Dallas Cowboys: Scott Linehan must maximize the talent around Dak

LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 20: Wide receiver Tavon Austin #11 of the St. Louis Rams carries the ball past inside linebacker Perry Riley #56 of the Washington Redskins in the third quarter of a game at FedExField on September 20, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 20: Wide receiver Tavon Austin #11 of the St. Louis Rams carries the ball past inside linebacker Perry Riley #56 of the Washington Redskins in the third quarter of a game at FedExField on September 20, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys have a ton of weapons heading into the 2018 season. But it is time for Scott Linehan to maximize all his offensive weapons.

For the last few seasons, Scott Linehan has been the Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator. Linehan arrived in Dallas in 2014 as the team’s passing coordinator. Since he took over the offense in 2015, the Cowboys have had an explosive offense because of the talented players in the system.

Although the Cowboys went 4-12 in 2015 (Linehan’s first year as offensive coordinator) the team produced a 1,000-yard rusher with running back Darren McFadden, and you could see the Cowboys potential if they only had a decent quarterback.

Tony Romo was injured for the year, and well…two impostors played quarterback in his absence (Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel), both of whom were absolutely dreadful.

In 2016, everything came to fruition as Linehan’s offense ranked fifth in the NFL, averaged 26.3 points a game, and boasted the best running game in the NFL.

But what surprised everyone more than anything was how Linehan guided then-rookie quarterback Dak Prescott to a 13-3 record, with the help of fellow rookie, running back Ezekiel Elliott. The two rookies would break rookie records en route to receiving Pro Bowl invitations.

Dak threw for 3667 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, four interceptions, a 77.6 QBR (total quarterback rating), and led the Cowboys to the NFC East crown.

After watching the 2017 season unfold as a  horror show, it was clear that Linehan doesn’t use or know who to be creative with in his offensive schemes.

With the addition of a playmaker like Tavon Austin on the team to join Zeke, Dak, Cole Beasley, Michael Gallup, Allen Hurns, Deonte Thompson, Noah Brown, Rod Smith, Cedrick Wilson– Linehan has to maximize the talent on his team. PERIOD!

Although Dallas is a run first team, Linehan needs to explore other options to maximize the weapons on his team. For example, Austin, Gallup, and Beasley should be on the field together for more than a few plays a game.

Imagine a lineup of Austin, Gallup, Hurns, and Beasley as the receivers, with Zeke in the backfield. That’s five players with the potential to either get a first down or break a play wide open for a touchdown.

What makes that lineup interesting is that all of them fulfill a specific niche role. Beasley is running crisp underneath routes, Hurns stretches the field, Gallup can use his athleticism to beat man coverage, and Austin can take a screen pass to pay dirt.

Zeke can catch a pass out of the backfield and gallop 72 yards for a touchdown like he did against the San Francisco 49ers last season.

Opposing defensive coordinators will be up late at night figuring out how to stop Dallas’ potent offense. I didn’t even mention the RPO (run-pass-option) with Dak. See, that’s another lethal option.

Austin is an explosive player that uses immense quickness to his advantage, he could easily be the teams greatest weapon when running screen plays. There is not a linebacker that can cover him coming out of the backfield, and there aren’t many corners he can’t beat one on one with his speed.

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A player of Austin’s caliber can be the difference maker in a close game. Austin is a unique player that has to be used correctly, not just for special team purposes. To be clear, I’m not making Austin out to be Antonio Brown or a true number one wide receiver, however, he is a playmaker, and that is a piece of what the Cowboys need to win playoff games.

But when you have a player with Austin’s skill set, what matters is using him the right way. Outside of having a dominant running game, Linehan must develop a system to match the playmaking abilities of Austin and the other players.

When I look at Dallas’ skill position players, I don’t see great players, but I see players who can perform great in the right system that utilizes their skill set to the maximum.

If you need an excellent example of what I’m talking about, look no further than the New England Patriots. The Pats can plug any receiver into their system and immediately see results.

Whether its Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, or Dion Lewis, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels used a scheme to suit their particular skill set.

None of them are future Hall of Famers, but they certainly were effective as an offensive unit, thanks to McDaniels. And it helps when future HOFer Tom Brady is the quarterback.

On a smaller scale, the Philadelphia Eagles find creative and innovative ways to use running back Darren Sproles playmaking abilities. His presence alone sends chills to opposing teams regardless of his age.

When the diminutive Sproles touches the ball, he either scores a touchdown, picks up a first down, makes players miss, or does all three in the process.

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Linehan must do the same thing, mix a powerful running game with a creative system that benefits all of Dallas’ explosive weapons.

If that happens, maybe, just maybe, Dallas can hoist another Lombardi trophy.