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The Film Room: The Dallas Cowboys' Offensive Line

Matt Weston of Battle Red Blog breaks down the 3-1 Dallas Cowboys' biggest strength, their offensive line.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Raise your hand if you have heard a Cowboys fan say something along the lines of this before,

"If only we had a secondary we would be one of the best teams in the league!"

"If only Tony Romo didn't choke away game X then we would have won the division!"

"If our offensive line could protect Romo he would be the best quarterback in the NFL!"

"If only someone other than DeMarcus Ware could rush the passer this defense would be a top ten unit!"

"If only Jason Garrett didn't call the plays and we actually ran the ball we would have made the playoffs!"

Every season there is something the Cowboys front office and fans can blame for another 8-8 season and heartbreak in week seventeen. Then every year the team attempts to fix said problem only for another one to rise like a plastic rodent popping his head out of a Whack-A-Mole game that spits out sadness rather than a carnival's version of fiat money. For the Cowboys when one problem arises another returns to take its place. When the leak in the roof is patched, the microwave leaves a frozen hockey puck in the center of every potpie, when the microwave is replaced, the crisper in the fridge turns luscious pieces of lettuce into wilted corpses, and so on and so fourth until mediocrity ensues.

Yet this year the forgotten corners of the kitchen seem to be at levels clean enough to eat off of, if you are either drunk or have Frank like hygienic standards. At the moment, the Cowboys are 3-1 and tied with the Eagles in first place of the NFC East. This week Dallas is coming off of a 38-17 thrashing of the Saints on Sunday Night that they seemed destined to lose in classic slapstick Cowboys fashion. So what has changed between their pre-season destiny of 7-9 and what's occurred this season?

First off, the defense that was only better than Green Bay and San Diego in DVOA in 2013 has improved to 23rd in the league thanks to some under the radar signings and the fact that their defensive coordinator isn't a 74 year old man. They haven't been great, but they have made plays when they needed to to keep points off the board. The passing game has been nowhere near the levels we have grown accustomed to over the years. Even though they haven't played at a top ten level they have been efficient. This is especially impressive considering the fact that Romo is coming back from off-season back surgery. Also Dallas has played the 31st easiest schedule in the NFL according to Football Outsiders (-15.9%) that is expected to increase in difficulty.  But in the center of this corroded kitchen turned grimy is a hand made stove carved out of porcelain, bronze, and features an electric stove, gas oven, electric plates, and wait for it... a LAVA ROCK GRILL.

Of all the factors for Dallas to thank for their 3-1 start, the run game is due the most credit.

Rushing Yards Rushing Attempts Y/C Rush DVOA DYAR Adjusted Line Yards
660 (1st) 130 (1st) 5.1 (3rd) 16.1% (3rd) D.Murray 136 (1st) 4.4 (8th)

Dallas's run game is the chocolate cake to their opponent's Bruce Bogtrotter as they have jammed the ball down defense's throats. They are in the top five of nearly every rushing measure: yards, attempts, yards per carry, and rushing DVOA. This year everyone is hollering about the run game while last year all of the focus was on Romo and the defense. Yet we see nearly identical numbers when we look at efficiency rather than counting stats like rushing yards.

Year Rushing Yards Rushing Attempts Y/C Rush DVOA DYAR Adjusted Line Yards
2014 660 (1st) 130 (1st) 5.1 (3rd) 16.1% (3rd) D.Murray 136 (1st) 4.44 (8th)
2013 1504 (24th) 336 (31st) 4.5 (8th) 7.7% (5th) D.Murray 295 (2nd) 4.23 (4th)

The only thing that has changed between this year and last year is the fact that the Cowboys are actually running the football. Last season they were 31st in the league with 336 carries and this year they are 1st with 130 carries. Zach Martin hasn't transformed the line of scrimmage. DeMarco Murray didn't just become a superhuman. Tony Romo hasn't opened up the run game with the pass out of nowhere. The only difference is the Cowboys are running the ball more often.

