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New Offensive Wrinkles Coming For Cowboys?

Dallas has a new starting quarterback for the Giants game, so what might the team try to do differently to get a spark on the offense?

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys have made some significant changes to their offense to try and end the doldrums it suffered for three weeks under Brandon Weeden. Matt Cassel now will have the reins, and the hope is that he is going to be more effective. The gameplan with Weeden was very conservative. Will Scott Linehan try some things with Cassel that he would not try the past three games?

It probably is time. The Cowboys need to move the ball and score more points. The game against the New York Giants is a very good one to try some new things out, because the Giants have not been having much success at all getting pressure on the quarterback. Dallas showed it was willing to throw some new stuff on the field with the defense when it rolled out the 3-2-6 alignment against the New England Patriots. What kind of things might they try offensively?

Anything the team does has to recognize the limitation that Cassel has. He does not have the strongest arm, so he is not going to be good for really long throws. But he can make the middle range passes. The Cowboys don't have to complete long bombs to loosen up the run defense. Throws 15 to 20 yards downfield can do that as well, and Cassel can make that kind of throw.

The first thing is to mix up the playcalling on first down. Go with some first down passes, especially if the team can get better starting positions than they had during the Patriots game. The offense needs to lose some of its predictability. Even if a first down pass is incomplete, it still forces the defense to account for that on future series.

How about actually trying to use Gavin Escobar in the offense? This has been a lingering question ever since Escobar was drafted, and he has become something of a mythical creature as a receiver. Occasionally he has been used effectively for a few plays, but those have been few and far between. He has not been very good as an inline blocker for the running game, but with the problems the wide receiver corps has been having in the absence of Dez Bryant, it might be time to use him as a receiver. He could be moved out to a slot position and used in seam routes. If he is used in conjunction with Cole Beasley, he could give Cassel more targets to work with. Escobar is a big receiver who should be a matchup problem for the secondary. Sending him out could also pull a linebacker to cover him, which could also help get one man out of the box and open the running game up. Coincidentally, one of those rare moments when he was used was to score a touchdown against the Giants in the first game of the season.

While most of the focus has been on the possibility that Christine Michael is going to start at running back in place of Joseph Randle, it also looks like the team is settling on Darren McFadden as the third down back for passing situations. The loss of Lance Dunbar was big, since he had become the most productive target for Weeden. While McFadden does not duplicate what Dunbar can do, he is effective if you can get him the ball in space where he can get up a head of steam and use his straight line speed. Given how he seems to go down with even minimal contact, letting him run a few yards before he has to take on a defender will maximize his contributions.

Conversely, the team needs to stick with the running game. This may mean pounding it on some series even if the running back is not getting a lot of yards per carry, especially early on, but that is where Michael may pay off. He looks like he can at least get a few yards even when there isn't much room. Hopefully Dallas can wear down the defense and start to get some bigger gains as the game wears on. This might be where Randle may be more valuable, coming in to spell Michael and getting those big runs we saw him get last season in relief of DeMarco Murray.

Cassel is more mobile than Weeden, so the team might want to roll him out to give the receivers more time to get open on their routes. It is hoped that he can make better decisions than Weeden (read: less checkdowns) so this might be a way to get all the wide receivers more involved.

One thing that we should not expect are any real trick plays, because that is just not part of the way Jason Garrett likes to do business. Outside of maybe a jet sweep, there won't be many of these.

None of these possible new wrinkles are likely to be as important as how well Cassel handles the basic job completing passes and taking care of the ball. But some kind of different approach on offense will only help with getting that needed spark. Dallas needs to start getting some wins, and after the horrid performance that the Giants had against the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night, they look like an excellent team to get things started against.

So what else might the Cowboys roll out to get things clicking when they have the ball? Let us know if you have any bright ideas in the comments.

Follow me @TomRyleBTB


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