Those Dallas Cowboys fans that have paid close attention to the plays called by offensive coordinator Jason Garrett over the past few seasons will have a hard time recognizing the Silver and Blue in 2009.
Gone will be the flashy, big-play calls that Garrett made on a regular basis—in their place, a more physically demanding, “smash-mouth” style of football that will rely heavily on the running attack.
With a December record of 6-7 over the past three seasons, something needed to change. When the calendar gets late in the year, big-play offenses largely seem to fizzle out as the defenses get tougher.
Garrett could be out of his comfort zone calling a majority of running plays in 2009, but Jerry Jones and Wade Phillips realize it’s that kind of football that wins championships.
Under the pass-happy play calling last season, Dallas finished 18th in the league in points per game, and 13th in total yards per game—a far cry from where a team with the Cowboys talent on offense should end the season.
Luckily, the Cowboys three headed monster at running back should make the switch painless. Marion Barber, Tashard Choice, and Felix Jones combined for 1,623 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2008. With a healthy Jones in 2009, all three running backs should stay fresh and effective throughout the season.
Tony Romo should stay fresh all season long as well. The Cowboys will still throw the ball often, if only to keep defenses honest. But Romo should stay well under his 450 attempts in 13 games from 2008.
If Romo does not stay under his total attempts from last season, then the Cowboys will be in deep trouble. Other than tight end Jason Witten, there is no proven wide receiver to throw to.
Gone are Terrell Owens and his 69 catches and 10 touchdowns. The top three wide outs left on the roster—Roy Williams, Patrick Crayton, and Miles Austin—combined for 71 catches and 8 touchdowns.
2009 will be an interesting case-study for the Dallas Cowboys. Can a sexy, big play team make the transformation to a rugged, smash-mouth style found in New York and Pittsburgh?
If the transition is successful, the Cowboys will be hard to beat. The defense will stay solid under head coach Wade Phillips, and Matt McBriar will be back from injury to lead the league in punting.
But if Jason Garrett cannot get his head around conservative play calling, 2009 could be a train wreck for Dallas. Either way, it will be an exciting season to watch in Big D.