The other day I posted an article about the problems I saw with the Cowboys passing game in 2017. While creating that piece, I watched a lot of game film, including every pass play in the Cowboys and Eagles season finale. While much of that article was negative, there was one positive that jumped off the screen, and that is the Cowboys should be using Ryan Switzer more in the passing game.
This is a two-fold argument. One half is that Switzer runs very nice routes and seems pretty dependable when catching the ball. The guy looks like he can play the slot. The other half of the argument is that with Switzer and Beasley on the field together, the Cowboys could do some unique things. The team’s stubborn adherence to their power-running, vertical-passing scheme would probably preclude them from doing it, which is a shame. Of all my complaints about the Cowboys offense, their inability to, or flat-out disdain for, incorporating new elements, plays, schemes into their offense would top the list.
Switzer caught four of five passes on Sunday, with three of them converting third downs into first downs. He would have had one more had Dak Prescott delivered a better ball, a play we discussed in the previous article.
On that play, Switzer makes a sharp cut to the outside on the Eagles defender (red circle) and has a two-step separation. In the NFL, that is really, really open.
Switzer beat one-on-one coverage a few different times in the game. The Eagles played a lot of man coverage with a single-high safety. Below is Dallas in their standing passing formation. The two outside receivers are going vertical, Jason Witten is running a standard over-the-middle square in, and Switzer is running a short out pattern (red circle). Notice the Eagles defender is right on Switzer’s hip as he heads into his break.
Now look at it a second later. Switzer (red circle) has made his break, turned his body and is ready to receive the ball. The defender is stumbling in the wrong direction helpless to defend the play.
He runs a crisp route and has sure hands. So why wouldn’t Dallas use him more in their offense? Well, unless something changes, it’s because using Switzer and Beasley at the same time seems to be against the rules of the Cowboys playbook.
We watched repeatedly this season as teams used a corner and a linebacker to bracket Beasley, especially on third down plays. Here is where it gets heretical, but why, on occasion, wouldn’t Dallas pull Jason Witten and use Beasely and Switzer in each slot in those situations? Try to watch a defense bracket that while also keeping control of the deep routes. I love Witten, but the Cowboys need some juice in their passing game, something Beasley/Switzer could give them. (To be fair, in the above plays, Witten was also open for the first down).
As smart as Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan are, they have to be able to figure ways to utilize both guys on occasion. And yes, I’ll say it again, bunch formations with rub routes work so well on third and mediums or in the redzone, but Dallas just doesn’t use them.
Dallas doesn’t have to change who they are, but couldn’t they throw a few wrinkles into their passing philosophy. Sometimes, you have to tailor your scheme to your personnel.