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Cowboys run game becoming a minor concern

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OK, I didn’t get to the rest of the film review as promised tonight. I might do a mini-one tomorrow but I need to do the Jets Scouting Report tomorrow and really, the secondary was the most interesting things about Sunday’s game against the Redskins.

But the other area of concern is that of the run game, which I mentioned for the last couple of weeks isn’t performing the way it had earlier in the season. Theories abound as to why, but I think there are a few of reasons it has suffered.

  1. The run blocking just isn’t that good. While this offensive line has excelled at pass blocking, they don’t always win the battle at the line of scrimmage in the run game. I can’t necessarily explain it, but we have continuously missed blocks that never seem to happen in the passing game. Also, the flux at the FB position is not helping matters. Hoyte started out well but got hurt, Anderson took a while to get going and just when he was starting to get it he got hurt, and now a not-fully-100% Hoyte is back in the line up.
  1. The Cowboys are a power-running team, that’s the identity they are trying to create, but they might be overdoing it. In the last few weeks I’ve noticed the other team’s linebackers are headed right to the point of attack with abandon once they see the handoff and are filling the lanes. They know where the run is going and are attacking that spot hard, along with the defensive line. The Cowboys might benefit from a few misdirection runs, some cutback runs and other plays that take advantage of overaggressive defenses. If they are abandoning the backside lanes, take advantage of them.
  1. I don’t know how committed to the run the Cowboys are now. The number of carries isn’t significantly down, but this offense seems to work best and most efficiently in the passing game. Once we discovered that Romo to Owens and Witten could light up the scoreboard, we’ve taken advantage. Maybe it’s not the numbers; it’s the emotion of the offense when the passing game is working. We used to feed off MB3’s runs for emotional lifts, but his yards per carry have plummeted recently, so now we feed off Owens’ and Witten’s catches. I admit this theory has no factual basis, just a feeling.

If we can’t get better blocking, let’s at least try some misdirection to get defenses to back off and quit attacking the run with such aggressiveness. I would like to see MB3 and JJ get some backside cutback runs going to keep the defense honest.

JJT thinks the Cowboys are utilizing the backs in the wrong way. He believes that going back to what we used to do would be a better rotation than what we have now.

Jones is fine on first and second downs. Barber is perfect for third down, because he's an excellent blocker who willingly blocks blitzing linebackers and he's a terrific receiver.

And we all know what a force he is inside the 20 because of his punishing running style, instincts and confidence. He's also proved to be adept at running through arm tackles in the fourth quarter, when opponents are worn down.

I don’t know; JJ is a better receiver than he gets credit for and he also has gotten much better at picking up the blitz, although I trust MB3 more in both areas. But MB3 is no slouch on regular runs either, so segmenting them like that might not take full-advantage of their abilities. It’s a tough call.

The running game this week will be a family affair; Thomas and Julius Jones match up for another game. Julius recalls the first time they played against each other in the pros.

"Vinny (Testaverde) called a play. I was walking up to the line of scrimmage and I looked over to the sideline and I could see him looking at me," Julius Jones recalled from the Cowboys' 2004 game against the Bears. "I gave him a little head nod. It's little things like that, just the little things that mean a lot to me."

JJ also addresses his role in the Cowboys offense.

"Obviously I'd love to have the ball and have more opportunities, but we're winning," Jones said Tuesday. "Y'all know me, I don't complain about anything. Whatever opportunities I get, whether it be eight (carries) or 28, I've got to make the most out of them."