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Film Review: Cowboys Interior O-Line Struggles Make Zeke Look Human

Kevin Brady

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- Travis Frederick, #72

For all the questions which surrounded the Dallas Cowboys going into the season opener, the one unit which we thought we could count on would be the offensive line. Heralded as the strongest unit in all of football, the run game was supposed to excel on Sunday, and carry the Cowboys to success while quarterback Tony Romo was missing.

But then this top unit ran into a wall. Led by Damon Harrison and Jonathon Hankins, the New York Giants defensive tackles gave All-Pro Center Travis Frederick and potential Pro Bowler La'el Collins fits on Sunday.

We knew that the Giants defensive line would be a tough match-up given their size and talent, but I had expected Frederick and company to get the better of the two on most occasions. Unfortunately, Sunday might have been Frederick's worst performance as a Cowboy.

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The Cowboys want their bread and butter play to be inside zone. On any inside zone play, the center has an extremely important block. Either he must combo up to the playside backer, or take on the playside 1-technique when the play is run weak side. The latter is at play here.

Given Ezekiel Elliott's vision and the design of the play, Frederick doesn't have to get a ton of movement on the tackle for it to be successful. He just needs to get in the right position, and stop penetration. Neither of these happen on this play, and it results in him getting shed in the backfield, and Elliott being brought down.

Of course, Doug Free and Jason Witten also contributed to the failure of this play, but this is a block we have seen Frederick make time and time again. He must be better next week in this area.

https://gyazo.com/b19d85f01bc5450636d8677a697ae7fb

As I mentioned earlier, the center has a very important block on any inside zone play. Here we see the Cowboys run it to the strong side, requiring Frederick to get on his horse and cut off the playside backer.

Instead he gets tied up with the backside 1-technique and pushed off his track. When he finally gets to the second level, he whiffs on the backer, who gets in on the tackle.

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Once the defensive tackle shifts down to a 1-technique, Frederick and Collins are expecting to combo block on him up to the playside backer. Instead, Fredrick is pushed back violently right off the ball, and Collins bails on his playside zone step. The result, the defensive tackle splits the double team and it looks real ugly.

Had the block on the tackle been made, the Cowboys would have actually had a nice play, with Elliott having a two-way go.

https://gyazo.com/8ab57e72bde4e284a85c903ce847abe3

Okay, I am done with the negatives for now. Travis Fredrick is the best center in all of football. This is a pure fact, no matter how ugly some of his reps looked against the Giants on Sunday.

The good news for the Cowboys, Frederick won't play this poorly two weeks in a row. He is too talented to do so. Also, the Cowboys next opponent, the Washington Redskins, don't have anyone near the talent level of Damon Harrison on their defensive line.

I am expecting a huge bounce-back game from not only Frederick but the entire Cowboys offensive line in the run game this week. And if they can get going back to their true form, the Cowboys will have a real shot to get their first win of the season

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I'll leave you with a positive play for Travis Frederick and La'el Collins, so you can rest a little easier knowing that they can be better.



Die-hard Cowboys fan from the Northeast, so you know I am here to defend the 'boys whenever necessary. Began writing for a WordPress Cowboys Blog, and have been with ITS since 2016.

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. talkingballyoutube

    September 14, 2016 at 11:46 am

    I think Weston Richburg might have something to say about your assertion that Frederick is the best Center in football.

    • Kevin Brady

      Kevin Brady

      September 14, 2016 at 8:05 pm

      He might have something to say, but he’d be wrong. At least in my estimation.

  2. Guerro

    September 14, 2016 at 2:00 pm

    5 can’t block 8 any way u look at it!!

    • Kevin Brady

      Kevin Brady

      September 14, 2016 at 8:06 pm

      At times they were outnumbered, but on a good number of the clips I posted there were simply missed blocks at times.

  3. Julius Jamarco Silas

    September 14, 2016 at 2:38 pm

    This is exactly what I thought GREAT article I agree %

    • Sean Martin

      Sean Martin

      September 14, 2016 at 4:10 pm

      Thank you so much for reading! I appreciate it a ton. Go Cowboys!

