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Time To Grind It

Barber had just 26 yards on those eight attempts.  

But you can't make that statement against Green Bay. The Cowboys were gaining 4.4 yards per attempt, and Barber averaged 5.2 yards a rush.  

So where was the problem? How about first down. Of the 27 first-down plays, the Cowboys ran the ball just six times. Three of them resulted in first downs. Now that certainly isn't the balance we've been seeing from this team.  

You throw it on first down that many times without being successful, and it's hard to get into an offensive rhythm. I'm not saying run it every first down, but if you get three to four yards on first down, it allows you to do it again on second down and maybe third. But when you keep getting into second and 10, it probably cuts away half of your playbook.  

All year long, we've heard the coaching staff and players talk about taking what the defense gives. If they take away the run, bomb it on them. If they stop the pass, run the ball.  

That theory seems to work just fine, but there are games when defenses don't just "give" you anything. At some point, you have to just take it. And with seven games to play, it would seem a good time to find that out.  

With Marc Colombo now gone for at least the rest of the regular season, it looks like Doug Free will get the chance to prove himself. The right tackle spot isn't exactly like the left, but you can still get exposed. You may not be on THE island, but it's still an island.  

Another reason to establish the running game even more. It's not like you can completely get away from the pass all together. That wouldn't be smart either. Romo is too good to take the ball out of his hands. But he'd be even better if teams put the primary focus on stopping the run. 

It's the same with the Cowboys' defense. That unit played great in Green Bay last week. Imagine how effective the offense would be had they been on the field for nearly 36 minutes. That's another reason to run the football. Establish the line of scrimmage, control the ball and the clock and as a result, the momentum, too. 

It'd be one thing if you didn't have the personnel to run it like that. But the Cowboys certainly have it. They've got a lead back in Barber, who can truly be the studhorse when he's healthy. It looks like he's finally back to that level again. But he can't do anything without the ball. 

Personally, and I've said this for the last two weeks, but I think Felix Jones and Tashard Choice need to switch roles. Choice has shown he's a better inside runner and he would be a better fit to replace Barber on the second or third series of the game. Whatever rotations Jones and Barber have, I would switch out Felix with Choice.  

And then, make Felix your real third-down back. That's where he's going to be more effective than Choice. Felix needs the ball in space, on screens or sweeps, and he can even do some damage on the inside draw.  

Now, I know you're probably thinking about his ability to pick up the blitz, but if you've noticed, he's been much better lately. And, you can also use his ability to make defenses pay for blitzing. The way the Saints use Reggie Bush or the Eagles did with Brian Westbrook can be very difficult to stop if you blitz. Sure, you may send seven or eight, but then a screen gets dumped over everyone's head and now you've got Felix in the open field with a few guys to beat. 

I think he needs the ball more in space. Choice needs a few more inside carries. But Barber needs the bulk of them.  

The Cowboys really did none of those things last week. But they need to get back to that if they're going to make a stretch run. Emphasis on the run part.        

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