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    Cowboys hot topic: Fixing the offense A cursory look around social media gives the impression that many or even most fans have given up on the Dallas Cowboys. In particular Womens Dalton Schultz 2019 Jersey , they have abandoned all hope that the offense can work. The bulk of the blame seems to be directed at Scott Linehan, with Jason Garrett as his accomplice. Those who don’t focus on the coaches are blasting quarterback Dak Prescott for not being who we thought he was at all, with a nod to the lack of anyone who can catch the ball on the roster.It raises the question of whether the offense can be fixed at all, especially given that dumping Linehan and/or Garrett to bring in someone new, with their own system, is not likely to work to any extent during the season. But there is also a problem with most of the reactions out there. The BTB staff had a long debate about it, and while we didn’t come to a real consensus, something that Michael Sisemore (the founding host of our Brews and the Boys podcast, check us out, shameless plug now done) put on Twitter hit home, with me at least. It’s what I saw from watching the game and looking into the stats. The question wasn’t what went wrong. It was what didn’t? (Quick answer: Byron Jones and Leighton Vander Esch). That’s why you can’t just do one thing, or even a few, to fix the offense (the defense, while having a bad day in some aspects against Seattle, certainly has shown it is capable of good play). It has to be a broad-based approach, encompassing all the issues that have cropped up. Some may be more crucial, or at least have to come first to allow the other things to happen, and it is possible that if the team can get several things right, it doesn’t have to get all of the going equally well to be able to improve. But it does need to work on all of them.What, exactly? So glad you asked.First, stop treating coaching and play-calling as a stand-alone issue.Everything is interrelated, and coaching permeates everything that follows. But just changing the focus during preparation or making different play calls won’t fix things. The players have to take what is done and effectively complete their assignments on the field.If this seems to imply that the idea that the coaches are failing to prepare the team properly may be wrong, well, that is exactly the point. Based on what came out of training camp, the coaches worked hard on things like pass routes and blocking assignments. It is hard to believe that they have just quit doing those things in weekly practices. Similarly Cheap Dalton Schultz Youth Jersey , while the calls for more creativity and different concepts on the field are widespread, if the players are not doing their jobs correctly in the plays that are called, what would lead the coaches to have confidence that they can successfully do something different, especially if it is a lower-percentage play like a deep pass downfield? There are some things that can be done in that department, but other things have to go hand-in-hand. This is not intended to give a pass to Linehan or anyone else on the staff. It is just to say that even if they get everything right, it can still go awry. There are certainly some other things that have to be addressed first.It has to start with execution.No, I’m not referring to the late Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach John McCay’s old joke. This is about the multiple mistakes we saw. Ezekiel Elliott had three major ones, Michael Gallup just gifted what should have been a completion for a first down to Earl Thomas, Prescott certainly had his share of bad throws and poor decision-making, the offensive line, particularly Tyron Smith, was just off, there were defenders that were just left to come free (notably Bobby Wagner to stop Elliott on a third-and-one attempt) - it is a long and depressing list. It returns to a point I have been making since the first game: It is hard to be sure about the efficacy of the play-calling when the plays are blown up by self-inflicted mistakes. The lack of discipline and focus across the board was depressing. It has to be an emphasis during the practices for the Detroit Lions game - but the players have to take responsibility for fixing these things. And then, you know, they have to actually fix them. It doesn’t matter if Scott Linehan calls absolutely perfect plays if the ball is dropped or fumbled, or the line completely blows their assignments, or Dak misses badly on a throw. All have to be right.For some, there will be a question about whether they can improve that much. But one case where the improvement should definitely happen is with Zeke. His multiple mistakes were just not what we have seen from him. That has to get better fast.By unit, the offensive line has to take top priority.Prescott got beat up. While some of that may fall on him not getting the ball out quickly, there were plays where rushers had a free run at him. Even if he gets the ball out, he still takes the hit - and even if a penalty is called (which should have been on at least one sack), he still has to endure the physical punishment. Better protection for him is the top priority.The running game got going early, despite plays like the third-and-one stuff mentioned above. Elliott found success, and had the Cowboys not fallen behind by two scores in the first half, that might have been the ticket for the offense later in the game. But Dallas had to go to the pass more and more as time ran out. All the complaints about Zeke not getting enough carries ignore that. Zeke hit his stride Dallas Cowboys L. P. Ladouceur Jersey , and if he had not made so many mistakes, he would likely have been the hero of the game. He just needs to keep doing the good things.So the offensive line has to keep up the run blocking it mostly showed last game, while not letting Dak get banged around so much. Prescott has to be more effective.He has to hit his passes, and he needs to be more involved in the running game.Easy to say, but much harder to accomplish. One criticism that emerged from the Seattle Seahawks game was that the team abandoned the read-option plays that Prescott used very effectively a week earlier against the New York Giants. This is one of those times when