The Dallas Cowboys are an ever-evolving team. In one season they seem to have one identity, and in the next season they change and have a completely different identity. It’s a fairly uncommon annual turnaround for many stage attack coordinators, but one that is common with Kellen Moore.
This season, Moore moved away from the 2021 look to the 11 singles and went for bulkier singles packages that involve extra narrow ends. It was a shift we anticipated pre-season, and Moore indicated he wanted to make it early last season. But as we’ve explained before, Blake Garwin’s injury in 2021 called off those plans (Dallas was fifth out of 12 before Garwin lost).
12 individuals are a main group for a Dallas Cowboys designed to beat 2 high shots by dragging defenders back into the box
The NFL is a copycat league, full of trends and counter-moves. When the defenses saw the success of the Seattle Cover-3 by stopping runs and challenging short passes, offenses spread and began to dig in.
When the defenses realized they were being hit too often by big plays, they adapted, reverting to the old 2-height look before, using projectiles on early descents to force opponents to run. Now, the crimes are trying to adapt again, and Kellen Moore finds 12 and 20 individuals (2TE and 2RB packages) to be a great way to get around that.
The Dallas Cowboys have played 12 more people than any other group, which is 49% of their plays
Defenses want opponents to run in early touchdowns. They want to force as many third landings as possible and pull them out, because statistically it works in their favour. Early defeats are considered tapering, but if all the defenders are back in coverage, it’s hard to get past them.
So the solution to the problem is to either have game-wide success passing the ball (see also: Baltimore and San Fran) or to have those pushed back defenses move up into the penalty area. She later chose Keelen Moore.
By showing 12 individuals, the defenses expect you to run. It’s a group of people that often work forcing the defenses to swap their CB nickels for their LB’s. Depending on the spacing between formations, defenses can also be forced to crowd the penalty area, begging offences to flip the text and throw the ball.
This is exactly what the Cowboys did early last season, making their group of 12 the best passer pack in both arenas/play and pass rate.
On Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys had more running 12 people than any other group. Representing 49% of their plays, 12 individuals provided 4.83 yards/play with a 45% success rate. Not very shabby….
The Dallas Cowboys face an obstacle this week: Dalton Schultz’s injury put him on Monday night in doubt. If the Cowboys only had the rookies in TE, I’m not sure they could carry on the 12 heavy individual route (I’m not sure they I can not also).
But with Michael Gallup all set to debut in 2022, I’m not sure the Dallas Cowboys should force it. If Gallup played 15 shots, that should ease the burden of Schultz’s exit. Cowboys can reuse 12 times for a week and keep opponents guessing.
There is a logic behind the heavy use of the 12 in the Dallas Cowboys, and it goes beyond being skinny in the WR. It’s a strategy used to beat balls and it’s quickly becoming a popular trend in the NFL again. Because it’s all about trends and countermovements.