The Tampa Bay Bucs’ defense isn’t what it once was, and I really like a lot of the matchups for the Cowboys’ offense this week. I still think Jason Garrett needs to do a better job of putting his players in a position to succeed, however. Here are five ways he can do that on Sunday. . .
DO come out throwing.
Look, I know I talk a lot about the value of passing over running, but this week the Cowboys really need to air it out. The Bucs have given up over 400 passing yards per game in the first two weeks of the season; that’s more than every team in the NFL, including the two that have already played three games.
The key, as always, will be giving Tony Romo plenty of time to throw. The Cowboys might be best served keeping tight end Jason Witten in to help block. Last week, Witten went out into a route on 88.6 percent of the pass snaps he played. Historically, Witten has been a receiver on only around three-fourths of pass plays, and believe it or not, the ‘Boys have put up superior numbers when Witten isn’t in a route.
By utilizing two-tight end formations and max protection, the ‘Boys can provide Romo with ample protection to attack the struggling Bucs secondary.
DO target Aqib Talib.
Talib has been horrible in the season’s first two weeks. Only three cornerbacks have been targeted more often than Talib and none have allowed more yards per game. I watched all of Talib’s snaps against Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks last week, and Talib was really inconsistent with his press. That’s good news for Dez Bryant, who really struggled with press coverage from Seattle last week.
DON’T run static formations.
Despite Talib’s struggles in press coverage, I think you’ll see him at least attempt to jam Bryant on Sunday. At 6’1’’, Talib doesn’t have the same length as Seattle cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman, so I really think Bryant will be able to get into his routes cleanly.
To ensure that, however, Jason Garrett should dial up pre-snap motions. By moving Bryant before the snap—something Garrett rarely does—it will limit the ability for Talib to get his hands on the third-year receiver. It is imperative that the Cowboys get Bryant going early on Sunday so he doesn’t lose confidence, but I think you’re going to see what I’ve been predicting as a “monster game” from Bryant.
DON’T run up the middle.
Yesterday, I labeled the Cowboys’ interior line versus defensive tackle Gerald McCoy as one of the three premiere matchups
to watch against the Bucs. McCoy represents what I believe is the Bucs’ biggest advantage over the Cowboys’ offense, so it’s probably best to avoid testing him. I have doubts that Ryan Cook and Mackenzy Bernadeau are going to be able to get a push on McCoy inside, so the Cowboys will need to find another place to run, even in short-yardage situations.
DO run some counters and other misdirection plays.
Since 2009, the Cowboys have averaged 7.2 yards-per-carry on counters. 7.2 YPC! DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones both excel on counters, as do both offensive tackles. Despite that, Garrett has called only one counter all season. Using counters and other misdirection plays against Tampa Bay might be a good way to take advantage of their quick defense and get the running game going.
Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.
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