Scott Linehan is known for directing pass-heavy offenses. During his previous five seasons as Detroit’s offensive coordinator, no team threw the ball more. Over those 80 games, the Lions averaged 40.7 pass attempts per game, four more than the Dallas Cowboys averaged during that time.
So, it was somewhat surprising to hear the new Dallas Cowboys offensive play-caller talking on the radio about how Pro Bowl running back DeMarco Murray and the Dallas running game would be the team’s strength this season.
“Things that were done last year in the running game with DeMarco, the running style that was created here is really a good fit,” Linehan said recently on 105.3 The Fan. “That’s going to be our strength, being able to lean on that running game a little bit more than the past.
“Obviously, with this offensive line, this is going to be something that’s going to help our passing game. The looks that Dez [Bryant] started to get as the year went on, people started giving him the attention that Calvin [Johnson] and Randy Moss would get as far as getting those double coverage’s. You need to have those other facets of your offense as far as your running game.”
Linehan also mentioned how an increased emphasis on running the ball could lead to the Cowboys using a fullback more often than they did in 2013.
Four-year veteran Tyler Clutts is the only fullback on Dallas’ current roster. LSU fullback J.C. Copeland was one of 24 undrafted free agents signed Tuesday by the Cowboys. Copeland was considered one of the top blocking fullbacks in college football.
“The No. 1 goal, and I told Jason [Garrett] this when I came here, is to keep a lot of things the same,” Linehan said. “It’s a lot easier for the players to not have to change how they call things. To the naked eye, they’ll be similar.
“I just want to be an asset and bring some ideas that maybe haven’t been implemented that I can add to current things that were done well in the systems I’ve been around.
“Jason and I have a good background. … There are a lot of similarities. It’s just the language. I just basically made the commitment to transfer over what I’ve called things, the way people call things to keep it consistent for the players so they can step on the field and be ready to go from the get-go of OTAs.”
Historically, the Dallas Cowboys’ new offensive play-caller has never been afraid to stretch a defense by taking deep shots downfield.
He did it with Calvin Johnson and Randy Moss. Expect him to do the same with Dez Bryant in Dallas.
“That’s a big part of what I grew up in or believe in,” Linehan recently said. “It’s going to be our philosophy to do those kinds of things maybe a little more. I think we have the personnel for it, for sure. It’s a way to get people backed up a little bit and also create big plays.
“Everybody says it’s a low percentage play. Depending on the look, it’s a high percentage play, as long as you got weapons on the outside part of the field. I really believe we have that. We also have some big targets with our tight ends. Having the talent, the speed and the length we have at our skill positions I think it’s something you got to implement, and that really helps open up things for your running game as well.”
Going deep wasn’t a large part of the Dallas Cowboys offensive attack in 2013. Tony Romo ranked 17th in the NFL last season in pass attempts of 21 or more air yards.
“One of the most intriguing things for me coming here was we got some great weapons on offense,” Linehan said. “Obviously we’ve built a heck of an offensive line. Tony’s a proven player that I’ve always been a big fan of throughout his career. We’ve got a pretty decent receiver [Bryant] and a pretty decent tight end [Jason Witten]. Those guys are pretty good.”
Williams played in all 16 games, starting eight as the team’s No. 2 receiver last season. The third-round pick caught 44 passes for 736 yards and five touchdowns. Escobar, a second-round pick, was used sparingly, catching nine passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns from the tight end position.
“The Escobar kid … is a guy that’s kind of somewhat untapped at this point,” Linehan said. “It’s not because he doesn’t have the ability to do it. We really liked him [in Detroit] last year coming out in the draft. I followed him when he came here. Now that I’m working with him, I’m really excited to see what he can do for us, too