When Michael Gallup returns to the lineup, how will that impact the use of two tight ends? We have used that set to a great advantage up to this point and using two tight ends has caused a lot of problems for the opposing defense. – DAVID ROMAN / BIG SPRING, TX
David: I don't think it's going to make that much of a difference, to be honest with you. The Cowboys clearly enjoy using 12 personnel, regardless of who's available. They're using two tight ends roughly 30% of the time, and it's not like they've been shy about using Cedrick Wilson as a third receiver. Maybe we'll see a small uptick in 11 personnel when Gallup is ready to return, but it's clear that both Dalton Schultz and Blake Jarwin have a meaningful role in this offense, no matter who's healthy at receiver.
Rob: If we've learned anything about Kellen Moore's offense over the last three years, and especially this season, he's going to mix and match personnel groupings. So I agree with Dave: I doubt 12 personnel will just disappear when Michael Gallup returns. I do think the extra tight end has been helpful to Terence Steele at times in pass protection, and to the run game in general. Obviously the Cowboys' three-wide sets are a huge strength on offense, but I imagine Dalton Schultz and Blake Jarwin will still get their share of playing time.
I believe the defense is currently ranked fifth in rushing defense while last year they ranked near the bottom. Do you attribute this to different personnel, the acquisition of Dan Quinn or the fact that we are leading games in the fourth quarter as opposed to being behind? – BUCKY ANISTON / LEXINGTON, KY
David: Circumstances are clearly one of the biggest factors here, with all due respect to the defense. The Cowboys have led by double digits in the second half of three of their six games, which severely hinders the opposition's ability to run the ball. Having said that, we aren't seeing as many lapses as we did last year. Of course, you're going to give up plays from time to time, but we haven't see the same type of backbreaking gains. I credit Dan Quinn for installing his scheme more successfully, so guys are playing faster and getting to where they're supposed to be.
Rob: I wrote about this topic in my 3 & Out column, and it's true that the Cowboys have a faced the lowest carry total in the league from opponents. That's largely due to the leads they've built in the second half of games. But they've added more speed at the linebacker position and the defensive line is doing a much better job of holding their gaps up front compared to last year. It's definitely an improvement, even though they haven't been tested as much as other defenses in that area.