  4. Jarrett

    September 14, 2016 at 8:00 pm

    Great read and it’s good to see everyone needs to get a little momentum . It looks like the o-line and Zeke will have much easier going in this week’s game.

    • Kevin Brady

      Kevin Brady

      September 14, 2016 at 8:07 pm

      Thank you for reading and commenting! And I agree, this week should look a lot better in the running game.

  5. Mike Young

    September 14, 2016 at 10:18 pm

    Excellent breakdowns and illustrations. Looking forward to better play this week (all-around). Go Cowboys!

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Dallas Cowboys

Tony Romo Won’t Be the Next Dallas Cowboys Offensive Coordinator

John Williams

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It Is Time for the Dallas Cowboys to Move on From Tony Romo

The pipe dream has been going on since former Dallas Cowboys Quarterback-turned CBS Analyst Tony Romo hung up his cleats for the black blazer. Fans from all corners of Cowboys Nation have clamored for a return to the field or at worst the sideline as the Cowboys offensive coordinator.

Let me stop you right there. It's not happening.

First of all. He's never been a coach at any level of football, so to assume that he could leave the broadcast booth and step into coaching an NFL offense and doing so at a high level is a huge leap of faith in number 9. Sure, Jon Gruden left the Monday Night Football booth for his lucrative deal with the Oakland Raiders, but he had won a Super Bowl and had been an offensive coordinator and head coach in the NFL for years before joining the broadcasting ranks.

Tony Romo has an excellent understanding of football. He displays it on a regular basis during the CBS broadcasts. But doing from the broadcast view, seeing what the defense is trying to do, and calling the plays to counter what the defense is trying to do are very different things.

Secondly, the coaching job would be a major time commitment that at the moment he doesn't have. Even if he's working a 40 hour work week in preparation for his three-hour time slot, the demands on NFL coaches are easily twice that with many coaches putting in 100 hour work weeks in preparation for Sundays. Tony Romo has a family that even he's talked about as part of the reason that he went into broadcasting instead of looking to hop on with another NFL team.

Finally, the job would mean a significant pay cut from what Romo is already making. It's estimated that the former Cowboys quarterback is making anywhere from $5-10 million dollars a year with CBS. Jason Garrett is making $6 million per year as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, so even if the Jones family was willing to pay first-time NFL coach Tony Romo a ton of money to come out of the broadcast booth, there's zero chance they pay him what he's making as a broadcaster. To do so, would be to undercut the head coach. Jason Garrett is Jerry Jones' guy. The owner and general manager wants Garrett to be the guy that leads the Cowboys to Super Bowl success, so there's zero chance he'd pay a coordinator close to Garrett's money, which would lead to constant speculation about the head coach and his future with the organization.

I love Tony Romo. His jersey is one of only two Cowboys jerseys that I own -- along with Darren Woodson -- and I think he could make a good coach one day, but I'd be hard pressed to see him come out of the coaching booth to take a coordinator job and have immediate success. The guys that are offensive coordinators in the NFL have been grinding for years to earn their jobs. Most started as position coaches -- see Sean McVay as Redskins TE coach. The Dallas Cowboys will spend the next few days, and perhaps weeks, identifying their replacement for Scott Linehan, but let's put to bed the dream of Romo as offensive coordinator.

It's just not going to happen.



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Player News

Cowboys Sign WR Devin Smith, Former 2nd-Round Pick

Jess Haynie

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Devin Smith

The Dallas Cowboys have reportedly signed Receiver Devin Smith, previously with the New York Jets, to a futures contract. Smith was a 2nd-round pick, 37th overall, in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Before going pro, Devin was a college teammate of current Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, and Noah Brown. They were all members of the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes team that won the National Championship.

Smith's agent, Jason Bernstein, tweeting the following earlier today:

Jason Bernstein on Twitter

Congrats to WR Devin Smith @dsmithosu for signing with the #DallasCowboys! Welcome back. https://t.co/hCMYoE8fEh

Thus far, Smith's NFL career has been marred by injuries. He has suffered two ACL tears in the same knee and only been able to appear in 14 games. He was waived by the Jets last summer and was not with any team last season.

