IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys could be eliminated from the postseason this weekend if they don’t beat the Redskins and the Philadelphia Eagles win against the Chicago Bears. So this trip to Washington D.C. is virtually a must-win game for the Dallas Cowboys, who have now lost two straight games to drop to 7-7.
Here are the gut feelings for insiders Nick Eatman, David Helman and Rowan Kavner.
It’s really easy to hop on the negativity train, considering how the past week has gone for the Dallas Cowboys. They don’t have a linebacker corps, and their secondary is held together by duct tape. I don’t have much doubt Kirk Cousins is going to be the latest backup quarterback to rack up big yardage. With the season in the balance, though, I think Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, and DeMarco Murray can step up and carry this team into Week 17. More importantly, I think the offensive line can step up and continue its hot streak. I see another 100-yard effort in Murray, and I think Romo can take advantage of a bad Washington secondary. Michael Spurlock is going to have a valuable return in a key situation, and Dallas is going to win by 10-14 points.
Hopes are slim right now for a reeling Dallas group after losing two straight games in awful fashion, once just getting picked apart in Chicago and the other by giving a game away to the Packers, but there’s a reason the Redskins are a three-win team and have lost their last six. Their situation is worse than the Cowboys’ current one. The breadth of Dallas defensive injuries make them look more and more like last year’s team, so there aren’t a litany of teams I’d pick them to beat, but this is still one. I think the Cowboys go back to what they trust, getting Jason Witten involved early. He’ll find the end zone, but the Dallas offense will also find a way to get Cole Beasley at least five catches. The play-calling will still frustrate some, as the Cowboys work to find the best way to handle their recent rushing success, but they’ll have success on the ground and through the air before Dan Bailey wins it by a field goal.
My gut for this game isn’t so great. Somehow, I have a hard time seeing the Dallas Cowboys get out this place with a win. Then again, I really don’t think the season and playoff hopes will be over after Sunday. Whatever the Cowboys do, I see the Eagles doing as well, setting up a showdown next week like we all expected. I think the Cowboys can definitely win this game, but I worry about the defense stopping the run, especially if it gets rainy and turns into a sloppy-field game. I don’t think you can dismiss the fact Washington has just three wins. A three-win team is a bad team. And while Kirk Cousins can certainly hurt this team, there’s a reason they are so bad. So I think this one is close. Somehow I have a hard time picking Dallas, but an even stronger feeling is the Cowboys have something to play for next week, too.
IRVING, Texas – Count me in as one of those people that feel that the switch to Bill Callahan as the primary play caller as a positive move for the 2013 season.
Under Jason Garrett, from the 20 to 20, this was one of the most successful offenses in the league, but where it had its biggest issues was inside the red zone where it ranked in the back half. The most alarming stat was how this offense was ranked 27th in the league when faced with goal-to-go. There were plenty of times during these situations where execution was poor by the players and it left Garrett with no choice to try and search for a play to compensate for his lack of confidence.
The numbers over the years will tell you that Garrett was not a poor play caller, but I honestly believe that where Callahan will make a bigger difference is how this offense finishes drives. As good as Dan Bailey is kicking field goals, you don’t want him doing it all day. There are too many weapons on this offense for this team to be ranked near the bottom when it comes to red zone or goal-to-go situations. Even in the OTAs and minicamp practices, Callahan has tried to develop a toughness with his blockers including the tight ends, who I thought struggled some last year at the point of attack.
I believe that the biggest difference between Callahan and Garrett as a play caller is that Callahan will bring a certain toughness to his play calling. He is more likely to stick with things that are working and be consistent about calling the game that way. With Callahan it will not be about how many plays but how will you run the plays you have for that week. He understands the strengths and weaknesses of this offensive line and I feel his play calling will play to that. Moving the ball with Callahan will not be a problem but where he has to be different than Jason Garrett is finishing drives and that is what I feel he will be able to do.
