Connect with us

Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Cowboys’ Use of 13 Personnel Effective In Week 1

Sean Martin

Published

on

Sean's Scout: Cowboys' Use of 13 Personnel Effective In Week 1 1

For much of the Cowboys' preseason, the tight end that got everyone's attention was big Rico Gathers - showing quick development as a red zone receiver in year two.

The team's use of their three active TEs against the Giants showed however that Gathers was going to struggle to see any meaningful playing time this regular season.

The ability to block in the running game is what Dallas values the most out of TEs Geoff Swaim and James Hanna, and with both of them on the field against the Giants along with Jason Witten the Cowboys were very effective in their 13 personnel packages.

The "13" simply means that the Cowboys had one running back on the field on these downs, and all three tight ends. At times, their use of extra blockers has been criticized as the Cowboys' offensive line has seemingly played at its best with just their five up front in space.

In this latest edition of Sean's Scout, we'll break down every play the Cowboys ran out of this package and why 13 personnel can become a critical part of their offense this season.

Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott Vs Giants (13) - Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

An added wrinkle to this personnel grouping is the motion man across the line of scrimmage, which the Cowboys used here to soften up the stacked boxes the Giants typically throw at them. When this ball is snapped, there are still nine defenders around the line of scrimmage, but before Ezekiel Elliott takes the hand off going left, the pull from Geoff Swaim essentially takes two defenders out of the play.

What develops is a seven on six situation in favor of the Cowboys. Zack Martin's cut block allows Travis Frederick to clear to the second level (find me a more versatile center in the NFL), and seal blocks from Chaz Green and James Hanna create a crease for Ezekiel Elliott despite the Giants loading up against the run.

Meeting power with power was something that helped Dallas wear down New York in this game with a high volume of offensive snaps, doing so with well-timed runs out of 13.

Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott Vs Giants (13) - Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

This next play looks at a concept that I discussed in my previous edition of Sean's Scout, centering around Travis Frederick (I'll be here all season):

"Particularly, C Travis Frederick was able to take advantage of Damon Harrison – likely the best run stopping DT in the NFL – the best he could out of 13 personnel, with Harrison forced to line up over him as a one or zero technique."

Giants DT Damon Harrison still understandably made his impact on this game, but the Cowboys did get the best of him when he was forced to line up inside of Travis Frederick. Executing this reach block to perfection with consistency, you see above that the blocks of Frederick and Green spring Elliott up the middle - where the backside pursuit from the second level is slowed down by the two TEs on the right side of the line.

Cowboys Alfred Morris Vs Giants (13) - Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

The Giants adjusted later in the game to shift Harrison into a 3T position, and it blew up the above Alfred Morris carry.

Dak Prescott PA Pass Vs Giants (13) - Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Selling play action throws is never going to be a problem for this Cowboys team for a number of reasons. The offensive line's ability to play on the move, Ezekiel Elliott, and Dak Prescott's ball handling are at the forefront. On this play though, it is Alfred Morris in the backfield receiving the play fake, and watch how the heavy package from Dallas forces the Giants to immediately flow to the ball.

Prescott misses Jason Witten on the move here, but roll out throws like this were a huge part of his success as a rookie. I would expect that to continue as he settles into his second season.

This was also the only pass the Cowboys attempted out of 13 personnel on the night.

Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott Vs Giants (13) - Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Speaking of Jason Witten, his struggles as a run blocker have been well documented recently. A play like this is a good example of one that could have been a much bigger gain if not for Jason getting beat across the face, but the use of 13 personnel here still forced the Giants to shift their line towards Geoff Swaim on the right side. Ezekiel Elliott does his best to make the most of this and fight for dirty yards.

Cowboys Alfred Morris Vs Giants (13) - Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Most of Alfred Morris' work in this game came out of 13 personnel, and his lackluster night was not due to lack of execution in the blocking scheme. Morris' struggles were caused by a combination of indecisive running and lack of speed. With the latter, the Cowboys seemed willing to go with the tough running style of Morris compared to the more all-around game of McFadden (who was inactive) or Rod Smith, pounding the ball in 13 with plays like the one above - as Morris is forced to just put his head down and push the pile.

Cowboys Alfred Morris Vs Giants (13) - Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

This Morris run is the same play as the Elliott wide zone carry at the top. It won't take long to notice the hole that opens up, in fact, you'll probably notice where the ball needs to go before Morris did. Alfred bounces this outside where Olivier Vernon had set the edge against Tyron Smith, limiting the gain from this play.

As we continue to study the team's use of 13 personnel though, pay closer attention to the blocks from Hanna, Witten, and Swaim above.

Cowboys Alfred Morris Vs Giants (13) - Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

This last play that we'll take a look at features a great effort from New York DT Robert Thomas (#99). His ability to stay outside of Frederick's frame and flow against the run frees up the Giants' linebackers to fill the gap. Witten and Swaim do a great job of sealing the edge on the play side here.

