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Film Study: Taking a look at the Cowboys offense without Zeke

19 November 2017 Eagles News

Philly goes into Sunday night’s match-up as one of the hottest teams in the NFL, and is in position to take complete control over the NFC East.  With Dallas recently losing Zeke Elliott to suspension, it’ll be interesting to see how the Cowboys continue to implement their three running backs in the running game. With LT Tyron Smith sitting out Sunday as well, QB Dak Prescott with have his work cut out for him. Let’s take a look at how the 5-4 Cowboys will look to attack the Eagles on offense.


Most of Dallas’s starters are healthy on offense, but their biggest injury concern is at LT with Tyron Smith most likely sitting out the game with a groin injury. Smith missed week 10 with the same injury, and there has been speculation all week that he wouldn’t be playing. With Tyron Smith sitting, it’s a HUGE boost for the Eagles defensive line. Other than Smith, there are a few back up players that are questionable, and Zeke will miss the game as he serves his 6 game suspension.

Offensive Line

The Cowboys still have two perennial Pro Bowl players in C Travis Frederick and RG Zack Martin, who continue to play well this season. That can’t necessarily be said about the rest of the line however, as back up tackles Chaz Green and Byron Bell have struggled so far this season, as has RT La’El Collins.

Here the Cowboys pull C Travis Frederick and RG Zack Martin out in front of RB Alfred Morris, for one of the longest runs of the game. TE Jason Witten also has a great seal block on the edge, which opens up the hole for Frederick and Morris to run through.

This is what the Cowboy running game looked like for most of week 10 versus Atlanta. Here RT La’el Collins gets beat on the snap and gets tossed out of the way by the left end. Dallas running backs ran for a total of 65 yards on 15 carries, averaging 4.3 ypc.

Here back up RT Byron Bell is beat easily by Atlanta RE Adrian Clayborn, who had a career high 5 sacks week 10 versus Dallas. With Tyron Smith out, it’ll be up to Bell to stop the Eagles pass rushers on QB Dak Prescott‘s blind side.

Here Bell gets beat again, this time by RE Brooks Reed, who uses a great spin move to get inside Bell to trip up Dak. Dallas will need to give Byron Bell help all night against the Eagles, which definitely works to the Eagles advantage.

Tight End

TE Jason Witten has been a staple of the Cowboys offense for over a decade, and is having a productive 2017. Witten is tied for first on the Cowboys in receptions (42), and second in receiving yards (378) trailing only Dez Bryant this season.

Here Witten runs an in route and gets a slight rub from the outside receiver. Witten runs these sort of short to intermediate routes often, and uses his big body to box out defenders.

Witten runs a comeback in the soft spot of the zone and sits down and presents himself as an easy target for Dak. Plays like these are almost like cheating, since it’s such an easy pick up.

Again Witten finds the soft spot in the zone and makes the catch between the two linebackers. This became an easy way for Dallas to move the ball, and keep the defensive pass rush off of Dak Prescott.

What Witten has lost in overall speed, he has gained in his craftiness as a route runner. Here he eludes the much faster LB De’Vondre Campbell, to make the catch on an out play. Witten racked up seven catches for 59 yards versus a talented Falcons LB group, and it’ll be key for the Eagles LBs to key in on Witten all game long.

Running Back

The Cowboys used a combination of RB Alfred Morris and RB Rod Smith to supplement the loss of Zeke Elliott. Morris wasn’t overly productive, but was able to make due as the early down runner.

Morris has a productive run here, one of his two against Atlanta week 10. Here the offensive line does a great job double teaming along the interior, and Morris uses his patience to find the hole and attack.

This run is indicative of the issues that Dallas has had without LT Tyron Smith, as there’s clear miscommunication along the offensive line. Morris isn’t talented enough as an athlete to consistently make tacklers miss in the backfield. Morris finished week 10 with 11 carries for 53 yards.

RB Rod Smith quickly established himself as a reliable back for Dak Prescott, playing 38 running back snaps (60%).