You see this group as a whole getting off the ball quicker and into their blocks. Callahan is more committed to trying to make this work, where at times I didn’t feel like Garrett was as patient. I have also noticed more opportunities for Dez Bryant to take advantage of his ability to make high point plays, which we all know is almost impossible for a corner to have to deal with.
But the biggest difference I have noticed is working the ball to Jason Witten in the red zone. To me, this has never been a bad thing because of his ability to use his route smarts and his big body to create space. One of the best contested ball catchers on this team is Witten. Callahan is smart to take advantage of that.
Courtesy: Bryan Broaddus | Football Analyst/Scout
IRVING, Texas – In an offseason that included a defensive coordinator change, a scheme change, the welcoming of a former defensive coordinator to the coaching staff and position changes for the team’s sack leaders, it was another storyline that dominated most of the attention in the offseason.
The Cowboys’ front office and coaching staff chose not to divulge who would be calling plays for the majority of the offseason. Well, they sort of chose not to.
Owner/general manager Jerry Jones intimated during the Senior Bowl that Bill Callahan would, or could, assume that role. Months later, the news that Callahan would call plays eventually got squeezed out, though nobody involved in the switch seemed to think the news was grandiose. Most of them played off its significance.
That’s because it won’t make a drastic difference.
Sure, the timing of calls during the process of a game will be altered with Callahan up in the booth. But when asking any of the coaches or players about the change, none of them seem to believe that the offense will look much different.
The coaches know before the game starts how they want to call a game, what they will do in certain situations and which plays to feature against certain looks or packages from the opponent. That’s what the game plan is for all week.
Don’t expect dramatic changes from the Cowboys’ offense with Callahan now at the helm. He may incorporate more of the West Coast elements he used as the head man in Oakland and with Nebraska, but the most important people who put the game plan together haven’t changed from last year, and, subsequently, the offense won’t either.
Callahan admitted as much.
“It’s not my offense,” Callahan said. “It’s our offense. That’s the main thing to understand here. Like Jason has talked about, we’ve all mentioned, it’s a collaborative effort, it’s a collective effort across the board with the offensive staff. I’m just a guy that’s up in the box and going to call the play, a play that there’s consensus on, there’s agreement on that we’ve all planned and prepared for.”
The head coach is still the same person. While he may not have the title of play-caller anymore, if he wants a certain play called, that’s what the play will be.
We all know if the offense changes at all for better or worse, the finger will point straight at Callahan now. He’ll deserve some of the flak or the credit, but not all of it, for better or for worse.
Garrett shouldn’t be completely off the hook from poor offensive showings and he should still get a decent amount of credit if the Cowboys’ offense starts finding the end zone. After all, the minor changes that may occur on offense will be more from the week of planning than the new play-caller on Sundays.
Courtesy: Rowan Kavner | Staff Writer
WRITERS ROUNDTABLE: Will the Cowboys continue to average 177 yards rushing per game since DeMarco Murray became the starter?
Question: Will the Dallas Cowboys hit their average of 177.0 yards rushing per game since DeMarco Murray became the starter?
The last four weeks have been wonderful for Murray. He’s rushed for 601 yards, the most over a four-game span in franchise history. His strong running style is helped by fullback Tony Fiammetta and an offensive line starting to develop into something good.
When the Cowboys take on the Washington Redskins on Sunday afternoon, expect the run game to continue to have success. Murray is reason No. 1, but the return of running back Felix Jones will add to it. Jones averaged four yards a carry before a left high ankle sprain forced him out the next four games.
Jones is a solid runner; he’s just not as good as Murray is right now.
And that’s OK, because good running teams have multiple running backs helping in the cause. Jones helps Murray and the passing game, which is also performing well thanks to Laurent Robinson, opens the door for the run.
Sure the Redskins will have eight in the box, much like Buffalo did last Sunday. But the Redskins rank 18th against the run, allowing 120.4 yards per game. Washington has some physical players up front, but the Cowboys are doing a great job of attacking defenses.
Murray and Jones will have a solid game Sunday and keep the averages up.
But it has more to do with the Redskins’ raggedy offense than the Cowboys’ running game.