Year Carries Rank
2014 130 1st
2013 336 31st
2012 355 31st

The only reason that makes sense for Dallas to be 31st in carries is that they always had to play from behind because of their porous defense. But that isn't true. The Cowboys ran 420 offensive plays when leading last season and were 10th in the league. Of those plays called 265 were passing compared to 155 rushing. The only teams in this situation ranked ahead of them that ran the ball more than they threw it were the Broncos (370-321), and the Saints (266-187). No team other than the Cowboys threw the ball 100 more times than they ran it. Additionally, Murray was great running the ball when Dallas had the lead. He ran the ball 90 times for 519 yards which comes out to 5.77 yards a carry.

As a lover of beautiful football like Narcissus staring into a shallow pool filled with tadpoles, and a detester of vile waste this is infuriating to see. But it's downright despicable when you factor in the fact that the the Cowboys have spent the last five years retooling their offensive line. In 2010 they started:

LT Doug Free

LG Kyle Kosier

C Andre Gurode

RG Leonard Davis

RT Marco Colombo

They cut Marco Colombo after a disastrous 2010 season and drafted Tyron Smith, who was the meat in a Jake Locker Blaine/Gabbert draft day sandwich. Heading into the 2011 season they gave Doug Free a four year, $32 million dollar deal and kept him at left tackle and opted to have Smith start at right. Free was beaten and battered all season in 2011, and in 2012 they had Smith and Free switch positions.

2012 Cowboys offensive line:

LT Tyron Smith

LG Nate Livings

C Ryan Cook

RG Mackenzy Bernadeau

RT Doug Free

Some offensive lineman claim that switching sides on the line of scrimmage is like learning how to write with your floppy off hand. This is because your stance, and footwork become the opposite. As a result, it took Free and Smith a year to learn how to play opposite sides, but now they have become one of the best tackle tandems in the league. When we look at numbers like hurries, qb hits, sacks allowed, and even the highly subjective take as a grain of salt Pro Football Focus ratings we see how their production dipped during the 2012 season and picks back up in 2013 once they become acclimated to their new positions.

Doug Free

Year QB Hurries QB Hits Sacks Allowed PFF Grade
2010 (LT)
21 7 5 24.1
2011 (LT)
34 5 10 -6.5
2012 (RT)
41 4 6 -13.4
2013 (RT)
34 0 6 13.1
2014 (RT)
4 1 3 -0.3

Tyron Smith

Year QB Hurries QB Hits Sacks Allowed PFF Grade
2011 (RT) 20 2 8 19.8
2012 (LT) 37 4 3 -0.9
2013 (LT) 27 3 1 22.5
2014 (LT) 2 0 1 7.2

After the 2012 season Jones started to fill out the interior of the offensive line. Their left guard, Ronald Leary, was an undrafted free agent, despite a third round grade because of a degenerative knee condition called Osteochondritis Dissecans which means Wereowl in Latin. Leary entered the 2013 season in a position battle with Nate Livings. Since winning this competition of superiority he has started every game for the Cowboys at right guard.

In the 2013 NFL draft the Cowboys found their starting center. They traded back from 18th to 31st with San Fransisco and picked up a third round pick along the way. The 18th pick became Eric Reid and the 31st pick was used on Travis Frederick, the first team All-American Center from Wisconsin, and Terrance Williams was selected with the third round pick. After the draft everyone lauded, and giggled at the Cowboys for taking Frederick, but like Leary, he has started every game for the Cowboys since 2012.

These changes to the interior offensive line are what transformed the Cowboys run game from below average to upper echelon.

