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If Dallas Cowboys Lose Zeke, Take it “Old School” Offensively

If and most likely when Ezekiel Elliott ends up serving his six-game suspension, the Cowboys should avoid doing the same, and instead look to take it old school.

If Dallas Cowboys Lose Zeke, Take it “Old School” Offensively

I have been scouring the internet for two hours trying to find a competent analysis of the various formations the Dallas Cowboys run offensively. Oh if only my college student budget afforded me access to NFL Game Pass. Alas, I have papers to submit and projects to prepare for, so my search for substantial data must come to an end. I’m still fairly new to authoring sports articles and analyzing teams on podcasts. Though if I have learned anything in my few short months here at Dallas Sports Fanatic, its that sometimes its okay to shoot into the dark and guess. If anyone tells you game predictions and player analysis is an exact science, they are most certainly lying to you.

So I bring this article to you, dear reader, armed with a couple statistics and a gut feeling.

When Zeke Gets Suspended, Dallas Should Take It Old School

Running back Ezekiel Elliott will most likely serve his six game suspension, even if its later rather than sooner. With Elliot’s combination of speed, strength, and elusiveness, there is little wonder why he is called the “heartbeat” of the Cowboys offense. Since draft day, he has been heralded as a “complete” back. With him being sidelined for the next couple weeks, how do the Cowboys fill the void with a backfield of Rod Smith, Alfred Morris, and Darren McFadden?

The Cowboys like to run the ball. Why? Because Dallas likes to dominate time of possession and utilize the strength of their offensive line. My proposition is simple (I didn’t say clever) but simple. Utilize some two-back formations. Keep Morris and McFadden on the field together, at least for first down and second-and-short situations. I’m not saying the Cowboys should adopt the wing formation, though I believe there are elements of the wing offense which Dallas would do good to incorporate more into the offense. After all, the wing offense is predicated upon ball control and misdirection. Keeping both backs on the field simultaneously is the closest to replicating Zeke’s versatility as Dallas is going to get.

If Dallas could just take elements of the Wing formation or at least formations like it, I think it would do much to benefit the run game. I don’t care if Dallas necessarily does the Wing formation (it probably wouldn’t work in a pure form), just the personnel of the Wing formation. Overall, this concept would contain two tight ends, or a tight end and what I will call a “wing” back. If Dallas decided to utilize the wing back, receivers such as Cole Beasley or Ryan Switzer would be the ideal candidates. They could be placed either beside the offensive tackle away from the tight end, or split between the tackle and the single receiver wide. Even the threat of a jet sweep by either one of these speedy slot receivers would give defenses trouble.

This concept would be successful for the Cowboys if they used Rod Smith as well. Smith used to play fullback, though has proven to the Cowboys this season that he has the skills necessary to be a legitimate halfback. Imagine using Rod Smith on first down as a lead-blocker for McFadden. Then on second down, dropping him back beside McFadden and handing him the football between the guard and the tackle.

Another aspect of the Wing which Dallas should appreciate is the play action it sets up in the passing game. Quarterback Dak Prescott shines in the play action game (see week 3 Dallas Vs. Arizona) Ultimately, I think this is Dallas’ best shot at taking the pressure off of Prescott in Elliott’s absence.

Whether Dallas does a Pro Set or a Wing set or whatever, I simply believe their run game would temporarily benefit from the utilization of multiple tight end/halfback combinations. The Dallas Cowboys are top 5 or better in average yards per play in formations that contain two or less receivers, and two or more tight ends this season. If this statistic tells us anything, its that Dallas has the personnel necessary to make these offensive concepts work.

I realize Offenses have evolved to the spread for a reason, they needed to combat the speed and position flexibility that defenders now have in the NFL. However, I still hold onto the idea that even a sprinkle of old fashioned offense would benefit Dallas during Elliott’s suspension.

Staff writer and podcast host covering the Dallas Cowboys | Spreading my slightly biased sports opinions with anyone wise enough to listen.

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