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Gavin Escobar, James Hanna, Dante Rosario and Jason Witten. All of them will play a role in the Cowboys passing attack in addition to helping the running game. But serious issues along the offense line continue to plague the 2013 training camp as they did in 2012. Livings and Bernedeaux may go down as the worst free agent combo pack in Cowboys history.
Because of this, the running game is once again in serious jeopardy. While it is still possible that Dallas will field a significantly improved line, the synchronization needed for effective zone running may be a long way off.
Enter the short yardage passing game featuring backs. By passing to Murray, Dunbar and Randle, Dallas can still make opposing defenses account for these weapons.
Garrett's big strategic blank spot as an OC was his failure to do this more often. On too many occasions, if the defense was shutting down the run, Garrett allowed them to take his backs totally out of the game by not passing to them. His logic may have been that Romo may as well dump it off to Witten if they are going to substitute dinks for runs.
But how often does Witten juke a defender, out-run two more, stiff-arm a third and take a short pass to the house? Murray presents that possibility each time he touches the ball. And Dunbar seems to draw more and more comparisons to Darren Sproles each week.
As we anxiously await Dallas' version of New England's two tight end offense, perhaps we should also look to New Orleans for hints as to how Bill Callahan might cope with his offensive line deficiencies.
The Saints threw 120 passes to their running backs for 1050 yards in 2012, for an average of 8.75 yards a catch. They also had Jimmy Graham catch 85 for 982 and their top two WR's each went over 1000 yards, so it isn't as if the backs were stealing catches from other positions. The Saints use the passes to backs to manipulate the linebackers and safeties. They gash these groups repeatedly until they are so worried about the backs that Bree's can throw over their heads to a Graham, Colston or Moore.
An added bonus is that Bree's gets plenty of easy completions and easy yards to stay in rhythm while enjoying very manageable downs and distances. The Saints have enjoyed a much better offensive line than Dallas in the past few years, I'm aware of that. But they are greatly aided by a scheme that gets the ball out to the backs very quickly, slows down the pass rush and sets up the safeties and linebackers for deeper balls.
Dallas must continue to work on their run game, I'm not advocating an Andy Reid approach-but early in this season, the extended handoff may be the closest thing to a run that Dallas can consistently execute.
And even if/when they do get the running game in gear, the Saints are a great example of an offense that proves you can have it all. Their backs combined for over 1300 yards on the ground, giving them over 2350 yards from scrimmage.
Dallas' "New" offense might optimally be a blend of New England and New Orleans.
What do you think?