So the Dallas Cowboys have a strange and muddled structure on the coaching staff and more questions than answers on defense. It remains to be seen if the changes made are going to work, but for new passing offensive coordinator and presumed primary play-caller Scott Linehan, the offense looks to be in very good shape.
While the reactions to the coaching changes so far have primarily been somewhere between uncertain and negative, the state of the offensive lineup is very good for the Cowboys. Linehan is being given the keys to what should be a very good machine.
Tony Romo is coming back from offseason back surgery again. The hope here is that this will help with the problems that seemed evident last year, where at some point it appears he injured his back and played through it for the remainder of the season. He was not throwing the deep ball with authority and he did not show the willingness to take off and get crucial yards with his legs that he once did so effectively. Hiring Linehan seems a clear attempt to bring back the deep game instead of the dink and dunk approach that wasted so much of the Dallas talent.
Linehan has another big, athletic receiver to work with in Dez Bryant, and the if he can use him the way he used Calvin Johnson, Bryant may be on his way to becoming one of the elite receivers in the league. He also has Terrance Williams and Jason Witten who should be potent weapons. Cole Beasley has become an effective slot receiver, but one thing I am most anticipating is seeing if he can incorporate James Hanna and Gavin Escobar effectively into the offense.
Dawn Macelli already addressed the question of how Linehan will use the running game. I think he will use DeMarco Murray effectively on the ground, based on her well-reasoned argument, but also expect to see Murray and Lance Dunbar really shine as receivers as well.
But the real thing that bodes well for the Cowboys is not the skill positions, although there is a lot to be happy about there. No, the most encouraging thing is that Dallas, for the first time in years, is returning an intact and effective offensive line. Led by Tyron Smith, the line was playing well as a unit. While the team may still seek more line talent in the draft, it is in the position to improve a good situation, not trying to find a way to fix a glaring problem. And with the effective zone blocking scheme they proved very capable of handling last year, the concerns about Linehan and the running game will probably not come to much at all.
Linehan is being brought in to fix the offensive problems. But the problems are all about how to use the tools the Cowboys have, not find the tools in the first place. Any offensive players drafted this year don't have to be depended on to step immediately into starting roles, (although Williams and Travis Frederick both did so very well last year). The team doesn't have to find cap space to sign major contributors on offense, The starters are in place. Linehan just has to make sure they get the plays to maximize their talents. There are still a lot of questions to be answered, particularly on the defense, but offensively, there should be plenty of good news this year.
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