maybe the critics don’t know as much as they think, however.In general, the Seahawks did a great job defending the Dallas offense. And while Linehan could likely have come up with more ways to try and counter, such as designed runs for Dak, it was not really bad coaching to try and use what an earlier opponent just couldn’t stop. The NFL is all about matchups. That was the error here, perhaps, not properly anticipating that Seattle would solve that issue and having a backup plan.We know that given the chance, Prescott can make things happen with his feet. It is what he does with his arm that is the great unknown. He has always had some limitations in his passing repertoire, and opponents have figured out what passes he can and can’t make. So they defend the ones he is good at, and pretty much ignore the rest.This is an area where the coaches and Prescott have to work together. They have to try some deeper throws. We saw that he can complete a deep ball, even if it was just one. It is time to run some plays with four receivers going deep (at least 20 yards) before hooking or crossing, and one or even two need to keep going. Heave a few up at them, and if you just complete one, you get a big impact play and put that in the defense’s head, the way the Tavon Austin deep play against the Giants did.The receiving corps has to step up.Gallup’s drop-turned-into-an-interception was the worst problem, but Prescott needs to have receivers who are open early so he can get the ball away when the pressure comes. But oddly, hidden in the bad things against the Seahawks was a hint that maybe things are closer to working out here than we thing.Look at the average and longest completion for five of the receivers:Geoff Swaim - 9.4, 20Cole Beasley - 15.3, 18Deonte Thompson - 11.5, 13Allen Hurns - 11.0, 12Michael Gallup - 17.0 Womens L. P. Ladouceur 2019 Jersey , 17The problem wasn’t so much that the receivers weren’t catching the ball. It was that the ball wasn’t coming to them enough. What killed the passing offense was throwing eight times to Elliott, most of them very short (and with him dropping the best chance he had for a decent gain), and only three passes to Austin, all at or behind the line of scrimmage.Remember what was mentioned about going deep? Here is one for the coaches to work on. Why are you just getting the ball to Austin and Elliott at the line? Run them deep. It may never happen, but I have dreams of seeing Elliott split out wide and running a nine route as the primary target. We already know what Austin can do, so he definitely needs to be sent deep. And why is the team not throwing to Terrance Williams? For that matter, why is he only on the field for running plays, as he was on Sunday? That is what they call a tell in poker. Hey, coaches, this is another one on you. If your personnel grouping and formation always result in the same play, either do something different, or quit using it. Defensive coordinators have this marvelous new technology called video and can see that crap.Of course, this circles back around to the quarterback. It doesn’t matter how many receivers you send deep if he always checks down to the running back two yards past the line of scrimmage. So there is a definite interplay here.Meanwhile, Blake Jarwin has been a real disappointment so far, while Swaim at least breathed some life into the TE position. Now let’s go for the shot of adrenaline to the heart and leave Jarwin on the sidelines to put Rico Gathers out there a lot more and, radical idea here, throw him the ball. What I’ve tried to do here is show how there are some solutions, but they aren’t as simple as player X or coach Y needs to fix it. It is going to take all eleven players, plus the rotational ones, and the coaching staff to work together. There are solutions. Those are complex, which makes it more challenging. However, it is also likely that one or two will click. If the offensive line can buy more time for Prescott while still leading the way on 10 yard Elliott runs, other things may start to fall into place, for instance. The Cowboys’ season seems to be teetering on the brink again - and it’s only week four. A win over the Lions will at least stave off the negativism a bit, but a loss will lead us to the vortex of despair and anguish fans of the team are so accomplished at attaining. Let’s hope for the former. Sean Lee has already lost his staring job Cheap L. P. Ladouceur Youth Jersey , but could his spot on the roster be in jeopardy? We examine three scenarios for the Cowboys to determine what could lie ahead for the veteran linebacker."WhiteFanposts Fanshots Sections Dallas Cowboys NewsDallas Cowboys GeneralHow important is Sean Lee to the Cowboys and is it possible he could be a surprise cut?New,129commentsWith Lee no longer the anchor of the Cowboys defense, how much does the team really need him?CDTShareTweetShareShareHow important is Sean Lee to the Cowboys and is it possible he could be a surprise cut?Shane Roper-USA TODAY SportsThe front office of the Dallas Cowboys has made some shocking decisions in recent years. Whether it was moving on from Tony Romo, waiving Dez Bryant, or the surprise release of Dan Bailey at final roster cuts - they Cowboys don’t shy away from big moves. It doesn’t matter if you’re the team’s all time leader in touchdown passes, touchdown catches, or the most accurate kicking in franchise history. The team has proven that the only thing that matters is what lies ahead. Football is a meritocracy.Sean Lee appeared to be the next beloved Cowboys player to be released to free up cap space as it was really hard to justify his 2019 cap hit of $10 million. Lee now plays third-fiddle to the linebacker duo of last year’s rookie sensation Leighton Vander Esch and rising star Jaylon Smith. The veteran linebacker was able to preserve his spot on the team by agreeing to a contract restructure that reduced his cap hit to $6 million, and even that includes playing time incentives to reach it’s max value. In all likeliness, Lee’s actual cost will be even lower.It’s a perfect deal. The Cowboys save some money that will undoubtedly come in handy as they try to get other key players signed, plus they get one of the team’s most important leaders on the sideline to help along this young defense.Even with