When you line up in 13 personnel, you are creating extra gaps that the defense must account for, and directly giving the LBs on the second level more responsibility in their lanes. If there is one unit on the Giants' defense that is not at the same talent level as the rest, it is their linebackers in comparison to this elite defensive front and deep secondary.

✭✭✭✭✭

With Jason Witten, Geoff Swaim, and James Hanna, the Dallas Cowboys have a very versatile group of tight ends that - above all else - help them tremendously in the running game. The ability to be multiple on offense with 11 personnel and trust in the five linemen up front paired with these physical 13 packages is going to help the Cowboys go far this year by sticking to their ultimate game plan of dictating the game on the ground.

Against a Denver Broncos team that will over-pursue and allow lanes in the running game this Sunday, I would expect the Cowboys to balance nicely between 13 personnel runs, PA throws, and spread looks against a secondary that will also allow shot plays down the field if routes are given time to develop.

For more thoughts on the Cowboys' match up with the Broncos, check out my initial reaction to their week one win over the Chargers, along with Staff Writer Kevin Brady's breakdown on Denver.

Not only do the Cowboys have the best group of five linemen in the NFL, but they can add to their blocking presence up front at will with three capable TEs.

Sean Martin ✭ on Twitter

GIF Thread: #Cowboys use of 13 personnel against the #Giants. Sean's Scout to follow @CowboysNation.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Cowboys’ Use of 13 Personnel Effective In Week 1" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

Game Notes

Cowboys, Colts Week 15 Injury Report

Jess Haynie

Published

on

Less Is More For Sean Lee And Cowboys' LBs?

The Dallas Cowboys can clinch the NFC East with a win this week, while the Indianapolis Colts are fighting to stay alive in the AFC wild card race. Only one team can accomplish their goal, and both have some big names on the Week 15 injury report.

We'll begin with the visiting Cowboys, who could be getting at least one star player back while another is already confirmed to miss the game.

Dallas Cowboys

  • TE Geoff Swaim (wrist) - OUT
  • G Zack Martin (knee) - OUT
  • DL David Irving (ankle) - OUT
  • WR Tavon Austin (groin) - Questionable
  • WR Lance Lenoir (illness) - Questionable
  • OT Tyron Smith (neck) - Questionable
  • DE Randy Gregory (personal) - Questionable
  • LB Sean Lee (hamstring) - Questionable

Yes, sadly, Zack Martin will be out tomorrow. The good news is that Connor Williams got the entire week to practice with the starters at right guard. You can read much more about this situation and it's impact on the game here, courtesy of our own Sean Martin.

Also ruled out, as they have been for a while now, are TE Geoff Swaim and DL David Irving.  Swaim is still recovering from wrist surgery but has not been placed on injured reserve, so the team must feel he could be back for the playoffs. Irving could return as soon as next week.

Speaking of returns, Sean Lee may be back on the field this Sunday. It's unknown yet how he'll rotate with Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith, but Dallas has the luxury of working him in slowly thanks to the play of their young duo.

Tavon Austin could also return this week, creating another new offensive wrinkle. Austin has been injured since the Jacksonville game and has yet to play since the Cowboys acquired Amari Cooper. Not only could Tavon do some interesting things in the offense, but he should bring some additional sizzle to special teams.

While appearing on the injury report, Randy Gregory missed practice this week for "family reasons" according to Jason Garrett. He could still play tomorrow.

Indianapolis Colts

  • G Mark Glowinski (ankle) - OUT
  • LB Skai Moore (neck) - OUT
  • S Mike Mitchell (calf) - OUT
  • WR T.Y. Hilton (ankle) - Questionable
  • TE Ryan Hewitt (ribs) - Questionable
  • S Clayton Geathers (knee) - Questionable

The big name here is Hilton, the star receiver who missed all practice this week with an ankle injury. Indianapolis has not ruled him out, wanting to give Andrew Luck's favorite target every opportunity to play. But it's not looking good, and a bad ankle could limit Hilton's effectiveness even if he goes.

Also hurt among the passing options is starting TE Ryan Hewitt, but he did practice full on Friday and should go. Not playing, however, is starting right guard Mark Glowinski. That means third-year player Evan Boehm should start, who just joined the team in October.

Indy's hurting at safety this week. Not only did starter Clayton Geathers miss the whole week of practice, but veteran backup Mike Mitchell is already ruled out. The Colts would have to rely on undrafted rookie George Odum if neither plays.

Fun fact before we go; former Cowboy Jihad Ward was picked up by the Colts after Dallas included him in their roster cuts to start the season. However, he landed on injured reserve back in October so won't get a chance at revenge.



Continue Reading

Game Notes

Zack Martin Out, Connor Williams In at Right Guard for Cowboys at Colts

Sean Martin

Published

on

Zack Martin Out, Connor Williams In at Right Guard for Cowboys at Colts

The Dallas Cowboys offensive line depth will be tested as they play for a chance to clinch the NFC East on Sunday at the Indianapolis Colts. Suffering a knee injury last week against the Eagles, Right Guard Zack Martin will not be able to play. In missing his first career start, rookie Connor Williams rightfully returns to the starting lineup as Martin's replacement.

