Today's NFL is changing. We continue to see an influx of more speed and more open-field within an offense. Coaching philosophies are becoming focused primarily on how speed and how an offense can beat a defense in the open-field. Speed is the key to success for an offense.
Sometimes, an offense needs a guy who can be a wild card, but also play a pivotal role in an offense. One guy I look at is Tavon Austin. While he isn't the No. 1 option, Austin has the ability to score six whenever he touches the football.
The Dallas Cowboys have lacked this component of their offense for the past few years. Dez Bryant is a true No. 1 receiver and a real good one at that, Jason Witten is a chains-mover and one of the most reliable players in football, and Cole Beasley is a guy who can cause matchup-nightmares. However, it's been a been awhile since the Cowboys have had a player like Lucky Whitehead on their roster.
Despite going undrafted out of FAU and standing at just 5-foot-10, 185 pounds, Whitehead is a guy that can cause a defense fits. He's lightning-quick and when he gets the football in his hands, he may just be the most dangerous weapon the Cowboys have on their roster. With a guy like Whitehead, the Cowboys can be extremely creative. Let's take a look at some highlights from Whitehead over the course of the 2015 season.
Week 7 at New York Giants
The Cowboys know that Whitehead is at his best when he has the ball in open space. That said, the Cowboys do an excellent job at scheming up the play to make it seem like they're rushing the opposite way. Because the Cowboys' offensive line is so talented, defenses load the box to follow the line, only to get beaten by Whitehead around the outside. Here's the start of the play:
After Whitehead is given the football, look at the real estate he has to work with on the outside. From my count, there are currently seven members of the New York Giants already beaten in this screenshot alone. This play is what we know of as an "f-rip reverse". The point of the "f-rip" is to catch the defense off guard and get the ball to your playmaker with speed.
Another way they've utilized Whitehead is by making defenses honest. The next play was run about a quarter after Whitehead's first carry. Because Whitehead burned the defense on the first play, this fake reverse makes the linebackers hesitate. In the meantime, the offensive line is setting up for a screen:
This touchdown play was brought back due to a bogus offensive pass interference call on Devin Street. Nevertheless, because the defense follows out Whitehead's fake, it leaves a ton of room for Darren McFadden to work with.
The next play is one of my personal favorites from this list. Matt Cassel pitches the football off to McFadden. As McFadden and the offensive line go right, Whitehead comes back around for a pitch-reverse:
This play is extremely deceptive. Because of the over-pursue from the Giants' defensive end. It allows Cassel to go out and actually block a defensive back. Having athletic linemen like Tyron Smith and La'el Collins is obviously extremely helpful as well, as they have the ability to take out two, if not three men.
Week 9 vs. Philadelphia Eagles
The Cowboys continue to use deception with this play right here. By selling the fake left to McFadden, Whitehead runs behind the offensive line to get out in the flat. Cassel rolls out right and finds Whitehead, whose speed is simply too much for the Philadelphia Eagles' outside linebacker to stick with him.
Perhaps the best thing about this play is that it's an easy pass for a guy like Cassel to make. With Tony Romo back, we won't have to worry about confidence. But Cassel struggled with consistency all season, and a throw like this makes things easier on him.
Week 13 at Washington Redskins
I'd love to see the Cowboys expand their subpackages when utilizing Whitehead. Here's a play that they used against the Giants. Again, we see the "f-rip" reverse where Cassel turns and immediately gives the football to Whitehead. The Cowboys sell out the sweep left to McFadden and it makes the linebackers hesitate.
The Cowboys ran this play twice in this game and it worked both times. Here they ran it the opposite way behind Smith and Collins. As the Whitehead gets the football, Collins takes on that right defensive end, which frees up Smith to take on the right outside linebacker.
We see the blocks of Collins and Smith in the screenshot below. Also notice how Jason Witten pushes the defensive back outside, giving Whitehead a clear field of vision of the endzone to run through. Cole Beasley also pushes his man to the sideline, which further lengthens that gap between the sideline and the middle of the field.
Week 15 vs. New York Jets
It's no secret that the New York Jets have an aggressive defense. To counteract that, the Cowboys used the "pitch-reverse" on the first drive to get Whitehead in space. See No. 77 and No. 71, that's Smith and Collins literally creating a wall for whomever gets in their way.
Again, we see Cassel get downfield and throw a block. The open space spurns Whitehead for a 33-yard gain.