Year Adj. Sack Rate Adj. Line Yards Stuffed% Power Success 2nd Level Rush DVOA Overall PFF Grade
2014 7.3% (26th) 4.4 (8th) 18% (14th) 89% (3rd) 1.63 (2nd) 16.1% (3rd) 2.4
2013 6.2% (10th) 4.23 (4th) 15% (2nd) 68% (11th) 1.29 (6th) 7.7% (5th) 53.1
2012 5.8% (11th) 3.92 (22nd) 19% (12th) 63% (15th) 1.04 (25th) -9.2% (24th) -5.4

The last question mark on the offensive line was right guard. In 2012 Dallas started Mackenzy Bernadeau, replaced him with former Chiefs All-Pro Brian Waters, who tore his triceps after five games, and then Bernadeau became the starter again. Then on draft day Zach Martin, and Johnny Manziel sat at pick sixteen. The Earth is still spinning and chaos hasn't engulfed the planet so we all know who Dallas ended up selecting. The Notre Dame product played tackle and guard in college and started 52 games, the most in school history. He was moved to guard because of a lack of arm length, and has been the starting right guard for the Cowboys since OTA's. Jones was finally able to fulfill his lifelong goal of shoving Bernadeau back to the bench.

This is the unit that has mauled front sevens to the tune of 5.1 yards a carry and a DVOA of 16.1%.

LT Tyron Smith

LG Ronald Leary

C Travis Frederick

RG Zach Martin

RT Doug Free

Together these five have been bashing skulls, and opening paths for the physical down hill running Murray to trample through.

The Dallas Cowboys run game is pretty simple schematically. They run inside zone plays to create spine breaking double teams, outside zone plays to stretch the defense and some plays involving pulling sprinkled in between.

Quarter 1 8:57 Remaining vs. Tennessee Result: DeMarco Murray RG for 9 Yards

The Cowboys are an example of the age old question, "What came first, the chicken or the egg?" that has been pondering the human species every since the Reptillians visited from the Alpha Draconis star system to create the human race. Do the Cowboys run the outside zone to spread out the defense and open a soft underbelly to open up the inside zone or do the Cowboys run the inside zone to bring the defense inside and then break big gains with the outside zone? After watching every Dallas run play, I don't know the answer. But I do know that the inside zone is the perfect play for Dallas to run based on their offensive line.

Tennessee is lined up in their base 3-4 defense. Two inside linebackers, two outside linebackers lined up wide on the last man on the line of scrimmage, a nose tackle playing the "1", and two defensive ends playing as a "3". This formation is perfect for the inside zone play. Play-side they get two double teams--an "Ace" on the "1", and a "Trey" on the "3". When you have monsters like the Cowboys do on the line of scrimmage and get two double teams you are guaranteed to move the defensive line backwards. On the back-side, right tackle Doug Free (#68), and right guard Zach Martin (#70 ) have man on man blocks where they are just trying to hold their blocks and seal off penetration.

Inside Zone 1-1

Once the ball is snapped the play-side lineman take zone or lead steps (a six-inch diagonal step towards the aiming point) toward the down lineman. They take zone steps at an angle so they can gain ground at the snap of the ball and get hip to hip with their teammate. On the back-side, where the one on one blocks are being made, they are taking slide steps to make sure they are covering up their man.

One thing that stands out with Dallas is they are all technically sound. They all take six inch steps, they keep wide bases, play low, and always have their feet chopping. In the image below you can see an example of this by looking at left guard Ronald Leary (#65). When he takes his zone step his base his wide, and he's low to the ground.

Inside Zone 1-2

Romo takes the hand off and starts moving towards Murray. At this point every lineman is about to make contact. The "Ace" block between Frederick (Center #72), and Leary looks magnificent already. They are hip to hip. Frederick has the inside half of the nose tackle, and has the defender's shoulders turned for Leary to blow up. The "Trey" is a little raunchy because the back-up tight end is playing cautious. He's more concerned with getting to the second level than helping Tyron Smith (Left Tackle #77) with Jurrell Casey (#99). He's only offering a hand of help instead of driving back the first level.

On the back-side Free is just mirroring Derrick Morgan (#91). Martin has swallowed up Ropati Pitoitua (#92). He took a slide step to the right and drove his head into the sternum of the defender. Also you can see Martin's trademark, inside hands. Every time the rookie blocks he makes sure his hands are inside and locked onto the numbers.

Inside Zone 1-3

Leary makes contact into the side of the nose tackle.

