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!

ADVERTISEMENT

Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Pleasant NJ, no we’re not how you think we are. Host of “Upon Further Review” on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. You may @ me: @SeanMartinNFL.

Game Notes

Takeaway Tuesday: Awuzie and Lewis Impress, Concerns Around Dez Bryant

Mauricio Rodriguez

Published

on

Takeaway Tuesday: Awuzie and Lewis Impress, Concerns Around Dez Bryant

The Dallas Cowboys headed to New York a couple of days ago with a mission: survive a potential trap game versus a 2-10 New York Giants team. Despite not getting most of the help they needed from other teams around the league, at least Dallas was able to do the job they could control.

Through three quarters, the Cowboys struggled a lot. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter when they decided to have a touchdown party, outscoring the Giants 20-0 in the final eight minutes of the game.

What did we learn from the Cowboys’ seventh win of the season? Here is this week’s edition of Takeaway Tuesday! 

Dak Prescott Bounced Back

Although the Cowboys are a team that’s barely breathing in the playoff race, the truth is there’re a lot of ways that Dak has improved as a QB. It’s easy to look at a team lose football games and blame the QB without hesitating. That’s been the case most of the season.

It’s fair to say that Prescott hadn’t had an awesome game in a long time, though. But this time, he did just that.

Film Room: How Dak Prescott Beat The Giants' Blitz

Dak Prescott needed a performance like this one. He threw for 332 yards and three touchdowns last Sunday. He made some key throws and key reads during the game and managed to beat the Giants’ blitz with ease. Glad to see you hush the haters, 4.

Certainly a good thing to see when you need to go 3-0 in order to stay in the postseason conversation.

Concerns Around Dez Bryant Continue to Increase

Listen, I love Dez Bryant. He’s been one of my favorite players to ever watch. But at some point, you have to start admitting there is a problem. Yes, Dez Bryant has been struggling this season. Whether you want to blame Dak or Dez about it, it’s fair. I think they both are to blame.

The thing about Dez is that he can have quite a few bad plays and makes you forget about it when he  does something awesome. A perfect example of this is his 50-yard TD against the Giants last Sunday. It came at a perfect moment, but he had dropped some easy balls earlier in the game.

Dez – Streamable

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

Dez is getting paid like an elite WR, and despite some great moments on the field, he’s been having a lot of bad ones lately. If you have a $70M contract, you can’t frequently drop passes like that.

It may be about chemistry with his new QB, it may be about age, or it may be just about a couple of bad years for the guy. Whatever it is, as much as we hate to say it, Dez isn’t anywhere close to the “top receivers” conversation this year.

Sean Lee Proved to be Invaluable Once Again

Less Is More For Sean Lee And Cowboys' LBs?I’m constantly amazed by the difference the Cowboys’ veteran linebacker makes when he’s on the field. In his heroic return against the Giants, he finished the day with 18 total tackles, 10 of which were solo. With Sean Lee on the field, this defense has been able to be a headache for opposing offenses.

Sean Lee could easily be this team’s MVP. For Cowboys Nation, it’s been a season of constantly missing football players in Dallas. Out of everyone, I think Sean Lee is the player we missed the most. Including Ezekiel Elliott.

This defense transforms into a very capable one with Lee around. The Cowboys need Zeke back if they want to have success in their hunt for the playoffs, but without Lee, they wouldn’t stand a chance.

Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis Are Still Killing It

Coming into this game, one of the biggest question marks was the cornerback position for Dallas. Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis were going to get the start, and there’s always uncertainty around rookies going up against a QB like Eli Manning.

lewis – Streamable

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

Look at that coverage by Jourdan Lewis. Look at him turn his head around when the ball’s coming. The way this secondary will grow is exciting to think about. The Cowboys have something special in these two guys. They’ll make for an amazing CB duo for years to come, and I’m excited about what they bring to the table.

Chidobe Awuzie has played the last two games, and he’s been very impressive. Throughout the entire game, his converge was pretty impressive. Eli only targeted him 5 times in the ballgame and was able to complete just two passes against him.

Sean Lee ended up with the interception late in the fourth quarter, but it was perfectly set up by Chidobe Awuzie.

Awuzie – Streamable

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

It was a very fun fourth quarter for the Dallas Cowboys, and even though it looks difficult… this football team’s playoff hopes are still alive. Jason Garrett must keep this team focused in the Oakland Raiders for now, though.

Hope dies last, Cowboys Nation. Keep your head up.

Tell me what you think about “Takeaway Tuesday: Awuzie and Lewis Impress, Concerns Around Dez Bryant” in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 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!

ADVERTISEMENT

Continue Reading

Game Notes

Forget Elliott For Now, Cowboys Must Focus On Raiders

Kevin Brady

Published

on

Despite looking dead to rights just two weeks ago, back to back wins have put the Dallas Cowboys into the playoff hunt with just three games remaining.