Because of his speed and home-run ability, the Cowboys have added a solid element in both their pass-catching and running game. Whitehead obviously isn't a guy who will catch 80 passes, but he's a player that teams need to gameplan for as well as one that an offense can deploy many wrinkles for.
In 2016, I'm excited to see how the Cowboys can continue to get Whitehead involved in their offense. His explosiveness alone tells me the Cowboys should be feeding him the ball at least six times a game. Whitehead is a real intriguing player. The common mantra is to get the ball in the hands of your playmakers. Whitehead has established himself on offense as just that this season.
Free Agent WR Allen Hurns Plans to Sign With Cowboys
It looks as if the Dallas Cowboys will be adding yet another wide receiver through free agency. According to sources, Allen Hurns plans on signing with the Cowboys.
WR Allen Hurns just told me, "I'm going to sign with Dallas." #Cowboys
This is a move that seemed unlikely after the Cowboys signed Deonte Thompson a few days ago, but I know a lot of Cowboys Nation will be excited about this transaction.
While this move is exciting, it does create more confusion for the Cowboys and their wide receivers. It's difficult to imagine all of these WRs sticking to the roster, which means there will be some tough decisions that need to be made.
What will the Cowboys do with Dez Bryant?
Will Cole Beasley be cut or traded?
Are the Cowboys comfortable absorbing Terrance Williams' cap hit if traded or released?
Will this keep the Cowboys from drafting a WR early?
All of these questions and more will have to be answered eventually. But, one thing is for sure, things are definitely about to get interesting.
Of course, there is a bonus here for the Dallas Cowboys. Since Allen Hurns was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars, he doesn't count against the Cowboys compensatory picks next season.
Please stay tuned and we will continue to keep you updated on contract details and any other news involving Allen Hurns as it becomes available.
What do you think about the Allen Hurns signing?
Cowboys Sign Free Agent WR Deonte Thompson
The Dallas Cowboys added some speed to their receiver corps today by signing free agent Deonte Thompson. He played for both the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills last season.
Thompson, who turned 29 last month, went undrafted in 2012. He had a quiet to start to his career as a reserve and practice squad guy in Baltimore and Chicago, but finally got a chance to shine with seven starts last year for the Bills. He 27 catches for 430 yards and one touchdown in just 11 games.
The #Cowboys signed WR Deonte Thompson, per agent @davidcanter. He gets 1-year, $2.5M with a $1M signing bonus.
Deonte brings some much-needed speed to the Cowboys offense. He ran a 4.31 40-yard dash as a rookie, and while he's 29 now he still poses more of a vertical threat than the current Dallas receivers.
Given the low salary in this deal, Thompson may not be seen as much than a replacement for Brice Butler near the bottom of Dallas' depth chart. We also have to wait and see what happens with the draft and other moves this offseason to know where he fits into the bigger picture.
For now, though, Cowboys fans can take a little comfort in knowing the front office hasn't completely fallen asleep at the wheel.
Dallas Cowboys Sign LB Joe Thomas to 2 Year Deal
At long last, the Dallas Cowboys have their first free agent addition of this offseason. Having lost starters Jonathan Cooper and Anthony Hitchens at left guard and linebacker respectively, the team has added depth at LB with Joe Thomas signing a two-year deal.
The 2018 season will actually mark Joe Thomas' second stint with the Dallas Cowboys, as he was signed to their practice squad in 2015. The team that signed Thomas out of South Carolina State following the 2014 draft, the Green Bay Packers, added Thomas back to their active roster for the 2015 season.
Source: Cowboys have agreed to a 2-year deal with free agent LB Joe Thomas. He visited the Cowboys today. Thomas has played in 42 games over the last three seasons with the Packers. He had a career-high 70 tackles in 2016.
Thomas has spent the last three seasons starting eight games for the Packers, recording 70 tackles and an interception in 2016.
A contingency plan of Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith carrying the Cowboys for 16 games at LB requires adequate depth, which is exactly what the Cowboys are typically in the market for come free agency. Waiting longer than usual to make their first splash, the Cowboys absolutely need an addition like Thomas to perform better than last year's FA class.
Used in sub packages by the Packers while also playing special teams - where the Cowboys have lost core players in Keith Smith and Kyle Wilber - Thomas will have a great chance to impress two new Dallas coaches in Ben Bloom and Keith O'Quinn.
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