Inside 1-4

As an uncovered man in a double team the goal is to create movement on the down lineman. The covered man stands him up, and the uncovered man delivers the blow. Leary is the strongest man on film, and incredible as the uncovered man in the double team. When he punches the nose tackle he jolts him to the left. Additionally, he already has his eyes looking for the inside linebacker when he makes this block. The "Trey" block is still silly. The tight end has offered zero help and is already making his way to the second level.

Back-side both Free and Martin have completed their goals. On these inside zone plays, the Cowboys don't run back-side double teams or scoop blocks depending on what vernacular you prefer. Instead, they rely on their lineman to cover up the defender and turn their shoulders away from the play. Both #92, and #91 have their backs turned toward the sideline.

Another one of the things the Cowboys do well is hold onto their blocks. There's no penetration. There's no defender running amok freely. Every man is covered up. Consequently, Murray has two open holes by the time he gets the snap.

Inside Zone 1-5

Inside Zone 1-6

The key to inside zone plays are that the lineman play-side need to cover up the defenders and move the line forwards. Dallas has accomplished both of these goals. The nose tackle has been driven to the back-side of the play because of Leary's punch. Leary naturally came off the first level and is squared and facing the linebacker. Leary isn't very fast, and looks sluggish when moving up to the next level, but he plays low, and with a wide base that allows him to garble up linebackers.

In case you didn't know this Tyron Smith is really good at football. The tight end gave zero help, and Smith was still able to mangle Pro Bowler Jurrell Casey. He physically dominates Casey and takes him to the ground. Despite the hatred lashed at the tight end, he does a nice job with his feet to crawl up to the linebacker. His hands are inside and his head placement is sound.

Inside Zone 1-7

Murray is four yards into the hole and there isn't a sign of life. He sees the safeties flowing over the hole to the right so he plants his foot and cuts to the left.

Inside Zone 1-8

This is when the back-side comes into play. Because Martin turns the defensive tackle's shoulders, and Free walked Morgan out of the play, Murray can cut the run outside without smacking into a defender. Dallas's offensive line does a great job staying on their blocks, and this image is another example of it.

Inside Zone 1-9

Murray runs into a safety who couldn't be blocked because of the defensive alignment. He breaks out of the tackle and scampers for a few more before fumbling.

Inside Zone 1-10
Inside Zone 1-11

This play captures the offensive line's strengths. It's a technically sound group that plays low, with a wide base, and chops their feet. They punch the inside of the chest, and grab the numbers to put defenders underneath their control. These two factors lead to them holding onto their blocks which allows Murray to maneuver through the box. Also they employ big, strong guys on the line. They consistently get hip to hip on their double teams, and when this occurs they plow the first level of the defense backwards and then they peel off with the flow to the second level. This then puts a blanket onto the entire defense and teleports Murray into the open field.

Quarter 3 6:53 Remaining vs. New Orleans Result: DeMarco Murray Left Tackle for 28 Yards, Touchdown

Here is another example of the Cowboys inside zone run scheme. The blocking assignments remain the same as the previous play.

Inside Zone 2-1

Zone steps for the double teams, slide steps for the one vs. one blocks.

Inside Zone 2-2

Just like the previous play, by the time Murray is handed the ball the front four are already covered. Both the "Duece" between Leary and Smith and the "Ace" between Martin and Frederick are like two puzzle pieces being snapped together. The key to double teams start with the offensive lineman forming a holy union as they get hip to hip and Dallas DOES THIS EVERY TIME.

Inside Zone 2-3

Once there's movement on the first level the offensive line begins to plan for the second level. Frederick has his eyes on the "Mike" (Curtis Lofton #50) and Smith has his eyes on Ramon Humber (#53). In addition to the long list of things Dallas does well, the Cowboys flow off to the next level very naturally. They don't jab and hurry to the next level. Instead they move with the double team, and scrape off once it takes them to the linebacker.

