Change. That seems to be the theme of the Cowboys offseason so far. The fans want change, and it appears the Cowboys front office wants change, too. Sure, there are some constants like keeping Jason Garrett and his coordinators. But after that, plenty of assistants coaches have left or are rumored to be leaving. When a staff is turned over like this, owners are looking for fresh voices and fresh ideas.
Stephen Jones has also strongly hinted that the Cowboys will be looking to change on the field with his comments about making the team Dak-friendly. We did a whole post pondering what that specifically could mean. Whatever it ends up looking like, it’s just another “change” marker the Cowboys are laying down.
Another sign of change? Maybe the recent hire of offensive line coach Paul Alexander. That hire has been met with quite a bit of trepidation from the Cowboys’ faithful. There are definitely stats that would give you pause about the wisdom of the hire. Alexander’s possible success or failure in Dallas is not the focus of this article, but is certainly a debate worth having. What is the focus is the fact that Alexander is a change-agent to some extent. The Cowboys just didn’t go out and hire another devotee of the zone-blocking scheme. Even though the Cowboys run more than ZBS, it is certainly their hallmark, what they’re know for.
And Alexander can certainly teach that. But he can also teach power-blocking, along with other elements of a running scheme. How well he teaches all of that is a question, but his penchant for adapting schemes to fit his players is something he’s kind of known for if you believe former Bengal standout tackle Willie Anderson.
“Great coaches learn that teachers teach,” Anderson said. “A teacher should never say, ‘I teach math.’ You should say, ‘I teach John math. I teach the student.’ That’s an important of teaching. Don’t say, ‘This is my scheme and we do this.’”
“It’s a mix,” Anderson said. “Every O-line coach in football, that’s the biggest misconception. If you’re a line coach, you’re teaching everything. We run power. We run zone. It’s all the same stuff. It’s about how that individual guy can get it taught to those five guys on the line.”
“It’s all about players you have and what you’re good at and what you’re back is great at,” Anderson said. “Zeke can do a plethora of things. … Paul’s going to assess Zeke, assess the offensive line and they’re going to put scheme together that’s best for them.”
Maybe this is the Cowboys conceding to some extent that they need to re-think things on offense. Again, nobody expects the Cowboys to totally abandon their current scheme, but this is at least a signal that they aren’t as wedded to their recent past as they have been.
A constant complaint about the Cowboys, at least when things aren’t working on offense, is that they keep trying the exact same things anyway. Maybe 2018 will be different.
What could be lost in all this is the reason for a new offensive line coach, and it may have nothing to do with debates over zone vs. power blocking in the running game. It may all have to do with protecting Dak Prescott.
Even with [Tyron] Smith on the field, there was a belief among some in the [Cowboys] building that the pass protection was the biggest reason for the slide of the pass-game numbers, especially in the second half.
The Cowboys don’t need to overhaul their running game. However, they can add to the scheme with the addition of Alexander. Where Alexander needs to have the biggest impact is protecting Prescott.