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Option Reads: Was Scott Linehan An Effective Play-Caller Against Giants?

Brian Martin

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Cowboys Headlines - Should Scott Linehan's Playcalling Be Questioned?

The Dallas Cowboys were nearly able to do just enough to come away with a victory against the New York Giants to kick off the 2016 season, but ultimately failed in the last few seconds of the game.

If you are anything like me, you are left with more questions than answers after the completion of the game against the Giants. There are a lot of things that worked well, but in the end it wasn't enough.

The Dallas Cowboys were able to win the time of possession battle, they created more turnovers than the Giants, had more total yards, and more quarterback sacks, yet still managed to lose in the end. Usually, when a team wins in those areas of the game it usually results in a W in the win column.

That simply wasn't the case Sunday afternoon against the Giants and I honestly think it has a lot to do with the playcalling of offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.

Below are just a few examples of why I question Linehan's playcalling against the Giants.

Failure to adjust in the running game

Cowboys Headlines - Should Scott Linehan's Playcalling Be Questioned? 1We all knew coming into this game that the New York Giants were going to try to stack the box and shut down the Cowboys running game.

What we didn't know was that Scott Linehan would continue to call running plays that were designed to attack the strength of the Giants defense.

Ezekiel Elliott and even Alfred Morris are at their best when they are running outside zone, where they can attack the outside edge of opposing defenses and then find the cutback lane if there is one.

For some reason, Linehan kept calling inside zone plays which was running right into the "meat" of the Giants defense. Jonathan Hankins (320) and Damon Harrison (350) shut down the inside runs and clogged up the middle of the field with their size alone.

Elliott's best run of the night was a quick pitch where he was able to use his speed to get to the outside and run away from the middle of the Giants defense.

You would've thought that Linehan would continue to attack the edge of the Giants defense with more outside zone plays or swing passes to get the running backs out in space, but for some reason or another he failed to make the adjustment.

Dez Bryant's lack of involvement

Cowboys Headlines - 10 Takeaways From The Cowboys Season-Opening Loss To The GiantsThe failure to make adjustments in the running game might've been the most questionable in regards to Scott Linehan's playcalling, but the failure to get Dez Bryant involved in the game is a close second.


Bryant was only targeted a handful of times and ended the night with only one catch for 8 yards.  That is simply unacceptable for a number one wide receiver in the NFL, let alone for someone with Bryant's talents.

Jason Witten, Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams, Geoff Swaim, Brice Butler, and Lance Dunbar all finished with more receiving yards than Bryant.

Scratching your head yet?

Bryant is at his best when he can get a few catches early. The fact that most of his targets were deep passes where he was asked to win in jump ball situations is questionable to say the least.

He needed to be targeted much more often with short to intermediate passes to get him going. He is dangerous all over the field when he has the ball in his hands.

Red zone woes continue

Cowboys Headlines - 10 Takeaways From The Cowboys Season-Opening Loss To The Giants 1The Dallas Cowboys have struggled in the red zone since Scott Linehan has taken over as the offensive coordinator, so I guess it really shouldn't come too much of a surprise that they continue to find ways to disappoint in this area.

It really astounds me that this is still an area of concern with all of the offensive weapons Linehan has at his disposal. Other teams around the NFL are able to be successful in the red zone with a lot less to work with.

Yes, he was working with a rookie quarterback, but Dak Prescott not only looked like a veteran QB Sunday afternoon but can be a threat in that it area as well.

Prescott has the unique ability to make plays with both his arm and his legs. I would've liked to have seen him get a chance to show this skill set in not only the red zone, but in different areas of the field as well.

This is definitely an area the Cowboys need to work on in practice. Hopefully things improve as the season progresses.

What do you think of Scott Linehan's playcalling against the Giants?

Please feel free to use the comment section below to share your thoughts and opinions on this topic. I look forward to opening up the discussion and hearing all of your responses.