Inside Zone 2-4

The "Ace" block is a great example of this natural flow. Frederick feels Martin to the right of him and he uses that momentum to change lanes. The "Duece" between Leary and Smith is something else. Continuity, technique, and adherence to the play are the foundations of offensive line play. But rather than stay on the double until it reaches #53, Smith helps Witten out with his block on Junior Galette (#93). Smith is only 23 years old, but makes a decision that only players who have a keen understanding of the game make. He sees Galette fight into the gap so Smith comes off the double team with Leary to help drive the defensive end out of the hole. It's a rare example of impromptu play in a rigid environment.

Inside Zone 2-5

So when Murray gets the ball there isn't a man in the hole. Smith is in the process of driving him out and the double team can still get to #53 if need be. Also it's worth noting Leary's ability to hold his own even though Smith takes off unexpectedly like the lead singer of Everclear's father. He buckles down low to stop the defensive tackle's penetration and gets under his pads. In the next image you will see him driving the tackle down the line of scrimmage, which is the result of his leverage, strength, and hand placement.

Inside Zone 2-6

Murray cuts right back through the hole created from Smith's genius and Leary's strength. Most of the words I've wrote have been used to describe the "Duece" block, but the "Ace" may have been even more lovely. Martin has the defensive tackle turned away, and Frederick is making contact with the linebacker. Frederick is such a center. He was born to play the position. When he heads to the second level he is always square, and his footwork never leads to him being over extended. Also when he makes contact he hits the right target.

Inside Zone 2-7

After Murray cuts through the hole he comes right off of Frederick's block. There's only one man to beat to get into the endzone.

Inside Zone 2-9

Inside Zone 2-10

Dallas's offensive line runs this play to the perfection. It's the cornerstone of their run game. They always move the line of scrimmage, hold their blocks, peel off to the next level naturally, turn the back-side defenders away from the play, and give Murray the opportunity to run five to six yards untouched and give him one guy to miss. This play is why Dallas leads the league in rushing and employs of the best run games in the NFL.

Quarter 1 3:01 Remaining vs. San Francisco Result: DeMarco Murray Left End for 15 Yards

Despite the kind words said about the inside zone run play, the Cowboys have problems running the same play outside. This is the result of a lack of communication and the inability to cut off defensive players.

The outside zone play is the same one everyone knows thanks to Arian Foster and the Kubiak era. Everyone takes a read step towards the play-side. Then the covered lineman blocks that man, and the uncovered lineman either doubles up or heads to the second level depending on the defensive lineman's alignment. So here we get a "Duece" between Leary and Smith, an "Ace" between Frederick and Martin, James Hannah (#84) blocks the outside linebacker by himself, and Free has to cut off the defensive end.

Outside Zone 3-1

Right when the ball is snapped we see a problem immediately. Doug Free is already beat inside. He's not late off the ball, and he could have taken a better read step, but the biggest issue is a lack of lateral quickness. Already the end is going to get into the backfield.

Outside Zone 3-2

Free tries to overcome his issues at the snap and frantically tries to get his head on the inside shoulder. On most plays where he is the back-side tackle we see this. He takes a poor step and runs laterally as fast as he can to make up for it. This technique rarely works.

Frederick has attacked the outside shoulder, and Martin is coming at a perfect angle to attack the chest and overtake the block. Smith has his right hand acting as a navigator to feel the inside gap on the way to the linebacker. Leary's head is aimed for the inside shoulder.

Outside Zone 3-3

Man, that's a beautiful "Ace" block between Martin and Frederick. As far as the "Duece" goes, the only thing Leary can do is move the end down the line. He thought Smith was going to help inside, but he didn't. What Leary did was attack the inside shoulder since he thought Smith would take the outside one. This was just a lack of communication. It didn't destroy this play, but most of the times these types of mistakes lead to runs snuffed out in the backfield.

Outside Zone 3-4

Hanna gets driven back by the outside linebacker and Free's man is in the backfield.

Outside Zone 3-5

When Murray gets the snap he has to put his 4.4 speed to use and get to the edge so he can outrun the man coming thru.

