After the Dallas Cowboys’ defense made their biggest stop of the game as the Detroit Lions were attempting to tie the game, the Cowboys’ offense got the ball back with 1:58 remaining in the game. On 1st and 10 deep in their own end of the field, the Cowboys ran it to Ezekiel Elliott for no gain setting up 2nd and 10 with 1:54 on the clock. To put the game away, the Cowboys would need to get a first down, otherwise, they risk giving the ball back to a Lions’ offense who’d been pretty effective throughout the contest.
On 2nd and 10, attempting to ice the game, the Cowboys went away from their nature and called a play-action pass designed for Blake Jarwin in the flat. Dak Prescott, under pressure, hit Jarwin in stride and Jarwin was able to turn upfield and pick up 23 yards, the first down, and seal the victory for the Dallas Cowboys.
Picking up the first down was huge in that moment, but it perhaps also signaled an adjustment by the coaching staff to put the ball in Dak Prescott’s hands and to trust Blake Jarwin to catch the ball and make the play to pick up positive yardage. The reason you run that to Jarwin, though, and not to Witten is that Jarwin just offers so much more after the catch than Jason Witten.
It was an excellent play design to scheme Jarwin open into the flat and credit needs to go to the coaching staff for calling that play in that situation.
In year’s past, the Cowboys would have been content to run it three times and punt the ball away to the opposition and hope their defense can get a stop. Instead, the Cowboys’ coaches opted to go win the game with their offense. That’s a big difference in end-of-game philosophy, which hopefully signifies a move in a new direction.
The Cowboys coaches have to know that Jarwin gives the passing game a more dynamic threat, but continue to play Jason Witten a whole lot more.
On Sunday against the Detroit Lions, Jason Witten played 86% of the offensive snaps to Jarwin’s 31%. As I wrote last week, Jarwin has been a much more effective and efficient player on a per snap and per route run basis. On Sunday, Blake Jarwin averaged 1.65 yards per snap and 3.17 yards per route run. Jason Witten, on the other hand, averaged just 0.52 yards per snap and 0.97 yards per route run.
The reason Jason Witten continues to get more snaps is that the coaches trust him as a run blocker in the run game, but should they? Historically, Jason Witten was one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL, but I’m not so sure that could be said in the present. Witten, obviously still has a lot to offer as a player, but he’s not nearly as dynamic of a player as Blake Jarwin is.
As the Cowboys continue to rely more on Dak Prescott to win games, letting Blake Jarwin play more will help Dak Prescott in the passing game and will help the Cowboys offense be more explosive. One way the Cowboys can overcome their slow starts is to scheme plays to some of their more dynamic players like Jarwin.