Dallas Cowboys: Creating the Blueprint for Optimal Offense in 2014

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Dallas Cowboys: Creating the Blueprint for Optimal Offense in 2014
Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

The Dallas Cowboys offense has all the tools to be one of the very best in the NFL but have underperformed in recent years. Getting the most out of this offense is not a difficult puzzle to solve, however. The key for this unit to live up to its potential is simply balance.

Last season, Dallas posted the No. 14 passing offense but posted a below-average No. 24 rushing attack. The best way for both parts of the offense to improve is to feed the ball to DeMarco Murray early and often in 2014. 

Murray made his first Pro Bowl last season when he rushed for a career-high 1,121 yards and nine touchdowns. He also missed just two games last year, an improvement from the six he was injured for in 2012. 

The Cowboys faithful might realize this is a winning formula but have to be worried about what bringing in pass-happy Scott Linehan means for this unit. It wouldn't be wise to think that Linehan's arrival means more passing attempts for Tony Romo, though. 

As the offensive coordinator of the Detroit Lions last season, quarterback Matthew Stafford attempted 634 passes, his lowest mark in the last three seasons.

Linehan utilized Stafford's arm plenty, but also went to the ground 389 times, using the combination of Reggie Bush and Joique Bell. The two rushers combined for 1,656 rushing yards in 2013. 

While it's clear that Linehan called plenty more passing plays, the running game was a huge part of the Detroit offense last season. It's hard to believe that he wouldn't bring that same mindset with him to Dallas with pieces like Murray, Romo, Jason Witten and Dez Bryant already in place.

It's not a hard concept for most to wrap their heads around. Success on the ground leads to success through the air.  

NFL Replay
Romo completes a play-action pass to Witten for a touchdown against the Giants.

Allowing Murray to be more involved in the offense sets up both draw and play-action possibilities. In fact, according to Bleacher Report Dallas Cowboys featured columnist Jonathan Bales, Romo is one of the best play-action quarterbacks in the game today. Bales wrote back in November that Romo's 121.2 play-action passer rating was third in the league behind the likes of Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers.

Dallas called a passing play more than 63 percent of the time last season, the third-most in the league. Linehan's Lions ranked No. 13. Perhaps the new passing game coordinator can talk offensive coordinator Bill Callahan into calling more running plays this year.

It's understandable why the Cowboys have been a pass-first team recently. Having names like Witten, Bryant and Terrance Williams for Romo to throw to could lead to big plays on any snap. The best way to make those plays happen more often, though, is to make opposing defenses respect the running game. 

Murray might not be the most durable running back in the NFL, but he's one of the better ones out there talent-wise. He has averaged four yards per carry or better in each of his three seasons in the NFL. Giving him the football almost guarantees the 'Boys will have just five more yards to go for their next first down.

It's no secret that passing the ball to Williams and Bryant has worked out pretty well. The two receivers combined for more than 1,900 yards last season.

It's hard to say that the Cowboys could get more out of their top wideouts, but they can. If Murray and the running game can take focus off the passing attack, then both will have more opportunities. 

Most NFL offenses are all about the passing game and Dallas will still very much be among those teams next year. The Cowboys don't need to go to a strictly 50-50 attack on offense, but there needs to be an effort to get close to that number in 2014.

The best way for this team's offense to live up to its hype is to get the running game more involved. 

 

All statistics were retrieved from Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted. Alex Hall is a Dallas Cowboys featured columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @AlexKHall.

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