Outside Zone 3-6

Murray is incredible. He laughs in the face of penetration, cuts back inside, and picks up fifteen yards.

Outside Zone 3-8

Outside Zone 3-9

Yes, Dallas gained fifteen yards. Yes, the penetration didn't derail the play. But when Dallas's run game sputters like how it did in the first half against the Rams and how it did at times against the 49ers it's because of this play. The inability to reach the outside shoulder, and the lack of communication between the covered and uncovered lineman pre-snap leads to this sputtering.

Unlike the inside zone plays, Dallas seems to make one or two mistakes that are detrimental to the play. This is either because they have the wrong personnel or have still yet to grasp the nuances of this scheme. The outside zone play is an orchestra of moving parts that must work in unison. You have to take precise angles, and hit the targets exactly for this play to work. Compared to the inside zone where all it takes is a good double team and hats on hats to succeed.

Quarter 1 14:25 Remaining vs. Tennessee Result: DeMarco Murray Left End For 1 Yard

This play is another example of Dallas's problems when it comes to running the outside zone.

Because of the Titans' alignment Dallas is going to be able to get a "Trey" with Smith and the tight end, an "Ace" between Frederick and Leary, and a backside scoop with Martin and Free.

Outside Zone 4-1

Here we see the read steps being made and the play developing.

Outside Zone 4-2

This play fails because of the "Trey" block. They don't communicate. The tight end barely punches and leaves for the next level while Smith is aimed for the inside shoulder. This hole between them opens up the lane for Shaun Phillips (#58) to blast through. It's nearly the exact same mistake that Smith and Leary made in the previous play.

On the back-side we see the principle of their zone run issues. Both Martin and Free aren't quick enough to get their head on the inside shoulder to split the front seven in half. The entire defense is able to just flow that way and create a big mash of bodies. There's no room for Murray to cut back through. All he can do is run right and hope something opens up.

Outside Zone 4-4

Outside Zone 4-5

Every Titan defender has inside head placement.

Outside Zone 4-6

OUtside Zone 4-7

Outside Zone 4-8

There's no precision when Dallas runs this play. They all just flow one way and hope for something magical to fall out of the sky. The back-side repeatedly fails to get their head inside and create cut back lanes. On the play-side, communication issues lead to spaces in the double team, which allow defenders to split the double and get into the back-field. When the outside zone is ran correctly it can be majestic, like an eagle spreading his wings into the sunset. When it isn't, it looks like a bowl of whorish porridge like what we see here.

Quarter 3 5:34 Remaining vs. St. Louis Result: DeMarco Murray Left End for 44 Yards

In addition to the zone, Dallas runs pull and trap plays sparingly, but when they do it's effective. This is because of players like Martin, Frederick, and Smith who are incredible athletes who can run hastily down the line of scrimmage and hurdle themselves at defensive players. They run trap (pull one player to kick out a defender they leave unblocked intentionally), counter (pull two players), dart (pull the tackle), and sweeps to the outside. This next play is an example of a sweep play.

Dallas is lined up in Trips left before the start of the play. Before the snap they put the slot receiver in motion to fake the end around to pull the defense to left before Murray gets the pitch going right. Jason Witten is going to block down on the 4i so Smith and Leary can pull around the edge. Martin and Frederick are running a double team reminiscent to the one seen on the back-side of outside zone plays. The back-side tackle and tight end are going to try and cut the defense off from flowing into the play-side.

Toss 5-1

Leary is quick off the ball and takes a bucket step (a six inch step parallel to the line of scrimmage). The key to this step is the lineman has to gain ground. He doesn't merely hop out of his stance and do a 180. Smith is still in his stance, but he's such a great athlete that he can get away with it. Frederick has taken a nice slide step to Michael Brockers's (#90) outside shoulder, and Martin is taking a read step so he can overtake that same shoulder.

Toss 5-2

Free is a big ole 747. Every time he moves up to the second level he spreads his arms out wide to cut through space for balance so his hands are ready when it's time to punch the linebacker. Frederick has turned the defensive tackle's shoulder perfectly. Martin has a great angle to replace him. Smith and Leary are bolting toward the outside.

