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Understanding Cowboys Formations on Offense from Week 1 of Training Camp

Sean Martin

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Understanding Cowboys Formations on Offense from Week 1 of Training Camp
(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

The Dallas Cowboys are back on the practice fields this weekend, after a day off on Friday. Over a week into training camp, we've seen the Cowboys new assistant coaches have a big impact on the way this team is preparing for 2018. Be it Kris Richard rallying his troops in the secondary or Sanjay Lal making his wide receivers end practice by carrying bricks across the field, it's refreshing to see new ideas all throughout this young team.

Just how much these ideas are infiltrating an offense still coordinated by Scott Linehan will truly be determined in the preseason. However, our friends over at the Best Coast Boys Podcast as well as Blogging The Boys did a great job sharing some insight on Dallas' formations in Oxnard.

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@BestCoastBoyz I deciphered all the hieroglyphs!

Interpreting these personnel groupings starts with the numbers in the far left column. Eleven (11) personnel refers to the amount of running backs and tight ends on the field. In this case, that would be one of each, where 22 personnel includes two backs and two tight ends. The first number is always the number of RBs, and the second is always TEs.

From this, the Cowboys reliance on eleven personnel is nothing new or surprising. Their focal point on offense, Running Back Ezekiel Elliott, has always ran better without a fullback in front of him.

Still figuring out what they truly have at wide receiver, the Cowboys primarily using Geoff Swaim exclusively at TE gives them at least four different groupings (seen above) out wide.

Cole Beasley and Deonte Thompson have been impressive early, and it's clear the Cowboys are rewarding their FA acquisition in Thompson by giving him multiple chances in 11 personnel. A formation the Cowboys will likely roll out heavily all through the season, it will be important to see just how well Thompson gets through the rest of training camp as a target for Dak Prescott.

Thompson has also not seen the field without Tavon Austin lined up with him. Yet to be worked as a RB, Austin and Thompson give the Cowboys ideal speed to pair with Elliott in the backfield and projected X-WR Allen Hurns.

Blake Jarwin being the Cowboys second tight end in 12 and 22 personnel is a great sign for the second-year TE, and not so much so for Rico Gathers. Where Swaim is the better all around player, Jarwin's best chance to make an impact is as a run blocker. This is an area the Cowboys have been looking for progress in from Gathers, but his inconsistencies could have the converted basketball player's days in Dallas numbered.

While having Thompson as the only receiver on the field in a heavy 22 practice is a move the Cowboys have made before with similar receivers, keeping Austin on the field with Beasley in 12 is certainly a look to keep an eye out for against live competition.

Lastly, the Cowboys would happily admit that rookie Wide Receiver Michael Gallup has outplayed his apparent position on the depth chart based on the snaps above. The other shoe is yet to fall when it comes to Gallup hitting an inevitable rookie wall, but expect him to be worked into more full team drills as soon as this week.

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The Cowboys begin their preseason in San Francisco this Thursday. Still installing the latest nuances to their offense and defense, this first game of four won't be a decisive look at all things new with Dallas. Instead, look for these lineups and formations to measure the Cowboys progress against another team and not themselves.

Tell us what you think about "Understanding Cowboys Formations on Offense from Week 1 of Training Camp" 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.

Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys NFC East Title Put on Hold with Redskins Win, Shutout Loss at Colts

Sean Martin

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Cowboys NFC East Title Put on Hold with Redskins Win, Shutout Loss at Colts

For the first time since 2003, the Dallas Cowboys were shutout on Sunday at the Indianapolis Colts. Their five game winning streak snapped, the Cowboys also saw their chances at clinching the NFC East dashed before the late kickoffs. Needing both a Redskins and Eagles loss to win the division without the benefit of a win themselves, the Redskins kept their playoff hopes alive with a walk off field goal at the Jaguars.

Washington Quarterback Josh Johnson won his second start since 2013 with 151 yards and one touchdown. The Redskins aren't the only NFC East team playing with a backup QB, as the Eagles must once again rally around Nick Foles against the Rams to extend their shot at the playoffs on Sunday Night Football. 

The Cowboys certainly didn't deserve a celebration of any kind after their performance at the Colts. An emotional letdown after a win streak that featured triumphs over the Eagles twice, Redskins, and Saints, the Cowboys were slowed to a complete stop on offense while struggling fundamentally on defense.

Uncharacteristic missed tackles and lack of pressure on Colts Quarterback Andrew Luck allowed Indianapolis to turn a 10-0 halftime lead into an easy 23-0 win. Defending their home field, the Colts came out like a team still fighting for their playoff lives, while Dallas played like a team knowing two more chances at winning the division are still to come.