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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Game Notes

Could OC Kellen Moore Be More “Vanilla” Against Dolphins This Week?

Kevin Brady

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Kellen Moore, Jason Garrett, Dak Prescott

The Cowboys are sort of in a no-win situation this Sunday.

If they come out and dominate the openly tanking Miami Dolphins, they'll have done exactly what they should do. But, if they lose to this putrid roster or lose one of their key players to injury, then this week three game would be considered a disaster.

So how should the Cowboys approach the Miami Dolphins?

Something tells me that new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore may look more "basic" than usual this week. Heralded for his creativity over the first two games, Moore may not want to show too much against the lowly Dolphins. Especially if the Cowboys can simply impose their will, a la the 2016 offensive gameplan.

Running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard should expect a lot of inside and outside zone opportunities this week, with each having a chance to have their best individual performances of the season. Tight end Blake Jarwin and wide receiver Devin Smith could see a lot of opportunities through the air as well, as the Cowboys may want to avoid putting Amari Cooper in situations which could cause injury.


Kellen Moore may want to come out firing with Dak Prescott and this dynamic passing game at first to get a quick lead, and then look to shorten the game as much as possible with his running game.

Honestly, as much as Cowboys Nation may not like it, I wouldn't be shocked if Miami covered this lofty 23 point spread. Dallas could look to get up a couple touchdowns, then proceed to sit on the ball and just look to get out of the stadium alive. Especially considering that the schedule gets much more difficult in the weeks following this Miami game.

With key NFC matchups against the New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers, and Philadelphia Eagles looming large, health is the most important factor this week against the Dolphins.

Well, health and winning, of course.


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Game Notes

#DALvsMIA: Betting Preview, Trends, And Prediction

Kevin Brady

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#DALvsMIA: Betting Preview, Trends, And Prediction
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas and Miami could not be in more different modes heading into this week's game.

At 2-0 the Cowboys are looking to take the next step and earn themselves a Super Bowl ring. At a historically bad 0-2, the Dolphins are looking to go 0-16 and get a shot at drafting the top quarterback in next year's draft.

Vegas has this game at a ridiculous 21 point spread, which should rightfully scare gamblers away. But, both the Ravens and Patriots have beaten the brakes off Miami already this year, and Dallas seems primed to do so as well.

The Line

Cowboys -21. O/U 47.5 Points

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys are off to their best start since 2015, and they certainly expect their next 14 games to go much better than they did during that 2015 season. Dallas' offense is as dynamic as any in the league through two weeks, and quarterback Dak Prescott is playing like a legit MVP candidate.

Defensively, the Cowboys have been a bit disappointing thus far, but they have to be feeling like Sunday is the perfect opportunity for a "get right game." Defensive end Robert Quinn returns from suspension to take on his former team, and DeMarcus Lawrence looks to be getting his legs under him after missing all of training camp.

Prescott's favorite target during the opening victories, Michael Gallup, is set to miss this game with an injury, but I don't expect it to matter much against the Dolphins.


Miami Dolphins

Where to even begin with the Miami Dolphins.

After trading for former first round pick Josh Rosen this offseason, the Dolphins decided to start journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback. Then they traded their own former first round left tackle Laremy Tunsil for a slew of high draft picks. Then, most recently, they traded another former first rounder in Minkah Fitzpatrick for even more picks.

Miami is doing everything they can do to hoard draft picks, ensuring they'll have their pick of the top quarterbacks over the next two draft classes. In the end, this tanking strategy could very well work for the Dolphins, but in 2019 they are going to look really bad.

They've been dominated and embarrassed both weeks thus far, and most expect that embarrassment to continue Sunday against the Cowboys. Operation Fish Tank is in full effect.

Trends

  • The Dolphins are 0-5 against the spread their last 5 games.
  • The score total has gone over in 4 of Miami's last 6 games.
  • The Cowboys are 6-0 outright their last 6 home games.
  • The score total has gone over in each of the Cowboys' last 5 games.

