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Cowboys Offense: Can We Please Get the Screen Going?

With the NFL being the copycat league that it is, it is rare to see a storied franchise continue to deny a widely successful trend. The Cowboys have denied it so long, it's not even a trend anymore. Over the year’s we’ve watched our rivals do it. The Packers have done it with great success. The 49ers of the late 80’s and 90’s beat us over the head with it. Though they backed off a bit last season, the Philadelphia Eagles have historically punished us with it. Forgive my youth, but my Cowboy fandom spans about 19 years and 6 head coaches. What I’m trying to figure out is over that time span, through all of those changes, why haven’t the Cowboys ever truly made the screen a part of their regular offense?

There are a few theories on why the Cowboys have never been much of a screen team. If you don’t mind, I’m going to pipe-bomb both of those hypotheses right now.

Theory 1: The Cowboys have traditionally had big offensive lines who may not move well in space. - Nice try. It is true that the Cowboys have always liked their offensive linemen with a little extra beef. The Cowboys were tied for having the heaviest offensive line in the league last year with an average weight of 330.2 lbs. per man amongst the opening day starting five. Do you know who the Cowboys were tied with? That’s right, the Philadelphia Eagles, one of the NFL’s best screen teams over the last decade. Big offensive lines are a good thing in the screen game. Yes the big guys are going have to move, but if you are some light-in-the-shorts defensive back (let’s say DeAngelo Hall just for fun), is there any more disheartening sight than Leonard Davis, Marc Colombo and maybe a fullback barreling down on you with a full head of steam? Yeah, I’m not signing up for that.

Continue reading after the jump for more theories...

Theory 2: The Cowboys haven’t had those types of backs. - Wrong again silly wabbit. While Emmitt Smith wasn’t leaving vapor trails in the Texas Stadium atmosphere, he was a fine receiver out of the backfield, and did everything well. When the Cowboys drafted Michael Wiley out of Ohio State in 2000, I was sure that one of his main purposes would be catching screens out of the backfield. Still, not much of a screen game. While Chris Warren’s build did not lend itself to pass receiving, he too was a fine receiver. Warren had success with the screen in his days with Seattle before coming to Dallas.

Okay, so let’s say we didn’t have the backs then. Well, we have ‘em now. With Felix Jones in the fold, you would have to think that Jason Garrett and company have a screen or two cooked up. Jones has good hands and is one of the most electrifying open field runners in the game. Jones would be an absolute nightmare on screens. Don’t forget Marion Barber in the screen game either. Barber is an excellent receiver, and would be a tough guy for defensive backs to get down in space. If you really want to get creative, it would be nice to see an occasional backdoor screen to Martellus Bennett. If you are a defender, that’s another guy you don’t want to see coming your way in the open field.

Romo-Friendly. That’s pretty much like a mission statement around Valley Ranch these days. Down the stretch in recent years, we’ve seen opposing defensive coordinators blitz every warm body they can find at Tony Romo. In last year’s season finale in Philadelphia, I’m pretty sure I saw the Eagles assistant trainer and water boy run a twist, freeing up the gate attendant to make the sack from the blindside. Nothing slows down a blitz like a well timed, well executed screen pass. You can’t just pin your ears back like some kind of rabid dog when you are saddled with the fear of having Tony Romo loft a floater just over your outstretched arms, into the waiting hands of Felix Jones.

Well, the team certainly seems to have the personnel in place. After seeing him call an option-right on 3rd and 2 against Baltimore, I no longer have any doubts about Jason Garrett’s creativity. A great warrior learns from his adversaries. Wouldn't it be nice to impale the Eagles with their own sword? Maybe, just maybe, this is the year. Can a brutha get a screen?!

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