In order to even have a chance at sneaking in as the sixth seed, Dallas will need to win each of its remaining games to finish 10-6. In some ways, the playoffs started two weeks ago when Dallas took on the Washington Redskins. But even though this Sunday’s contest is another must-win, elimination game for the Cowboys, it’s also a classic “trap” or “look ahead” game as well.

Before the season started, most expected the Oakland Raiders to be competing for AFC supremacy. Like the Cowboys, Oakland bursted onto the scene in 2016 with a young quarterback, a dynamic offense, and an exciting roster. But, like the Cowboys, they have faltered a bit this season due to underperforming stars, injuries, and a somewhat undermanned defensive unit.

The Raiders are now 6-7, and while still alive in the AFC West race, saw their best shot at overtaking the division go up in a smoke last Sunday as they were demolished by the Kansas City Chiefs.

Simply put, the Raiders are not a very good football team right now. And though this will be a road game for the Cowboys, it is one they should win if they are truly a playoff team. In fact, it’s one they have to win if they want to keep their slim playoff chances alive.

The reason why this could potentially be a “trap” game of sorts is who the Cowboys are scheduled to play after traveling to Oakland. A team who has been a perennial playoff contender in the NFC, and a team directly in front of the Cowboys in the current NFC standings – the Seattle Seahawks.

Not only will that Seattle game be massively important to the Cowboys if they can sneak out of Oakland with a victory, it will also feature the return of star running back Ezekiel Elliott from his six game suspension.

December 24th will be a huge day in Dallas if the Cowboys can get to 8-6 this week, but they can ill-afford to look ahead to that potentially important showdown with the Seahawks. Because if they do and the Raiders upset them at the home in primetime, the Cowboys season will end before Elliott even gets the chance to come back.

ADVERTISEMENT

Continue Reading

Game Notes

Film Room: How Dak Prescott Beat The Giants’ Blitz

Kevin Brady

Published

on

Film Room: How Dak Prescott Beat The Giants' Blitz

While much of Sunday’s victory over the New York Giants featured some ugly football from the Dallas Cowboys, the team continued to fight until completing a 20 point route of their division rivals.

Of course, stars emerged on both the offense and the defense throughout the game. Rod Smith had a breakout day, Dez Bryant made a couple of “vintage” plays, and Sean Lee returned to health and led the defense to a fantastic performance.

But as we all know, quarterbacks make the world go ’round. And no matter how great the other pieces play, it’s hard to win football games unless you can maintain high level quarterback play.

Dak Prescott returned to that high level against the Giants on Sunday.

Even if Prescott is missing throws or having accuracy issues, he had never lost his composure or made the wrong reads until that Atlanta Falcons debacle. I really believe that Dak lost faith in his protection, began abandoning clean pockets, and ended up having a few bad games in a row.

All seems right with Prescott now, as he threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns during the Cowboys’ big win. The area he was most impressive, was with those reads – specifically against the blitz.

dalvsnyg dak to dez td – Streamable

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

On his first touchdown pass of the game, Dak Prescott beats the blitz perfectly. Just before snapping the ball, Prescott notices the safety roll down into the box. You can see him subtly move his arm to point out the safety, while calling it out to his linemen as well.

As soon as he gets the snap, Dak knows exactly where to go. The Giants tried to beat him with a delayed safety blitz, but once that safety comes, Prescott knows he has Dez Bryant in man coverage on the perimeter.

His eyes immediately snap that way, and his throw replaces the blitzer quickly. This allows Bryant to do the rest, and the Cowboys to tie the game.

dalvsnyg 17 cole beasley – Streamable

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

Later in the game we see more of the same from Dak Prescott. With the game tied at 10 the Cowboys faced a critical third down backed up in their own territory. The Giants once again show blitz, bring the  blitz, and Dak burns them for it.

The Giants show man coverage across the board pre-snap, with safety Landon Collins on the near hash. Cole Beasley is in the near-slot, and while he technically has a man over him directly, the Giants show 2-over-1 in the slot pre-snap. This usually tips off a blitz, as the Giants plan to bring their slot defender off the edge, and allow Landon Collins to cover Beasley one on one.

Prescott notices this pre-snap once again, and makes the defense pay. He quickly replaces the blitzer with his throw, allowing Beasley to make the easy catch underneath and then do the rest after the catch.

This may not seem all the difficult to do to those analyzing the game the next morning, but these reads indicate high level quarterback-ing from the Cowboys’ franchise leader, Dak Prescott.

Last season against the Giants, their defense was able to bring more than the Cowboys could block on key third downs a few times. Too often, Prescott and the passing offense could not beat those blitzes.

That was not the case this week at all.

ADVERTISEMENT

Continue Reading

Reader Survey

Want to help make Inside The Star better?

We’re collecting feedback from our readers about the site. It only takes <2 minutes to complete, and can be done from any device.

> Take the survey now

Don’t worry, your information will not be shared with anyone but me (Bryson T.).

Advertisement

From Our Partners

Advertisement
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