Some RPOs, Some Play Action, and Some Deep Shots…
There hasn’t been much noise on the passing offense so far. Most everything has been about how the new formations and sets are throwing the Cowboys defense for a loop in regards to run stopping.
Sanjay Lal did say something interesting though. “The whole premise of this offense is vertical speed, if you can’t hit a go route, the comeback game isn’t real, your slant game, your nine-stop game isn’t real. Being able to hit those deep balls in the game is going to change everything. We are doing it out here. That is good to see. The quarterbacks are doing a good job throwing.”
Let me reiterate something: the Cowboys offense is not going through a seismic shift. The offensive concepts and philosophy is expected to stay the same from last year. The main point of emphasis the Cowboys are changing or adopting is their presentation. They have stated this at every opportunity they have had.
Lal’s words of this offense have been true since the day Jason Garrett stepped into the building with a playbook in his hand. His offense is built vertically with a good bit of intermediate to deep passes. The reason we haven’t seen this as much is because the previous offensive coordinator was notoriously stubborn in his play calling.
In order for this passing game to be successful, the defense must respect the deep pass. By nature, that would allow shorter passes to be completed at a higher rate. (With the threat of a deep pass, defenses will have to cover accordingly leaving underneath routes more open) This is something seen quite often in Air Raid offenses. (A Kliff Kingsbury specialty)
The Giants game in week 17 is the perfect example of this in full effect. It doesn’t matter that the Giants had one of the worst passing defense. It doesn’t matter that the Giants couldn’t stop tight ends all season. What was apparent was that the more the Cowboys threw deep, the threat of the deep pass created room for intermediate passes. More important, intermediate passes that led to touchdowns. (Week 14 against the Eagles also showed a similar trend)
For how much people want Dak to improve as a passer, having an offensive system that can help your QB maximize his progression will ultimately dictate the offense’s success.
I discussed how the deep passing game opens the intermediate passes, but the same is applicable to RPOs and play action passes. The Cowboys have a solid running game; throwing in RPOs into the system will make it difficult even more difficult for defenses to stop the run.
Analytics twitter continues to push for teams to use play action on most passing plays. The threat of the running back rushing with the ball causes linebackers to freeze creating more open windows in the intermediate range. Dak happens to be a good play action passer. (This really shouldn’t come as a shock at this point. This was apparent his rookie season when he needed wider windows to throw)
These last two play calls are no-brainer additions to the playbook; unfortunately these didn’t happen enough last season. The expectation is Kellen Moore’s intelligence will lead him to incorporating more plays like these, but we won’t have any idea what the Cowboys are doing until training camp.