NFL teams in recent seasons have gone away from using 1 RB exclusively to more of a RB tandem approach. A great model of this is in Carolina, where the Panthers have DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Another good example is the Miami Dolphins, who have Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams.
Another team equipped to capitalize on this trend is the same team the Vikings will host this Sunday at Mall of America Field – the Dallas Cowboys. They have 3 talented RBs in Marion Barber III, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice. But as good as those 3 RBs are, the Cowboys remain a pass-heavy team through the first 4 games of 2010.
No NFL team has a higher pass-to-run ratio than Dallas, who passes 66.4% of the time. Even with that talented trio of RBs, the Cowboys rank just 24th in rushing. And only 1 of their 8 TDs this season has come on the ground.
Despite the imbalance those statistics display, Cowboys Head Coach Wade Phillips doesn’t sound concerned about the playcalling or production.
“I thought we ran the ball real well against Tennessee this last game,” Phillips said on Wednesday. “I think Felix [Jones] averaged seven yards a carry and he had over 100 yards. We’ve had good averages in some of the games we’ve played as far as the running game is concerned, but we are strong throwing the ball also. I think you’ve got to utilize your attributes.”
Phillips is right. The imbalance in run-to-pass ratio hasn’t yielded poor offensive results. Dallas ranks 2nd in yards per game and they’re putting up a respectable 20.3 points per contest. On top of that, the Cowboys feature a talented passer in Tony Romo and several talented receivers in TE Jason Witten and WRs Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Roy Williams.
The Vikings in recent seasons have been an elite run-stopping defense, ranking #1 in that department from 2006-08 and then #2 in 2009. But last week against the Jets, the Vikings allowed 155 rushing yards and for the season they’re giving up 102.3 per game, which is middle of the road in NFL standards.
So how will the Cowboys attack the Vikings? Will they stick to their guns and attack through the air? Or will they try to crack the Vikings rush defense and utilize that talented trio of RBs?
“They play a lot of eight-man front,” Phillips said of the Vikings defense. “We’re going to throw it more and take advantage of that. I think to be a good team offensively, you’ve got to do both and if they back off, you run it, and if [they] put everybody up there, you throw it. That’s what we’ve tried to do and that’s the way we’ve been since I’ve been here.”
Romo was asked by Twin Cities reporters during a conference call to evaluate the Vikings secondary. He was complementary of the group but also pointed out a potential weakness the Cowboys might try to exploit.
“They do a good job,” Romo said. “They play some man-to-man; zone, they sprinkle in a little bit. They can be a little more aggressive because of their front sometimes. You know you have to watch out for that. I think there’s an opportunity there for some double move stuff on the safeties and things of that nature, so we’ll see.
“We’re going to go in and do what we’ve been doing, some of the things that were moving the ball. We’ll just see how the game goes. It kind of depends on a specific week and what the defense is giving us.”
Sitting with a 1-3 record, I’m guessing the Vikings will look to give the Cowboys nothing. But it will be interesting to see how Dallas attacks a Vikings defense that has been nothing short of stellar so far in 2010.
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