Understanding Cowboys Formations on Offense from Week 1 of Training Camp

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.

OCC44 on Twitter: “I deciphered all the hieroglyphs! / Twitter”

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, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Sean Martin

Written by Sean Martin

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 every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

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