The Pick

If it were to happen, this would be one of the worst losses I could ever remember in Cowboys history. Luckily, I highly doubt the Cowboys don't take care of business on Sunday.

Miami is downright trying to lose football games, and it's hard to imagine this group coming into Dallas and beating such a talented bunch. I'll take the Cowboys big, but I don't have the guts to bet any team -21 in the NFL.


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Game Notes

Takeaway Tuesday: Zeke Had The Exact Kind of Game Cowboys Need

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Ezekiel Elliott Should be rid of all Rust

It's pretty difficult to deal with the hype of being 2-0 to open a 2019 NFL season. The Dallas Cowboys have done just that with a revamped offense and a quarterback that's thrown seven touchdowns in the process. They currently sit alone atop of the NFC East and although it's too early to know what kind of team this will be when it's all said alone, we're excited.

Let's dive into this week's takeaways!

We Need Robert Quinn Back

The Dallas Cowboys defense hasn't been as bad as many would think. They've had a few bad moments but the talent is still there and should be improving as the season goes on. Last Sunday, what was most frustrating to me was the lack of a pass rush. DeMarcus Lawrence had a pretty good game, even though his stat line doesn't look very pretty. The pressure was there constantly and he forced a handful of bad plays from Case Keenum. Tyrone Crawford managed to sack him once.

Breaking News: Robert Quinn Suffers Fractured Hand

Other than that, for most of the game the pressure was scarce. Fortunately, the Cowboys are getting Robert Quinn back from suspension this week. Having two quality edge rushers will boost a defense that has the potential to be great, but has only been "good" two weeks into the season.

Ezekiel Elliott Had The Kind of Game The Cowboys Need

Zeke was back for a heavier workload in week 2 after having a snap count in the season opener. It may have not felt like it, but the Cowboys' star running back had a pretty good game versus the Redskins. On 23 carries he had 111 yards and a touchdown, averaging 4.8 yards per carry.

In contrast of recent years, Elliott had a great game without the team heavily leaning on the running game. Dak Prescott threw the ball 30 times and Zeke still had a great game. This is what Cowboys Nation should want out of Kellen Moore's offense.


Elliott has two rushing touchdowns in the season, compared to six in all of last year. This is a product of an offense that's now dangerous in many ways, specially in the red zone. You gotta love what Moore is accomplishing so far.

Slow Starts Can't Continue to Happen

The biggest issue with the Cowboys in the first two weeks of the season has been their slow openings. In both games they've started trailing early. The worst thing about it is that it's been due to giving up big plays (like Saquon Barkley's big run in week 1) and quick, unsuccessful drives on offense (like a three-and-out drive followed by a drive that ended in an interception last Sunday).

Fortunately for the Cowboys, the Giants and Redskins didn't pose much of a problem. But when we reach the tougher stretches of the schedule, we know how quickly a game can turn south. Not every rival will be as unforgiving as the 0-2 foes they've faced so far.

DAL 31, WAS 21: Dak Prescott Dominant In Comfortable Win 1

Dak Prescott Continues to Prove He's It

Last but not least, we'll talk about Dak Prescott. Once again, he looked great. He finished the day with 269 yards, three touchdowns and an interception that came on a tipped ball from Randall Cobb's hand. He threw an absolute dime to WR Devin Smith, giving him his ninth 50+ yard touchdown pass of his career (ranking third in the NFL since 2016 behind Tom Brady and Philip Rivers).

All game long, he was precise against Washington's defense. He dealt three touchdowns to three different players and was making throws with anticipation and poise. If you're not sold on Dak Prescott yet, I don't know if you'll ever be.

He also looked well as a runner, specially on that 42-yard run where he stiffed arm Josh Norman. I hope the Cowboys continue to use him in the running game.

Tell me what you think about "Takeaway Tuesday: Zeke Had The Exact Kind of Game Cowboys Need" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!


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