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Cowboys should force offenses to run the ball

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At Dallas News, I explained why the Cowboys should do everything they can to force teams to run the ball this year.

Since the ‘Boys will already be one of the lighter defenses in the NFL, it will be interesting to see how Kiffin uses his sub-packages. Namely, I want to see how often the Cowboys use their base personnel—all three linebackers—when offenses line up with “11” personnel. If you recall, “11” personnel is one running back, one tight end, and three receivers.

In 2012, the Cowboys ranked in the middle of the pack in terms of employing base personnel versus “11.” Per Football Outsiders, Dallas used their base package on 7.4 percent of snaps against “11.” That might sound low, but it was actually the 16th-highest in the NFL.

With three good coverage linebackers on the field, Kiffin might be tempted to stay in base quite often, even against three-receiver sets. I think the Cowboys should work to continue to decrease their base usage, however. Even against an offense’s base personnel (whether it’s “12” or “21”), the Cowboys should try to entice teams to run the football. In most situations, running is a sub-optimal strategy to passing. If the ‘Boys can get offenses to continually run the ball against them on first-and-10, that’s advantageous. Even with undersized personnel, it should benefit the defense to do everything they can to get the ball out of the hands of opposing quarterbacks.

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