FFODC Previews Dallas

WHAT  Skins (3-3) vs Cowboys (3-3)
WHERE FedEx Field, Hyattsville, MD
WHEN  Sunday Oct 29th, 4:25pm ET
THE LINE  Skins +1.5 (O/U: 49)
WEATHER  H: 58, L: 39 Rain
Skins Defense Cowboys Offense
DVOA  14 4
Run  10  1
Pass 13  13

(Football Outsiders)

Run Defense vs Dallas

The Cowboys are an A-gap run team:

They crowd the box with any and every type of blocker from lineman to wide receivers and build natural gaps at the line.

Their philosophy:

  • Crowd the box
  • Spread out the defensive line
  • Hit runs in between the tackles, preferably in between the guards (A-gaps)
A tiny TE

WR Blocking:  Dallas’ receivers use angles to block defensive ends and linebackers while their offensive lineman pull outside and take on smaller defensive backs:

The above clip showed a four man defensive front similar to our 3-4 front–the center, backside guard and tackle were covered–and Dallas found a way to  run right at it.

At 6’2 and just 210 pounds, WR Terrence Williams has been performing double duty as a tight end.  By adding him to the box, their lineman are able to block with better angles (#71 blocks down on the clip above) and kick out defensive backs

Runs Inside vs Ziggy Hood:  In an effort to hit runs into the aforementioned A gaps they will line up with extra blockers to bump out the defensive ends.  Again, look at the space between the nose and end:

They added a WR to the box, blocked backside, and opened up a cavern for the RB to hit right behind the nose tackle (highlighted.)

if they are able to control the nose (which they were not in this play) that opens up a huge cutback lane for the RB to fire through.  Hood has to either win his one on one blocks like above, or stalemate double teams and allow for help to arrive.

Runs Outside vs DBs:  To keep defenses honest, Dallas will design runs that hit outside.  At times they will align three tight ends to one side and force the defense to bring defensive backs to the line.  One way to blow this up is to attack the backup tight ends:

Preston Smith is a perfect candidate to disrupt this scheme.

Another favorite play to get the ball to the outside is the crack sweep from the bunch formation.  Basically the receivers in the bunch “crack” or block down on the linebackers and defensive ends.  Then the OL pull outside to meet DBs:

The DBs have to “replace” the linebackers and ends that got blocked.  I highlighted the safety to show him replacing and taking on a OL block: pretty much the only way for a DB to take on the block will be to dive at the feet of the pulling lineman; that is how we handled it last year.

Key Matchups:


The Cowboys aim for the A gaps when they run zone.  If Hood loses a one-on-one block, or can’t stalemate a double team, A gaps could get porous.


On those sweeps:  with Norman and Breeland recovering from injuries, they will probably be tasked with playing contain, leaving DJ to fill and cut offensive lineman down at the legs.  Even if he is successful, that is a task which can wear him down.


Pass Defense vs Dallas

Dallas uses an empty set from their heavy formation (pictured above.)  This would leave Witten and/or Beasley one on one in the middle of the field with a linebacker and safety instead of Kendall Fuller.

Playing Guys Out of Position:  Stressing pass protection reads while keeping lineman at the line has worked fine:

It’s when we ask lineman to play new coverages or alignments that we end up shooting ourselves in the foot:

Key Matchups:


Please, not that.


Guys can’t get greedy with their upfield rush otherwise Dak could cut us up for chunks of yards on the ground, and after Wentz’s performance that would feel like a glitch in the Matrix.


When they go empty out of heavy formations, slot coverage will fall to DJ and the linebackers.  Communicate and bracket unless they want those route running mavens one-on-one.

Boo If…

  • Josh Norman doesn’t play
  • They get Zeke with lineman in front approaching our DBs
  • Dak does Dak things and buys extra time in the pocket
  • They find ways to cut back runs behind Ziggy Hood



  • Josh Norman stays healthy
  • DJ and the corners can cover downfield one on one
  • Kerrigan and Smith blow up tight ends, and contain outside runs
  • We find a nose tackle

Three Predictions

  1. Preston Smith gets PFF’s highest grade on the defense
  2. Dez finishes with less than 50 yards receiving and under 10.0 ypc
  3. Dak pulls off one miracle downfield play

Their offense doesn’t feel as dangerous as the Eagles.  When we get one-on-one’d it looks like it will be against guys who move the chains in 10-15 yard spurts, as opposed to the 40-60 yard shots on Monday night.

Dallas only has 13 plays of 20+ yards on the year (philly has 22) and 3 plays of 40+ yards (philly has 6) so the penalty for busted coverage is less severe.  This offense is the polar opposite of the Trips happy Eagles.

Skins 20-17.

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