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Spagnola: Here Is The Beauty Of This Offense


FRISCO, Texas – Redskins, your move.

On one hand, the Cowboys have Ezekiel Elliott, the defending NFL rushing champ, a serious threat to any defense every time he touches the ball, and the Redskins should know, since in five games against Zeke, he has totaled 484 yards rushing and six touchdowns, including games of 150 and 121 yards.

On the other hand, the Cowboys have Dak Prescott, the presiding NFC Offensive Player of the Week off his season-opening performance against the Giants, with 405 passing yards, four passing touchdowns and a perfect 158.3 QB rating.

Whatcha gonna do Washington, noon Sunday at FedExField in this NFC East matchup to prevent starting off the season 0-2?

Do you want to load the box up front to make sure Zeke doesn't romp up and down the field on you?

Or do you want to saturate the secondary in coverage and maybe take your chances blitzing to make sure Dak doesn't single-handedly rip you apart throwing the football to his arsenal of receivers?

Normally defenses choose one or the other, unless the defense is strong enough to play it straight up.

See, the Giants chose the former, figuring if they stopped the Cowboys' running game Dak couldn't beat them, though maybe they forgot what he did over the final eight games of last season, and maybe in that season finale when the Cowboys put up 36 points behind Prescott's 387 yards passing and four passing touchdowns, including that 32-yard on-the-run laser to Cole Beasley on fourth-and-15 with 1:19 left, along with the two-point conversion pass to Michael Gallup for the 36-35 victory.

Bad choice. Cowboys 35, Giants 17.

But you don't need me to tell you that finally – finally – it sure appears the Cowboys have a strong enough passing game to become a balanced offense. I mean, we know they can run the ball, and likely will get that part of their game back into shape this Sunday since not only will Zeke, after ending his holdout last Wednesday morning, have the benefit of six practices before this game, but maybe even more importantly, has those 37 snaps in the Giants game under his belt.

Nope, just go ahead and listen to our resident Cowboys alumni offensive expert, Hall of Famer Michael Irvin, who swears the 2019 version of these Cowboys just might be a reenactment of those '90s Super Bowl Days of his era, Troy, Emmitt, Michael, with now more than two decades later the names changing to Dak, Zeke, Amari – in both cases no last names needed.

"Other teams now, what they'll start to do, which is great for the Cowboys, they will start having a serious conundrum about how do I stop this team now," Irvin told Shan & RJ on 105.3 The Fan. "This reminds me of what it was with us when we used to go into every game, Emmitt and I go into every game saying, 'If by land or by sea – by land or by air, you must die. You pick your poison – I want to die today by air, OK, let's play the run, (then) you die by air. (Or) I think I want to die today by the run. OK, then play pass, you're gonna die by the run.'"

Now I realize everyone is going gaga over the Cowboys' passing game following those 405 yards and four touchdowns "by air" in the season opener. Seems as if it's like, hey, who needs to run the ball, just sling it around with Dak throwing to Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb, along with those tight ends, Jason Witten and Blake Jarwin. And can't wait until they unleash Tony Pollard into the mix, too.

This is what the everyday fan has been crying for, one of those, as I dropped this malaprop a few weeks back, "Sky Wars" offenses when I was thinking Star Wars, passes flying all over the universe.

Just be careful. Do not forget the importance of Zeke.

"I told Jerry that I love all the things we're trying to do in the passing game, but let's keep the main theme, the main theme," Irvin preached. "'I want you to add . . . a nice paint job to the car, but the car still is Ezekiel Elliott. Don't you fool yourself on that.' Because the run game gives you less opportunity for mistakes. You win with the run game.

"If you have a real strong run game you can win in the red zone. We did, that's why Emmitt scored so many touchdowns. So that's the most important part, don't ever forget that.

"But that passing game, oh my god, if you can get it up there like we did last week and do that on a consistent basis, you become unstoppable. And that's what they looked like last week.

"They looked unstoppable."

Preach on, Michael.

Not sure there is any of all that you guys want to argue with.

This is the beauty of what appears the Cowboys have going on offense, but remember, after just one game. That's the balance every offense is looking for. No, not an even distribution or runs and passes, but the ability to make a defense pay for overloading to stop one facet or the other. Because traditionally that's what defenses try to do. Take away what you do best.

Dak is in agreement, too. It's this balance every offense strives for at any level.

"It's everything, it's everything, to be successful," he says. "To be successful in this league you have to be balanced, and it starts with the run, it starts with establishing the run. And I would say even though our numbers weren't that great in the run (against the Giants), what we did do we were able to establish the play-action last week.

"So they all tie in together. One doesn't work if the other isn't working well."

And when both are working well, well . . . .

Redskins, your move.