Overall, the 2015 class of receivers has been disappointing. Amari Cooper has been a star and other later-round picks like Tyler Lockett, Stefon Diggs, and Jamison Crowder have been good. But the other big names of the class, such as Kevin White, Breshad Perriman, and DeVante Parker, have not lived up to the hype.

The Cowboys are known for trying to reclaim players who once had high draft status and bad starts to their careers. They are clearly hoping to cash in on Smith's previously perceived potential, which had him projected as a possible first-round talent at one time.

For both Devin and Dallas' sake, we hope it's a success!



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Dallas Cowboys

Breaking: Scott Linehan and Dallas Cowboys Part Ways

John Williams

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Scott Linehan Acknowledges Need for New "Wrinkles" in Cowboys Offense

Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network is reporting that the Dallas Cowboys and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan have mutually agreed to part ways following a tumultuous season that saw the Dallas Cowboys offense finish outside the top 12 three out of his four seasons in Dallas.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

Sources: The #Cowboys are firing OC Scott Linehan. Taking their offense in a new direction. An announcement is coming.

Scott Linehan was brought in prior to the 2015 season and saw his offenses finish 31st, fifth, 14th, and 22nd in his four years as the Cowboys play caller. The 2015 season can be excused as the Cowboys rolled out Kellen Moore, Matt Cassell, and Brandon Weeden for 13 starts after Tony Romo was injured twice during the season, but the team 2-11 in those 13 starts and the Cowboys failed to make the playoffs despite a strong performance on the defensive side of the football.

The Cowboys saw an offense that finished fifth in the NFL in points in 2016 decline each of the last two offseasons and Linehan has been continually criticized by analysts, fans, and players as well.

Many believe that the reason that Dez Bryant and Brice Butler weren't brought back in the offseason was because of the public criticism of the offense and the play caller instilling the offense and that criticism has carried over to this season when Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper acknowledged that the Philadelphia Eagles were sitting on the slant routes that they had run all game. Dak mentioned that he changed Amari's route to a go route, which led to a 75 yard touchdown that helped open up the offense.

Cole Beasley has been frustrated with his role for much of the season and deservedly so. He was often non-existent in the offensive game plan until the final five minutes of football games.

In the running game, the offense had become too predictable and reliant upon jumbo formations that led to Ezekiel Elliott having to run against eight in the box anywhere from 25-30% of the time. For perspective, Todd Gurley only ran against eight-man fronts around eight percent of the time. Scott Linehan never looked to attempt to take players out of the box, instead insisting on motioning more players into the box for the offensive line and Ezekiel Elliott to run against. It's amazing when you think about it, that Ezekiel Elliott was able to win the rushing title when facing loaded fronts as often as he did.

This was a move that needed to happen and the Dallas Cowboys didn't need to waste anymore time to make it happen. The offense had become stale and frustrating for the players as well as the fans. While Jason Garrett started the offseason saying he "didn't expect any changes," this was a move that absolutely had to happen for the offense to take a step forward. Below, you can read Jason Garrett's announcement on the move.

Mike Garafolo on Twitter

Cowboys have fired Scott Linehan

Even after the move for Amari Cooper, the offense looked better, but it still struggled at times to move the football.

The Cowboys have a young team with especially young players on the offensive side of the football. They have a quarterback who can throw from the pocket, but has excellent movement skills and capabilities of throwing the ball on the run. He's an excellent runner on designed runs. Despite us knowing all that, Scott Linehan looked reluctant to use him on designed quarterback runs that weren't read options or speed options. What you saw on designed runs in the Seattle game is what this team should be doing five times a game.

Now the question becomes, who should the Cowboys next offensive coordinator be? Our own, Staff Writer Brian Martin, laid out 5 Options to be the Next Offensive Coordinator earlier this week. I suggest you give it a read.



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