Dallas Cowboys Have Pieces in Place To Excel in New England Patriots' "12" Personnel

By Ben Grimaldi
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

When the Dallas Cowboys drafted tight end Gavin Escobar in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft, Cowboys fans everywhere wondered why Dallas would draft another tight end with Jason Witten and James Hanna already in the fold. Jerry Jones gave everyone the answer later that night when he spilled the beans that the Cowboys’ offense was going to be more like the New England Patriots‘.

Aside from keeping his trap shut and ruining the Cowboys’ element of surprise for the upcoming season, Jones has opened up the debate on whether the Cowboys have made the right choice for their new offense. My colleague Jeric Griffin doesn’t think the offense will work for the Cowboys and you can read his take on the situation here.

However, I disagree with Jeric and think the Cowboys’ offense can excel in the “12” personnel. First things first, this is not Jerry Jones’ decision. Everyone loves to blame Jones for everything they don’t like about the Cowboys but there is no way Jones decided this by himself. It’s more likely that Jason Garrett and Bill Callahan looked around the league and saw the trend towards bigger, more athletic tight ends becoming miss-matches for the defense and decided they could mimic what the Patriots do. All they needed was a big tight end in the mold of Rob Gronkowski and they decided to move forward. Jones agreed with the assessment and here the Cowboys sit with Escobar, playing the role of The Gronk, and Witten as Aaron Hernandez, ready to destroy defenses.

The whole point of the offense is to create miss-matches for the offense and to take advantage of skill players, which the Cowboys can do. Think about the dilemma defenses now have playing against a Cowboys offense that features Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Witten, Escobar, DeMarco Murray or Joseph Randle and emerging talents like Dwayne Harris and rookie Terrance Williams! That is some serious fire power on offense.

I understand the trepidation over protecting Tony Romo and while I certainly share that fear, this offense is designed to get the ball out of his hands faster. Romo is at his best when he’s making plays without thinking too much and this offense will allow more of that. Let’s also not forget the Patriots run a hybrid of the hurry-up, something Romo thrives on, so they’ll be playing even more to his strengths. The “12” personnel grouping also means there are more defenders in space and not as many coming after Romo.

Also, the Cowboys can run the ball out of the single set formation. Stevan Ridley is a good running back but Murray is a much better player and he thrives off not having a blocker in front of him. In lone back sets last year Murray averaged 4.6 yards per carry, almost a full yard higher than any other formation. And if he doesn’t stay healthy enough, the Cowboys drafted a good backup in Randle to help ease the loss. The Cowboys will still be able to run the ball in this new offense and getting Murray those magical 18 carries shouldn’t be a problem.

There is always something scary about change and the Cowboys’ offense certainly isn’t perfect, but they do have the one thing the Patriots offense’ is missing that can make it excel: a deep threat. ESPNBoston’s Mike Reiss told ESPNDallas Todd Archer the flaw with the Patriots’ offense is they are missing that explosive weapon on the outside but the Cowboys have that covered with Bryant.

Of course, New England has Tom Brady and their offensive line is better than the Cowboys’ right now but Dallas does have the personnel to make the “12” work. Dallas has the weapons on offense and the versatile play makers to do what the Patriots’ offense does, so before we all slam the decision to change the offense, let’s see how it looks first.

The Cowboys are changing their offense, just like scores of fans wanted them to, and now everyone wants to question it? No, I don’t agree at all and from where I sit, it looks like a smart decision.

Ben is a Cowboys writer for Rantsports.com and you can chat with or follow him on twitter @BenGrimaldi

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