Cowboys Don't Want Red Zone To Be Dead Zone
Dallas Morning News
June 12, 2010. Three months from now, on a late
summer evening a few miles from our nation's
capital in the season opener, the Cowboys should
find themselves in the red zone.
The question then becomes will they find the end
That didn't happen nearly enough last season.
One of the most prolific offenses in the league
too often lost its equilibrium the closer it got
to the goal line.
"When you're second in the league in offense and
whatever we were in the red zone and scoring, it
just doesn't add up," tight end Jason Witten
No. 2 in yards gained.
No. 14 in scoring.
No. 14 in red zone efficiency, scoring
touchdowns only 52 percent of the time inside
the opponent's 20-yard line.
This is the sort of flawed math that got AIG in
so much trouble.
The coaching staff has spent the last
month-and-a-half analyzing this disconnect. They
have challenged their own offensive theory and
installed a few different schemes.
"We feel some of the things we did last year
didn't fit us well enough," coach Wade Phillips
declared earlier in the week. "We will take a
different approach this season than we did in
It's a little early for specifics. But let's
just say that more is not always better, unless
that means more Witten near the goal line.
It means fewer penalties that disrupt the flow
and put the Cowboys in a frenetic state. It will
likely mean fewer snaps out of the shotgun in
the shadow of the goal posts.
Diversity is a founding principle of the offense
under coordinator Jason Garrett. That's a
positive. But you wondered at times last season
if Garrett was too democratic with his play
calling in the red zone, if the players had been
in the scheme long enough to maximize all of the
A flurry of formations can confuse a defense,
but it can also make offensive execution
Phillips has intimated he prefers to repeat
successful plays in the red zone rather than
adhere to a philosophy that attempts to keep a
defense off balance with surprises. Witten is a
The tight end had 14 passes thrown his way in
the red zone and came away with four touchdowns
He had just 13 passes directed his way over the
last two seasons and came away with four
touchdowns. Only two of his 94 receptions in '09
resulted in scores.
"I think Witten comes to mind more than
anybody," Phillips said. "We had been getting it
to him a lot in the red zone. We didn't do it
quite as much last year. We shouldn't have
gotten away from that."
Witten will still be asked to stay in and block
when the Cowboys are near the goal line. Certain
protections will demand it. But look for the
offense to make a conscious effort to spring him
into the pattern more.
Miles Austin in the slot is another option to
The Cowboys must also watch penalties.
"I think the biggest thing is we've got to
eliminate some of the negative plays that we
had," Garrett said. "I think the biggest thing
is being efficient, particularly on early downs,
and continue to stay in some reasonable
down-and-distance situations where you can run
That has been an emphasis of the organized team
activities and this minicamp.
"It's hard to coach not committing penalties,"
Garrett said. "You try to coach being efficient,
using good technique, understanding what you're
doing. If your feet are in good position and
your hands are in good position, it's easier to
finish a block without committing a holding
penalty at the end of the down."
Here's the only math the Cowboys need to know
when they take the field against the Redskins in
"You can't walk away with a three," Witten said,
"when you should have seven."
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