Rod Smith is arguably the best receiver out of the backfield for Dallas, and here Smith bails Dak out and makes a great play in space to reach for the 1st down.

With the offensive line struggling, Dak used the short passing game to Smith as a means of moving the ball and keeping the offense alive. Smith finished with 4 catches for 15 yards, and his receiving ability is something the Eagles defense must key on.

Smith is also a capable runner, and is a really good athlete that can make plays with his agility and speed. Philadelphia has given up the 4th most receptions (58), 13th most receiving yards (417), and 2nd most receiving TDs (4) to opposing RBs. With LB Jordan Hicks out for the season, this will be an area Dallas looks to attack.

Wide Receiver

The Cowboys receiving corps starts with their stud WR Dez Bryant, who is tied for first on the team in receptions with 48, and leads the team in receiving TDs (4) and receiving yards (478).

Dak has done a good job of consistently locating Dez, even in contested situations. Here Dak hits Dez for the short gain, and Dez uses his strength to power by the corner and dive for the 1st down.

Dak again finds Dez in the open area and throws a laser to Dez, in which Dez then uses his strength to again break a tackle to add on extra yards. Dez only had 4 catches for 39 yards against Atlanta, so he will be someone that the Cowboys look to go to early versus Philly.

Dallas even uses Dez on plays like this, where they attempt to catch the Falcons defense off guard.  The Falcons played very disciplined though, and blow the play up for a loss.

WR Terrance Williams is the 2nd most productive receiver for the Cowboys this year, and is third on the team with 366 receiving yards. Here Williams wins on an in breaking route and makes the reception in space. Though the Cowboys wide receivers haven’t played great this year, it’s imperative that the Eagles secondary stay with the Dallas play makers in space.


This team will only go as far as Dak Prescott takes them. With out Zeke, Dak is the backbone of the offense, and will be tasked with making tough throws routinely to beat a fired up Eagles defense.

Dak makes a tough throw from the pocket, and even with defenders closing in on him, is able to make a dart throw to a streaking wide receiver Brice Butler. Butler re-adjusts and makes a great catch for a long first down.

Here Dak makes another really tough throw, falling to his left and connecting with Beasley on an out route. With Tyron Smith out of the lineup, Dak was forced to make throws like this often.

Dak also was forced to make several throws on the run, in order to elude the Falcons pass rush. Dak is able to roll out to his right and throw a strike to WR Cole Beasley for a first down.

Dak is also a threat with his legs, and like Alex Smith before him, is someone the Eagles have to respect as a runner.

Dak uses his legs once again, and this time punches the ball in for a TD on the roll out. Dak is definitely dangerous in these situations, and was Dallas’s second leading rusher with 42 yards against Atlanta.

If there’s one knock on Dak (and most young QBs), it’s his lapses with his pocket awareness. This isn’t completely Dak’s fault, as his left tackles were routinely beaten for sacks and pressures. On this play DE Adrian Clayborn beats back up tackle Chaz Green for a strip sack fumble recovery.

Again Dak struggles to identify the impending pass rusher, and DT Dontari Poe beats RG Zack Martin with a great inside move and sacks Dak. Prescott never identifies Poe, so there was no way he could avoid the sack. This is a key area that the Eagles have to attack on Sunday night, as the Cowboys defense has struggled of late against good pass rushers. Adrian Clayborn put up 6 sacks last week, so the Eagles ends have to be salivating for this match up.


Philadelphia should be able to walk away with a win against Dallas, with the way the entire team has been playing. The Cowboys aren’t clicking on all cylinders offensively, after losing Zeke and Tyron Smith, so this is an attackable offense. Dak Prescott and Dez Bryant are still playing well, so the Eagles need to maintain there focus for all four quarters to completely shut down Dallas.

With Alfred Morris and Rod Smith splitting the running back duties, Philly should be able to slow down the running game in order to focus on applying pressure on Dak Prescott. If the Eagles keep the Cowboys from grinding the clock out on the ground, then it’ll be up to Dak to beat them by himself, and that’s not Dak’s game.