Last week we discussed the rise of specialty packages on offense, particularly the rise of the S02 formation. It is no coincidence that this formation coincided with the increased production of Cole Beasley. It's a specialty package, and as such it requires players with very specific skill sets. As Bob Sturm says there are really only two defensive possibilities against this package, a blitz or a robber look. If there is a blitz the offense has to have a slot receiver who can get in and out of his breaks quickly as an outlet, something that Beasley does very well.
I expect we're going to see more of this specialization in the years to come. As the base talent level on the team has grown we've been able to add complementary pieces like Cole Beasley and Lance Dunbar. This is an important concept. Some teams try overcompensate for a lack of talent by "tricking" their opponents, or relying heavily on special packages (see the 2008 Dolphins Wildcat). But while that may work for a while, eventually it will ruin your offense.
An analogy is in order. I drive an old 2000 Volkswagen Jetta. I just watched Fast and the Furious, and man, I'm fired up. So I go out and decide I'm going to buy some nitrous and turn my car into a fighter jet.
But what really happens? My car isn't built to handle nitrous. It doesn't have the base pieces in part to properly utilize it. I might go really fast once, maybe twice, but ultimately I'm going to destroy my car. The engine won't be able to handle the stress, my tires will blow, something is going to break. My car's "base" isn't up to snuff, so anything "extra" is just going to be wasted.
Well, players like Beasley are that nitrous. You can't use them as a basis for your system. But if you have a quality base in place, they can take you to the next level.
Some coaches try to use specialty packages as a substitute for talent. Kyle Shanahan installed Baylor's offense to compensate for RGIII's inability to run a pro-system. In 2008 the Dolphins installed the Wildcat to cover for offensive deficiencies. During the Campo years Mike Zimmer ran a high risk "Cover 0" defense to hide a lack of overall talent in Dallas.
And while that may be successful for a moment, ultimately you are only covering problems and not fixing them when you try to replace talent with scheme (something Chip Kelly is going to learn soon). Garrett and the rest of the front office have done a good job of balancing things as they first developed and increased the base talent level on offense, and then began adding wrinkles. Over the next few seasons expect to see the coaches let loose and see what this bad boy can do.
The Sad, Strange Tale of B.W. Webb:
To see the exact opposite of what I just described above we need look no further than former Cowboy B.W. Webb. Like Beasley, Webb was always going to be a specialty player; a slot corner with the short area quickness to stay with players like Wes Welker, Darren Sproles, and yes, Cole Beasley.
Unfortunately for Webb, Dallas did not have a talented enough defense to support a purely specialized player. Webb was never going to make it as a base corner. As a rookie, he played relatively well as a slot corner, only giving up eight receptions in 105 targets. But he couldn't hack it on the outside, and Dallas couldn't afford to carry him (the player who replaced him, Sterling Moore, played both inside and outside).
The truth is, the defense in Dallas is a good year behind the offense in regards to acquiring talent. But now that we're in year two of Rod Marinelli's defense, and with the acquisition of Greg Hardy, I imagine we're going to start seeing some interesting specialized formations. And we're getting to the point were we have enough depth that we can afford to carry one or two players who are specialized (perhaps a pass rushing DE, or a coverage linebacker) similar to what the offense is doing with Beasley.
All in all it's a good time to be a Cowboys fan. We have a strong enough roster that some good players are going to miss final cuts. And because we have players that are multifaceted like Anthony Hitchens and Tyrone Crawford, we have roster spaces to carry players that may only be used in special situations. I've said on a number of occasions that none of our coaches are particularly well known for their x's and o's. Well the truth is, none of our coaches have ever coached a team as talented as this one either (remember Marinelli wasn't the DC for the Bucs). That talent level is going to give our coaches the ability to cut loose, and I'm excited to see what they will do.