Dallas Cowboys O-line: Expect mix of old and new

SANTA CLARA, CA - AUGUST 23: Center Travis Frederick
SANTA CLARA, CA - AUGUST 23: Center Travis Frederick /

Earlier this week, the Dallas Cowboys fired offensive line coach Paul Alexander, but to really fix the offensive line, they need to use both old AND new schemes

Approaching the midpoint of the 2018 NFL season, the Dallas Cowboys are searching for solutions. With stones flying in nearly each and every direction, finding the appropriate entity in which to blame, is no easy task.

Where most in and around Cowboys Nation agree, is the disappointing play on the offensive line. Billed as dominant, the Dallas Cowboys offensive line has been anything but. While the running game has been among the best in the league, pass protection has been wildly underwhelming. It’s also important to point out, neither area has approached “dominant”, which is precisely what this entire offense is built around.

Say what you want about the front office, but the Dallas Cowboys are not known for knee-jerk reactions. Rarely do they make midseason coaching changes so it’s pretty telling they decided to act now – as they stand 3-4 and look an all-too-common .500 season in the eyes.

Power Works

When Paul Alexander came to Dallas he brought with him his power run blocking scheme. The Dallas Cowboys, traditionally a zone/trap team, looked to incorporate some power schemes into their attack. Power (which involves pulling) often flows more towards the sideline than most other schemes.

It’s this horizontal movement that make it the scheme of choice when running run-pass option plays (RPO). That’s because all offensive linemen block an RPO like a running play (even if the QB pulls the ball and passes).

If the linemen get much more than a yard past the line of scrimmage, it results in a penalty. This affords the QB very little time to read the defense (specifically the defender in conflict) and pass the ball. Playing power gives the QB a little more time.

While Dallas isn’t running nearly as much RPO as we expected (they seem to favor read-option where Dak is a potential runner), they’ve found big success running out of the power scheme this season. Particularly on power sweeps.

Says Allan Uy over at Cover1 who’s been tracking every play:

"“Of the Cowboys’ 23 explosive runs where they gained 12 or more yards, seven came off power/counter sweeps. That’s three times more than any other run aside from Prescott’s read-option keepers.”"

While the Dallas Cowboys plan to go back to their ways of old with Marc Colombo at the helm, they’d be foolish to give up on the power blocking scheme. Because as Uy pointed out above, the Cowboys’ most successful running plays have been running power. Conversely, according to Uy’s tracking, the Cowboys least successful runs of the season have been zone.

As our own Dan Ruppert pointed on Tuesday, not all power worked as well as the sweeps did and some really exposed our offensive linemen’s weaknesses. Given the past success of zone/trap, it’s understandable many want to just go back to the old way.

But this doesn’t have to be an either/or situation. Using the right power plays and the right zone plays should be a goal going forward – not just picking one or the other. It’s imperative both are still used.

Technique isn’t working

Here’s where there appears to be the major disconnect. Alexanders’ high-hand low-hand technique was not well received in these parts. Consider it dead and buried.

The Cowboys seemed preoccupied with the unnatural technique change and it showed on the field. As Pro Football Focus pointed out, Prescott has been under pressure on 40 percent of his dropbacks this season.

Poor pocket presence can be blamed for a sizable chunk of that pressure, but far too much of it was the O-line failing to execute (particularly against stunts). Bringing back a familiar technique will go a long way in establishing a workable comfort level and hopefully alleviate the regressive behavior we’ve seen through the first seven weeks.

Most importantly the players are bought in and accepting the pressure that comes with this coaching change. They got what they want. Now they need to execute.

Next. Why Amari Cooper may ultimately push out Beasley. dark

In the end it’s going to come down to execution. Players seemed to quit on Paul Alexander and his pass-protection techniques. If Marc Colombo can get them to play up to the dominant standard we’ve come to expect, this whole season could take on an entirely new look.

  • Published on 11/04/2018 at 14:00 PM
  • Last updated at 11/03/2018 at 13:00 PM