The New Dallas Cowboys Playbook

Ryan MetcalfAnalyst IMay 13, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - DECEMBER 28:  Tony Romo #9 and Marion Barber #24 of the Dallas Cowboys walk to the bench after losing possesion of the ball in the second half against the Philadelphia Eagles on December 28, 2008 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Cowboys 44-6.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

In the previous seasons, the Cowboys have relied heavily on the passing attack. The rushing attack has been toward the bottom in the league in several categories. That means the Cowboys had a very unbalanced offensive attack. In 2009, the Cowboys must change their playbook because of one factor: Terrell Owens.

Owens is a huge threat to score every time he touches the ball. There is no debating that. The offense ran through him. No offense goes very far when the playbook revolves around a wide receiver. All it's good for is a SportsCenter highlight reel.

There are plenty of examples.

Time and time again, Owens would be thrown the ball. Owens doesn’t always catch the ball, causing him to be among the league leaders in dropped passes and catches. That’s a lot of wasted plays the Cowboys went through.

The Cowboys threw the ball about 550 times, completing about 330 of them. The attempts put them at eighth most in the league in 2008. The completion rate comes out to about 60 percent, making the Cowboys the 21st best in the league.

That’s not so good.  

Now, with Owens gone, the Cowboys will be forced to adapt their passing attack. The wide receivers on the Cowboys are not good enough to replace the loss of Owens, although Roy Williams might be by the end of the season. There will not be as many deep passes down the field.

The Cowboy receivers, although not great, can move the ball down the field. They are possession receivers. This means there will be shorter throws to advance the chains. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as the team can finish by putting points on the board.

It also helps manage the game clock, keeping opposing offenses off the field. It will be interesting to see how quarterback Tony Romo spreads the ball around.

The rushing attack will need to be more powerful, regardless of what happens with the passing attack. One of the unknown Cowboy strengths lies at the running back position, with Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice.

Last season, the Cowboys ran the ball about 400 times. That was near the bottom of the league. With more rushes, the Cowboys will open up the passing lanes and wear defenses down. The Cowboys are capable of accomplishing that easily with their three running backs.

Marion Barber will be the lead back based on carries, but others will get their fair share of chances.

Felix Jones barely got the chance to show the league what he can do. If Jones can stay healthy the Cowboys rushing attack instantly becomes a threat. Jones has some of the best speed in the game, and the difference in running style, compared to Barber, will fool defenses.

Tashard Choice will get his touches and can give Barber a breather.

If everything works out, there will be split back formations, confusing defenses. The Cowboys might even put all three running backs in at the same time.

In order for the Cowboy offense to work, there will have to be a good balance between rush and pass. There is not a star player to force defenses to focus on. That means the defenses can play both the pass and run, and they can be effective at stopping it most of the time.

If Roy Williams can be the big wide receiver, then the playbook opens up tremendously. That will probably take some time though. Even if Williams does become the main target, the Cowboys will still have to run the ball effectively to make it deep into the season and into the playoffs.

Few teams ever make it to the Super Bowl without a good running game.