Instead of being able to watch and root against the Eagles tonight, the Cowboys can focus on not letting an embarrassing loss define a season that'll still end on a high note should they defeat the Buccaneers or Giants. A week 16 or 17 win automatically seals the division for the Cowboys, even with the Redskins improving to 7-7 moments before the Colts secured their shutout.

It was a masterful performance from Colts Defensive Coordinator Matt Eberflus, preparing his team against Scott Linehan's offense to disrupt the momentum of one of the league's hottest teams.

Praising the Redskins for defeating a Jaguars team the Cowboys handled 40-7 much earlier in the season is hardly the situation Cowboys Nation wants to be in right now, but the team still has everything in front of them once Sunday's sixth loss is put behind them.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys NFC East Title Put on Hold with Redskins Win, Shutout Loss at Colts" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Game Notes

IND 23, DAL 0: Cowboys Get Shut Out, Embarrassed by Colts

Jess Haynie

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Is Dak Prescott's Relationship with Scott Linehan Broken?

The Dallas Cowboys must think they've already won the NFC East, because they looked like a team with nothing to play for today. The result was an embarrassing 23-0 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

The Cowboys were shut out for the first time since the 2003 season, which was Jason Witten's rookie year.

Dallas squandered a major time-of-possession advantage in the first half, finishing three drives with a blocked field goal, punt, and a failed 4th-and-1 play near the Colts' goal line. Indianapolis capitalized on their own drives and took a 10-0 lead into halftime.

The Colts got the ball back to start the third quarter and drove down for another touchdown. Down 17-0, Dallas responded with a weak drive and a punt. The game felt out of reach even then, with the Cowboys just looking flat from that point forward.

Ezekiel Elliott had 87 rushing yards 41 receiving for some empty production. Amari Cooper won't be winning any awards this week, held to just four catches for 32 yards.

Dak Prescott completed 62% of his passes for 206 yards. He was sacked three times and threw a late interception; an overthrown ball got tipped by the receiver and picked off on the team's final offensive series.

While the offense was especially bad today, the defense wasn't much better. Dallas surrendered 139 yards rushing yards and two touchdown to Colts RB Marlon Mack, who hadn't had a 100-yard game since October. Andrew Luck wasn't sacked and went virtually untouched the entire day.

The Cowboys could have taken the NFC East with a win, but they didn't come close. Hopefully this serves as a wake-up call with the postseason only a few weeks away.

Other Notes

  • With the Redskins defeating the Jaguars today, Dallas will have to wait until next week to try to clinch the NFC East. The Cowboys needed losses by both Washington and Philadelphia if they didn't win themselves. The Eagles are visiting the Rams tonight.
  • The Cowboys will get some softer competition to finish the year, hosting the Buccaneers next week and then going to play the Giants in Week 17.
  • With the Bears defeating the Packers today and moving to 10-4, they will likely stay the #3 seed in the playoffs. That means Dallas, assuming they do win the NFC East, will almost certainly be hosting the 5th-seeded Seahawks in the first round.
  • Jaylon Smith led the Cowboys with 11 tackles, but neither he or Leighton Vander Esch were making the big plays that we've grown accustomed to.
  • Xavier Woods had the highlight play on defense, delivering a perfect hit to dislodge the ball from Colts TE Eric Ebron and stop a potential big gain.
  • Blake Jarin and Dalton Schultz combined for seven catches for 68 yards; another week of increased TE production from what we've seen must of the year.
  • Fullback Jamize Olawale doesn't get many opportunities on offense, and he may not get more after dropping an open touchdown on the team's second drive of the day.



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Game Notes

Cowboys Can’t Finish Drives, Trailing Colts 10-0 at Halftime

Jess Haynie

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Dak Prescott

The Cowboys have had no trouble moving the ball today, but they've failed to finish drives with points. Dallas is thus trailing the Indianapolis Colts 10-0 at halftime.

Dallas has had possession for over 19 minutes compared to just 10 for the Colts. But their three drives have ended with a blocked field goal, a failed 4th-and-1 play near the endzone, and a punt.

Ezekiel Elliott has 64 rushing yards and 23 receiving so far today. Dak Prescott has completed 12-of-19 for 106 yards, but has been sacked twice.

The offensive line continues to suffer from health issues. With Zack Martin already out and Connor Williams starting at right guard, Xavier Su'a-Filo left the game with an eye injury during the second quarter and will not return. Backup Adam Redmond is now playing.

The Cowboys can clinch the NFC East with a win in any of their final three games. They could also clinch today if the Redskins and Eagles lose. Washington is trailing 10-3 in Jacksonville at halftime, and the Eagles are visiting the Rams tonight.

Hopefully, Dallas will start showing up on the scoreboard in the second half.



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