Eagles Wake-Up Call: Dallas O-Line Lays Base
When Jason Garrett took over as the Cowboys’ head coach full-time in 2011, he made the offensive line the focal point of his regime.
“That was priority No. 1 when I became the head coach, was we had to re-build the offensive line,” Garrett told reporters during a conference call Wednesday. “The game starts up front. You have to be strong on the offensive and defensive lines to win in this league on a consistent basis. We allocated resources to get better up there.”
Garrett and the Cowboys selected Tyron Smith with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2011 draft. In 2013, they took Travis Frederick with the No. 31 overall pick. And in 2014, they chose Zack Martin with the No. 16 overall pick.
Take those three blue-chip offensive linemen prospects, throw in underrated guard Ronald Leary, and put them all around veteran tackle Doug Free. That was Garrett’s plan.
In his fifth year on the job, Garrett has created one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, the rock giving him peace of mind when it comes to the rest of the offense. Which is good, because the rest of Dallas’s offense will look much different Sunday than it did when the Cowboys beat the Eagles, 38-27, last December.
To begin, of course, the Eagles poached the Cowboys’ premier running back from last season when they signed DeMarco Murray in March.
Garrett said the entire organization, “from the top to bottom,” wanted Murray to remain a Cowboy, but the business end of football got in the way, and Murray decided the Eagles were a better situation for him.
Dallas responded by signing Darren McFadden and placing him into a three-way running back rotation with Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar that is competitive in nature by design.
“[We] just tried to create a competitive situation all throughout the offseason and training camp,” Garrett explained. “We’ll continue to do that each week, and those guys will battle for playing opportunities.”
Murray thrived in 2014 as Dallas utilized plenty of stretch run plays, letting that sturdy offensive line create holes and gaps galore.
With the new-look running corps, Garrett said the Cowboys are up to more of the same, still utilizing a zone scheme and stretch run plays. Just because Murray is gone doesn’t mean he felt a need to wildly adjust his running scheme.
“We have a zone scheme that the stretch play is a big part of,” Garrett said. “Any team that runs zone stuff, that’s really the bread-and-butter type play in their offense. But we also run gap-scheme runs, perimeter runs, and misdirection runs. Like most teams, we do a variety of things. Certainly, that stretch play has been a part of it.”
The wide receiver position will also look different Sunday, after wideout Dez Bryant suffered a broken foot in the Cowboys’ Week One win over the Giants.
Bryant torched the Eagles’ secondary in 2014 for six catches, 114 yards and three touchdowns in a game that accelerated the Birds’ downward spiral at the end of the season. Garrett admitted that the Cowboys will miss Bryant’s playmaking ability, but he said he doesn’t expect anything much to change in terms of the way the offense operates.
“We’ve had injuries before to other players, and our philosophy is a pretty simple one: the next guy goes in there, and the expectations are the same about how we go about our business each day,” Garrett said. “We get ready for the game, and we just go play. Obviously we’ll miss him, he’s a hard guy to replace, but we’ll put another receiver in there and just go play football.”
2013 third-round pick Terrance Williams will likely be the man Garrett expects to step in for Bryant and contribute on Sunday. Williams, now in his third year, set Dallas franchise records for most receiving yards (736) and touchdowns (five) by a rookie in 2013.
Despite all of this turnover, the offensive line that Garrett built has him confident in his offense’s ability to compete with the Eagles on Sunday.
“I think they’ve each grown individually, and I think they’ve grown as a unit since they’ve been together,” Garrett said. “And that’s what our expectations are for them.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
“I’ve moved on a long time ago.” Murray isn’t putting much weight into facing his former team this week.
Josh breaks down the intricacies of each key play from Monday’s season opener.
“The key to that offense is the quarterback.” Chip Kelly offers his thoughts on Dallas’ offense.
The only guide you need to decide which Eagles to start in your fantasy league this week.
T-Mac looks at a few defensive breakdowns against Atlanta.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Jeff McLane writes about Sam Bradford‘s Eagles debut.
One game isn’t enough of a sample to say that the Eagles offense will look this way throughout the season. The running game deficiencies and early deficit played a large part in the pass-heavy play calling. But the skill sets of Bradford and his receivers suggest a passing offense that could resemble the Patriots.
The personnel have their obvious differences, but Kelly watched the Patriots squeak by the Seahawks in the Super Bowl just like everyone else. The Eagles are far off from remotely thinking about Seattle and the playoffs, but Bradford’s performance in the second half was mostly a clinic on how to beat that kind of defense through the air.
Cody Parkey is officially trending downward, writes CSN Philly’s Reuben Frank.
Once upon a time, Cody Parkey couldn’t miss. He made a game-winner against the Colts on Monday Night Football in his second career game. He made all four of his 50-yarders during the season. At one point late in the year, he was 18-for-19.
Since then? He’s just been a different guy.
Parkey is a pedestrian 15-for-19 in his last seven games going back to last year, and all four misses have been from inside 50 yards.
Factor in two field goal misses and a PAT miss during the preseason, and Parkey has missed seven kicks in his last nine games after missing one in his first 10 games.
Preparation for Dallas continues. Kelly will address the media at 11:45 prior to practice.