The Cowboys offense struggled against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 3. There has been, and will continue to be, lots of talk about the Cowboys game plan, play selection, red zone schemes, etc. One other problem that stuck out when watching the game live and was then driven home when reviewing the All-22 on Monday, is not what they called, but what they didn’t, and even more, who wasn’t on the field.
In Week 2 against the Jets, rookie running back Duece Vaughn and second year wideout/return man, KaVontae Turpin, saw a combined 29 offensive snaps, and a combined nine offensive touches. But against Arizona, Turpin played only two offensive snaps, and Vaughn never saw the field on offense.
In fact, the personnel usage for the Cowboys offense condensed as a whole. In the Week 2 matchup against the Jets, the Cowboys had 12 skill position players (excluding OL and QB) who saw offensive snaps, with all of them playing at least 15% of the plays. But in Week 3 against the Cardinals, only eight players played at least 15% of the snaps on offense.
Players like Turpin and Vaughn, along with Hunter Leupke, Rico Dowdle, Luke Schoonmaker, Jalen Tolbert, and Jalen Brooks all saw their snap counts cut significantly from Week 2 to Week 3.
Some of this, especially for players like Tolbert and Brooks, can be explained by the return of Brandin Cooks from an injury that kept him out against the Jets. Overall, though, it points to a condensing of the Cowboys personnel usage on offense that made them less dynamic, and presumably much easier to defend.
There is the possibility that the late week injuries to the offensive line caused a shuffle in the game plan that resulted in this shrinkage. Potentially even worse is that the Cowboys felt they didn’t need to bring a diverse group of personnel packages into the game against the Cardinals, and wanted to save things for games against teams like the Patriots and 49ers over the next couple of weeks.
Either way, they will need to give Bill Belichick and Steve Wilkes much more to think about than what they gave Jonathan Gannon and Nick Rallis in Week 3, or they are likely to struggle offensively yet again.