the cap-friendlier discount, the Lee situation is still a curious one. Most fans would agree that the old splash-making Lee that we’ve been enamored with is no more, even when he’s at full strength. Going back and watching his tape last year was disheartening. He still had his happy feet and quickly diagnosed where the play was going, but his movement was delayed. Lee appeared slow and even though his mind was quick to react, his body just wasn’t cooperating. It should be interesting to see how Lee performs in training camp. Will they bubble wrap him to preserve him for the regular season? Or since he’s a backup now, will he have to compete to hold down the SAM linebacker spot? The team has Joe Thomas and Justin March-Lillard, who would love to have a larger role on the defense. And let’s not forget that the team used up a roster spot for last year’s rookie Chris Covington, despite him only logging one snap on defense. The team has had success with day three linebacker picks like Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson, so the team is hoping they can keep the trend going with solid contribution from Covington in the future.With a handful of solid depth guys already on the roster, one has to wonder - how much better does Lee need to be to warrant that $6 million cap hit and occupying one of those precious roster spots? To evaluate Lee’s importance to the team, let’s take a look at three possible scenarios for him this upcoming season.Scenario #1 - Lee plays sparingly as a backupThe best case for Cowboys is that Van Jaylon mans the linebacker group for the majority of the reps. Lee would still play the strong-side linebacker position, but considering 75% of the defense’s plays use only two linebackers, it would keep Lee’s snap counts under 300. He’d basically take over Wilson’s workload from last season.The cost of a part time Lee would end up being $3.5 million, which would include his base salary ($2 M) + the roster bonus for making the team ($500k) + the roster bonus for being active ($1 M). Todd Archer breaks down the details of Lee’s incentive-laced deal:Okay, so $3.5 million for a part time Lee. Are you cool with that? Most fans would be willing to allocate that much space for a solid reserve who also brings with him a great coaching presence to help his teammates be prepared.The only thing about this scenario that creates a bit of uncertainty is - how much better would it make the team if Lee was is getting those limited reps over someone like Joe Thomas? If they knew for sure that Lee’s usage would be relatively small, then you’d have to wonder if another backup linebacker would produce similar results in that situation. Thomas moves pretty well Dallas Cowboys Travis Frederick Jersey , and he would actually be more dependable in coverage than the current Lee. But what if more reps are needed? That brings us to...Scenario #2 - Lee is needed due to an injuryWhile the first scenario is the most ideal, this second one comes with great concern. Should Vander Esch or Smith get hurt, Lee would take on a much larger role on the team. His playing time escalators could kick in, costing the team a total of $6 million. So what, right? That’s why you have those escalators in place - as insurance. The Cowboys look like geniuses for having Lee in their back pocket, right?Unfortunately, substituting Lee for one of the young starters makes the group more vulnerable. This change would be felt on the defense. Even more worrisome is if the injury lasts for a significant amount of time, Lee then becomes exposed to additional wear. The chances of Lee surviving a healthy dose of snaps is not good. Losing one key starter could perpetuate into losing two of them real quick. We have to ask - just how valuable is the Sean Lee insurance policy?If you’re paying for a player you’re hoping not to use very much, why even have him on the team? Let’s examine what life would be like without Lee.Scenario #3 - Lee is flat out releasedCould there be a situation where the team opts not to keep him on the roster? That doesn’t seem likely, but let’s stretch our imaginations some. A healthy Lee is a useful Lee, even with a reduced role, but how valuable is he if can’t stay on the field? Lee is 32 years old and every new injury he endures is going to require extra time in the tub. That’s just how Father Time works. If the veteran struggles to sustain his health in camp, then wouldn’t it create concerns for the regular season?The Cowboys have Thomas and March-Lillard around for another season and those guys are key pieces on special teams. Covington didn’t get much action last year, but his reps will need to increase as they prepare him for a larger role in the future. He’ll see special teams action as well. Lee has no special teams value and his roster spot seems to have a shelf life. If a player like Thomas starts to impress in camp, then one has to wonder if he could cut into Lee’s already limited playing time.Maybe Lee is worth having around just for the extra coaching skills he provides. That’s fair, but does he have to wear a helmet to provide that? What’s going to happen when Lee’s playing days are over? He loves being a part of this team. He already took a pay cut to remain with the team. He has an “I’ll do whatever is needed to help the team” attitude. If Lee was released, it wouldn’t be a surprise at all if he was immediately added to the coaching staff. The Cowboys would still be exposed to Lee’s influence, only his assistant coaches salary wouldn’t count against the cap.It doesn’t seem probable that Lee would be released, but there are no guarantees. The Cowboys preach that everyone is fighting for their roster spot and seniority or likability doesn’t trump ability. This group is deeper than ever, and it’s imperative they fill the roster with players who can contribute now or are expected to be integral parts of the future. If Lee takes another step backwards, then you have to ask yourself where does he fit in that equation? The team has already demonstrated they aren’t afraid to make bold roster cuts, even if it means saying goodbye to one of our favorites. There are a lot of practices between now and final cuts; anything is possible.
      July 16, 2019 5:21 AM CEST
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