It’s finally here. Week one of the regular season is upon us, and we are going to get real football starting Thursday night.
In 2020, we will be introducing a weekly report on Kellen Moore and the offensive strengths, weaknesses, and game plan’s moving forward. Given that it’s week one, this will be more of a preview, since we don’t have any tendencies to base our analysis on. What we can do is look at the pieces this offense will present, along with some of Kellen Moore’s tendencies from 2019, and the way they attacked the Rams defense.
New kid(s) on the block
Entering week one, Kellen Moore will have many familiar faces on offense to attack the Rams, but he’s also expected to have more leeway in play-calling and personnel packages.
He does have one new weapon, and that weapon has the ability to take over football games with his elite abilities at the wide receiver position. Enter Malik Turner. I’m kidding, I’m kidding, enter CeeDee Lamb, the Cowboys 2020 first-round pick out of Oklahoma. Lamb, the 17th overall pick in the 2020 draft, will enter week one as an extremely important asset in the Cowboys arsenal. With Jalen Ramsey likely to travel with Amari Cooper for most of the game, Cowboys receivers Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb will deal with Rams cornerbacks Troy Hill and Darious Williams, a matchup that likely favors the Cowboys receivers, and Cowboys play-caller Kellen Moore.
Lamb’s route-running ability out of the slot, and ability to pick up yards after the catch is going to make it a tough day at the office for Williams and Hill who will likely both get some coverage snaps in the slot. Without putting crazy expectations on Lamb in his first-career game, he could be in for a big day if the Rams defense looks to travel Cooper, and offer some safety help to Troy Hill in coverage on Gallup. Will the rookie be up to the challenge?
The one thing that could throw a wrench into the Cowboys offensive plans is starting right tackle La’el Collins being placed on the IR, with Cameron Erving expected to get the start at right tackle for the Cowboys. Why may this disrupt the Cowboys plans you may ask? Well with a below average player at right tackle, the Cowboys may be forced to use 12-personnel with a tight end in on more snaps than naught to give Erving some help at right tackle. Whether that’s Blake Bell or Dalton Schultz is still unknown, but with a tight end on the field, that’s taking one of the big three wide receivers off the field, which could limit the Cowboys passing attack.
With the idea of offering Erving some help in mind, Kellen Moore could turn to using CeeDee Lamb in 11-personnel groupings, while giving the Rams and Sean McVay a taste of their own medicine. When going back and watching the Cowboys and Rams meeting in the playoffs in 2018, the Rams used Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp a ton in motion as an extra-blocker, motion-chipper, or even just as a decoy with motions to freeze the Rams pass-rush. Kellen Moore would be wise to use these grouping to keep the passing game threat still on the field, while also offering Erving some help at right tackle.
Moore used multiple personnel grouping in the 2019 matchup, showcasing a ton of 20-personnel with Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott on the field at the same time, 11-personnel with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Randall Cobb, 12-personnel with Jason Witten, Blake Jarwin, and one of Pollard and Elliott, and even some 22-personnel with Jamize Olawale and Elliott in the backfield.
If you play Receiver and think that blocking isn’t important, watch Robert Woods come in and chip Demarcus Lawrence on this play. Woods is easily 100lbs smaller than Lawrence but he still put himself in a position to protect his QB. Love watching McVay’s offense! #BeATeamPlayer pic.twitter.com/gPAPmwSfW2— Wyatt Bolinger (@BolingerWyatt) January 13, 2019
What’s worked in the past?
The Cowboys have had some success against the Rams in previous years. Even in losses, the offense was able to put up points, but the defense struggled to get stops when it mattered. Heading into week one, the Cowboys are putting an emphasis on attacking teams weaknesses, instead of focusing on “doing just what we do”. When looking at the Rams roster on defense, they are weak at the linebacker spots, and don’t have great depth at cornerback. Those are weaknesses that have haunted the Rams for the last few seasons, and what has led to the Cowboys success in the last few meetings.
Cowboys rookie RB Tony Pollard flashing the goods. Makes about five Rams miss. pic.twitter.com/0UBMKnebKv— Bobby Football (@RobPaulNFL) December 16, 2019
Kellen Moore did a masterful job in 2019 of attacking the Rams weaknesses, using Pollard’s dual-threat ability to attack the Rams linebackers both through the air and on the ground. Moore also used Tavon Austin a decent amount in the 2019 meeting, both as a decoy, and getting the football in the speedy receivers hands, to attack the Rams weakness at linebacker, and aggressive defensive line. The play-action game has given the Rams defense fits in previous years as well, as their downhill linebackers have tendencies to bite on play-fakes more often than naught. Whether the running game is clicking or not, it’ll be important for the Kellen Moore to dial-up plenty of play-fakes to keep the Rams defense guessing, especially on early downs.
One thing that impressed the most in their previous meeting, was the Cowboys ability to find success with their ground game. The Cowboys scored three touchdowns on the ground in their Week 15 matchup, and averaged 6.9 yards per carry on the ground. By no means am I suggesting the Cowboys best chance of coming out victorious is to go with the ground-and-pound game, but if Moore can get into favorable looks out of 11-personnel and 20-personnel with both Zeke and Pollard in the backfield, they could find success there.
At the end of the day, the Cowboys offense will go as far as the Cowboys passing offense will take them. In Week 15 of 2019, Prescott injured his shoulder in the teams second drive of the game, and was forced to gut-out a gritty performance. While the rushing numbers look great, it was the 19-yard touchdown pass to Jason Witten, and the 59-yard touchdown pass to Tavon Austin that got the Cowboys up early, and allowed them to run the football successfully as the game progressed.
The one thing the Cowboys cannot do on offense, is allow All-Pro DL Aaron Donald to completely takeover the football game. Connor Williams has done a nice job throughout his career in his matchups against Donald, but with a limited camp due to rehabbing his ACL, Joe Looney may be spending more time helping with Donald in week one than he, or Kellen Moore would prefer.
With Amari Cooper likely to see a heavy-dose of Jalen Ramsey, it will likely be up to Michael Gallup, CeeDee Lamb, Blake Jarwin, and the Cowboys running backs to put the pressure on the Rams passing defense early in the game. Kellen Moore has plenty of tools to work with, and no longer has a head coach holding a shock-collar to his neck in certain games, and game situations. It’s Week 1, so their may be some rust to knock off, especially with zero preseason games, but all signs point to the Cowboys offense finding success against a Rams defense that possesses two studs in Jalen Ramsey and Aaron Donald, but plenty of weaknesses at linebacker and secondary depth.