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Kavner: Offensive Identity Crisis Still Not Figured Out

Posted Sep 16, 2013


IRVING, Texas – Head coach Jason Garrett tried to describe his team’s identity after an opening win against the Giants.

He labeled the team as “a smart, tough, relentless group of guys who understand how to play winning football and play 60 minutes.” He went on to say the players all have each other’s backs and do the right things every play to help the team win games.

Garrett also said it’s a work in progress, which is evident as they sit at .500, where the team has gotten all too comfortable the last two seasons. The mistakes that occurred against the Chiefs, including a red zone penalty, two fumbles, a dropped pass and a stagnant rushing attack, certainly don’t fit into that identity.

He said the one thing the Cowboys coaches emphasize with their players is to be who they are and to establish their identity as a player and a coach. It’s hard to imagine anyone understands what that identity is after two games. It certainly hasn’t changed fundamentally from a season ago.

The offensive identity is typically clear for the better teams in the league.

The Saints will employ a dangerous passing attack, which opens up a running game. They also have a running back heavily involved in that passing game and a bevy of running backs who know their role to keep the chains moving. When Drew Brees has the ball with a chance to win, opposing defenses are at a severe disadvantage with all the weapons he’s proven he can use victoriously. They believe they will get in the end zone when they have the ball last.

Conversely, the Seahawks, as they displayed Monday night against the 49ers, stick to a rushing attack – a productive rushing attack – that wears down defenses and allows quarterback Russell Wilson to get comfortable against opponents that bring most of their players in the box.

It’s not that Seattle was mesmerizing on the ground, averaging 3.7 yards per carry against the stout 49ers defense, but the Seahawks ran the ball 47 times and believe when they hand the ball to Marshawn Lynch, they’re going to get a chunk of yards. Wilson never needs to do too much, and he knows that, but he can make enough plays with his feet and his arm late in games to seal wins. The same typically goes for the Colts’ Andrew Luck.

What is the Cowboys’ offensive identity?

It’s a tough question to answer. They’re not the offensive passing powerhouse of the Saints, though they may need to be more like that to win. They’re certainly not close to what the Seahawks are, as they boast a rushing attack no one can trust at this point. They can’t trust their running game, so won’t give their running game much of an opportunity near the goal line.

The Cowboys have reached the end zone three times in their six trips in the red zone this year. That said, they’ve also ran the ball just three times in the red zone, while accumulating two penalties inside the 20-yard line. DeMarco Murray has combined for 2 yards on two rushes, while Lance Dunbar’s one rushing attempt went for 12 yards. Even when it’s worked, passes have followed. They haven’t scored on the ground this year.

“We haven’t run the ball well enough and we haven’t run the ball enough,” Garrett said after the loss to the Chiefs. “We want to have balance on our offense.”

But that hasn’t happened thus far, making it somewhat hard to believe the team will all of a sudden be dedicated to a struggling running game and a balanced attack the rest of the year. Even if they did commit to the run, averaging 2.3 yards per carry probably isn’t going to cut it.

It’s still early, but the Cowboys appear to be suffering from many of the same issues that halted their offense a year ago. Garrett may have described the team’s identity as a group of smart players that do the right things every play for 60 minutes to win games, but that just wasn’t the case Sunday.

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