The 50th overall pick from this year's AT&T Stadium hosted Draft has started eight games this season at left guard. Williams' last start happens to be in the last game Dallas lost, a week nine defeat to the Tennessee Titans. This opened the door for Xavier Su'a-Filo to become something of a sensation for Cowboys Nation as the starting left guard throughout the team's current five game win streak.

David Moore on Twitter

Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin has been ruled out of Sunday's game with a sprained knee. Rookie Connor Williams will start in his place.

Zack Martin being unavailable is hardly how Marc Colombo wants to prepare for the Cowboys first road game since week 11. Having both Su'a-Filo and Williams in the lineup will be valuable for the Cowboys moving forward though, as Williams could earn his job at left guard back from the right side.

While he won't nearly be expected to play at the level of Martin, Williams looked poised coming off the bench against the Eagles and helping the Cowboys offense score their final three touchdowns. Williams was on the field for all three of Amari Cooper's scores, as Dallas rushed for 34 yards on 11 carries with him in the game.

Williams flashed some of the traits that made him a top left tackle prospect out of college, flowing to the second level with ease and creating movement with quick feet at the point of attack. The Cowboys have forced him to remain game ready despite losing his starting position by finding a few emergency snaps for him in recent weeks, as well as special teams looks. The team has every reason to believe Williams is an ascending young player still.

The same cannot be said of Su'a-Filo, who simply has to focus on continuing to hold up at left guard again this week. With each passing win, Su'a-Filo's LG spot has become more of a liability in a Cowboys offense in need of a jump-start late in this 2018 season.

Consistent offensive line play is one of the few things that's clearly hurting the Cowboys as contenders in the NFC behind a stellar defense and game breaking wide receiver.

The Cowboys won't be at full strength against the eighth best rushing defense and 15th ranked passing defense in yards per game. With three separate chances to clinch the NFC East starting at the Colts and extending until the end of the regular season, the Cowboys stand to learn all they need to know about the offensive line that will start in the playoffs.

Martin, who's elevated his game to a new level this season despite this lingering knee injury, should be on track to return when the Cowboys come home to play the Buccaneers in week 16.

Tell us what you think about "Zack Martin Out, Connor Williams In at Right Guard for Cowboys at Colts" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



Continue Reading

Game Notes

#INDvsDAL: How The Game May Be Decided In The Red Zone

Kevin Brady

Published

on

Fantasy Football - Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings - Week 2 2
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

In many ways the Dallas Cowboys offense has found their stride in recent weeks. Over this five game win streak they have "found their identity" playing ball control offense and trusting their quarterback to make big throws when needed most. Of course the defense has been the star most weeks, but this offense should not be slept on either.

This doesn't mean the offense has been without their fair share of struggles, however, particularly in the red zone. Struggles that the numbers say could cost the Cowboys this weeks' game in Indianapolis if they don't get it cleaned up.

In terms of red zone offensive efficiency the Cowboys have been downright horrendous. In fact, they are dead-last in the league in success rate inside the 10 yard line, last in first-and-goal success rate, and 21st in success rate between the 11 and 20 yard lines.

There's no sugar-coating those numbers, they are bad. Especially when you consider that this team has arguably the league's best running back and a quarterback with the size and athleticism you might expect from a linebacker.

For as bad as the Cowboys are inside the red zone, the Colts are equally as good. Indianapolis is top 10 in terms of success rate inside the 10, at the goal line, and in first-and-goal success rate. They are also 11th in success rate between the 11 and 20 yard lines.

Despite not having the individual running back the Cowboys have, the Colts offensive line and skill players as a whole set them up a bit better when the field is shortened. Tight end Eric Ebron has been rather incredible in terms of production this season, catching 12 touchdowns on 58 receptions. Andrew Luck is also a more accurate quarterback than Dak Prescott, though Prescott should be a much more dangerous red zone threat than he currently is.

Bob Sturm on Twitter

I am working on the Cowboys 32nd ranked Goal-to-Go offensive numbers. They have run 35 of their 59 total plays out of Shotgun-11 Personnel. In those 35 plays, the average gain per snap is....12 INCHES. I am not kidding. They could out-gain that by running QB sneaks. I am amazed.

Of course, some of the Cowboys red zone struggles can be pinned on offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. Linehan has failed to scheme open the "easy" red zone touchdowns we see so often around the league. As pointed out by Bob Sturm on Twitter this week, the Cowboys' personnel groupings and play calls when in goal-to-go situations have been questionable to say the least. But while blame does fall on the coaches' shoulders, the players need to execute better as well.

Games in the NFL often come down to just a handful of plays, and red zone efficiency plays a key role in deciding the outcome of close games every week. If this is once again the case on Sunday, based on past performance, the Dallas Cowboys could be in trouble against the efficient Colts.



Continue Reading



Enjoy 40% commissions on officially licensed products as a FanPrint affiliate. You can even make your own, fully licensed Cowboys and player designs! Get started here

Trending