3 ways the Dallas Cowboys can hide their O-line problems

(Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images) /
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How the Dallas Cowboys hide their O-line: Solution 3

Avoid 3rd downs

First of all, there’s no such thing as manageable third downs. The word “manageable” should be struck from our vocabulary. Unless it’s 3rd and 1.5 or less, the odds are not in the offenses favor. So the idea of employing a run-run-pass offense that’s designed for a 3rd-and-4 is asinine.

Passing on early downs is key to avoiding those treacherous 3rd-and-4s. Last season the Dallas Cowboys produced 4x the expected points passing the ball than they did running the ball. Last week Dallas had a dropback EPA of .421 with a staggeringly strong 68.8% success rate. Their rushing EPA was -0.042 with a paltry 31.3% success rate.

As you can see, running the ball actually hurt the team on first down and produced a negative EPA. Yet the Cowboys repeatedly did it and kept finding themselves in 3rd down holes. Dallas converted just 25% of their third downs last week (30th in the NFL) and it’s not hard to see why.

The worst thing you can do to a suspect offensive line is ask them to pass protect in obvious passing situations. Passing the ball early and often avoids those situations and at the very least, gives the O-line a chance. It doesn’t matter what the back is averaging, all it takes is one stuffed run and the team is in an ugly third down situation. Passing, on the other hand, produces bigger chunk plays and higher rewards.

3 Workable Solutions

If the Dallas Cowboys really want to adapt to the team they have, and not the team they want, there are fairly workable solutions. Roll outs, motion, misdirection and less time in the pocket is a starting point. Employing more RPOs and screens is another way to keep the ball moving and pass-rushers on tilt. And avoiding third downs altogether should be the mindset when calling early down plays because statistically passing early is a far more profitable attack and it avoids those ugly obvious pass situations that plagued them last week.

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