Recently Jason Witten, the Cowboys veteran tight end, spoke out about the frustration that the two biggest threats in the Dallas Cowboys stable have felt this season. Although Witten still has confidence in the Cowboys offensive system, and in his fellow players; he is aware that something needs to change for the team to experience the success that they are capable of achieving.
"It’s been tough with the coverage we have seen. When the opportunities are limited, it makes it tough. We will work through that. The bye comes at a good time to get guys healthy and review and try to get a couple wrinkles." - Jason Witten
While it is true that there have been some health issues that have hampered the Dallas offense, the player who is affectionately called the Senator realizes that the team's issues boil down to one key factor; they are not executing the Garrett-Callahan offense in a manner that will allow the club to achieve.
"At times, the execution has been there. We have seen success, but overall, it hasn’t been good enough. We have to do a better job of it. We feel confidence in the system and the players within the system. That’s what’s good about the system. It’s held up for a long time. We have to continue to work within it."
The offensive brain-trust within the Dallas organization may have confidence in their schemes, but they are going to have to do things better in order to get the big guns involved, and once they have a plan in place, the on-the-field personnel are going to have to elevate their performances to carry out the coaches' intent.
For starters, the coaches and players are going to have to work together to find a way to defeat the attention that opposing defenses are applying to Witten and Bryant. This season, the future Hall of Fame tight end has been finding himself being smothered by opposing linebackers at the line of scrimmage. He is struggling to get a timely release into his pass routes which has disrupted his timing with quarterback Tony Romo. Likewise, Bryant is being limited by heavy jamming as he comes off the ball. Once he does manage to break free, Dez is then facing double-coverage down the field. In recent weeks, the dual attention paid to the duo has paid off in spades for the opposition. Over the last three games, Witten has been limited to 12 catches and 144 yards, while Dez has recorded 180 yards on just 10 receptions. The pair has been limited to just three combined scores during the three game stretch. That is a recipe for the type of disaster that we witnessed on Sunday night.
For their part, the coaching staff knows that there are some options that they can use to free up their key players. Speaking in reference to a question about how the coaches intend to add wrinkles to the offense, wide receivers coach Derek Dooley confirmed that the team will be attempting to install some different approaches during the bye week, but naturally he refused to elaborate on what they squad will be doing.
"This open week comes at a good time for us as coaches, first off, to really make sure we’re doing everything we can to put him [Bryant] in a position to succeed" - Derek Dooley
As I addressed earlier this week in my look at how the team must get Bryant more involved, there are numerous things that the team can try to shake #88 free, including bunch formations, motion plays, and moving Dez around in the formation. They also have the option of taking advantage of Bryant's size and athleticism to force-feed him the ball. Unfortunately, with Jason Witten, the options are more limited. There are not too many places that he can line up, and the lumbering tight end is clearly not going to burn anyone. To free up the Senator, the whole team is going to have to start executing their assignments to force the opposition to turn their attention away from Witten. Everyone across the board is going to have to pull their weight to get the offense rolling again. As Witten stated, it is up to the players themselves to get the job done.
"As an offense, our focus is to find ways to do those things. There are all kinds of wrinkles of putting guys in different situations and plays, but ultimately, us executing this system we have had success in and been a powerful offense."