio.
No hay que cuestionar la culpa que tiene Jason Garrett de la situación actual del equipo. La planeación de juego ha sido claramente un problema, con un plan ofensivo que cambió drásticamente tras las primeras tres semanas, renunciando a la agresividad y al play-action que tanto les había funcionado. El equipo una vez más ha demostrado no estar preparado para cada partido, iniciando lento en cada uno de ellos esta temporada. Y por supuesto, no han sido capaces de superar la ausencia de jugadores clave como Amari Cooper, Tyron Smith y La'el Collins. El coacheo ha sido incapaz de compensar la falta de estos jugadores.
De que hay un problema en la cabeza del equipo, la hay.
Pero en caso de que Jason Garrett fuera a ser despedido, ¿cuándo llegaría la noticia? Sería una sorpresa que ocurriera como muchos lo han sugerido: a media temporada tras una derrota ante Eagles. Por supuesto que aún no sabemos quien se llevará la victoria este domingo por la noche, pero asumamos lo peor por un momento.
Si bien caer a un récord de 3-4 sería difícil de superar, los Cowboys aún tendrían esperanza. Si la tuvieron hace un año con tres victorias y cinco derrotas, también la tendrían esta temporada. Más aún si consideramos que sus jugadores terminarán por sanar y regresar a la alineación. En tal caso, el talento será mucho como para quedarse sin victorias.
Mientras los Cowboys tengan vida esta temporada, muy probablemente Jason Garrett continuará con el control. A pesar de las frustraciones de muchos respecto al head coach de Dallas, no veo al equipo renunciando a Garrett a media temporada. Menos aún considerando que no hay una opción para reemplazarlo en seguida.
Y finalmente, aún queda otra alternativa. ¿Qué si los Cowboys terminan jugando en enero? Al final de cuentas, no es nada descabellado. Este equipo podría darle la vuelta a su temporada rápidamente y llevarse la división, incluso si no ganan contra Philadelphia. Pero digamos que terminan en playoffs, ¿cuánto es suficiente para que Jason Garrett se gane el derecho de quedarse al mando? Sin duda alguna, su trabajo esta en riesgo. Pero contar con que lo perderá si los Cowboys caen en la semana 7 parece prematuro.
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