Toss 5-3

The jet sweep fake confuses the back-side of the defense. Frederick and Martin are hip to hip and executing a perfect back-side double team. Frederick will now be able to peel off and run up the middle of the field and act as a third lead blocker for Murray. Also Witten was able to get just enough of Eugene Sims (#97) so Leary and Murray can get to the outside cleanly.

Toss 5-4

The slot receiver cracked down on the outside linebacker, the back-side of the defense is out of the play thanks to the fake, and now Murray has Smith, Leary, and Frederick in front of him to lead the way.

Toss 5-5

Murray starts to cut inside. Both of the edge defenders get mauled by Leary and Smith at the same time. The timing here is impeccable.

Toss 5-6

Murray gallops down the field like it's the last few furlongs with Frederick chasing down the safety thirty yards down the field from where the play started.

Toss 5-7

Toss 5-8

One of the aspects of football group-think that irks me is the idea that these goliaths are just a bunch of big, fat, strong guys, who eat a ton, and push people around. Most don't realize the athleticism it takes to play this position. It's harder to see in the trenches, but when offensive lineman get out and run like the play depicted you can see how nimble they are. Dallas has four players who can pull well (Free is the one who doesn't), and has three guys that display exceptional quickness. This, in the addition to their overall strengths, are why Smith, Frederick, and Martin were first round selections in the NFL draft, and why Dallas has one of the baddest lines in the game.

Quarter 2 2:34 Remaining vs. New Orleans Result: DeMarco Murray up the Middle for 22 Yards

So far I have mainly focused on the front five. Yet DeMarco Murray has been incredible this season. The Cowboys have a top five run game because of the line and Murray's play this year. The Cowboys' line is exceptional, but Murray is able to amplify their performance and hide their mistakes when they are made.

Here Dallas is running their patented inside zone, but to the weak-side. I assume by now you can figure out how the play is run so I'll spare the instructions.

Murray 6-1

Zone steps are made. The lineman begin to get hip to hip like a seventh grade dance once a few cups of Hawaiian Punch have been consumed.

Murray 6-2

It doesn't get much better than this. The one vs. one blocks have perfect head placement. The double teams are congruent with each other. Each one is hip to hip, low, has wide bases, and driving the defender with their eyes on the next level.

Murray 6-3

The double teams are almost to the second level by the time Murray receives the hand off. Everything looks beautiful except for the safety screaming into the box.

Murray 6-4

Murray 6-5

Murray has a great hole to trudge through. The line does their job, but again the safety has Murray lined up for the tackle.

Murray 6-6

The safety makes contact, but can't bring the running back down right away.

Murray 6-7

More Saints latch onto Murray like fleas on a gas station dog.

Murray 6-8

Murray keeps his feet moving and runs through Jairus Byrd (#31), and three other Saints.

Murray 6-9

He then scoots along for several more yards.

Murray 6-10

This season Murray has multiple runs that make even people reading this on their dial-up connected, Windows 95' computers want to learn how to make .GIFS to watch Murray run as if he's a moving photograph from out of the Harry Potter universe. Murray has been a complete package of burst, strength, vision, and open field moves. After years of injuries, and people nagging on his tendency to bounce runs outside too much he's en route to putting together an all-time great season where 2,000 yards is probable, not impossible. He wouldn't have the results he's had this year if it wasn't for his offensive line, but the line wouldn't be a talking point of this new season if wasn't for him.

Tony Romo may have the back of a perpendicular grandma, the defense - that hasn't been very good to begin with - has performed better than their talent level indicated, and the schedule is about to get tougher, but despite this the Cowboys do one thing better than any other team in the league, run the football. Sometimes having one elite facet can be enough for a team to ride into the playoffs, and in a murky, pond water soaking NFC East anything can happen. It's taken five years, three first round draft picks, and a metaphysical experience in the void for the coaching staff to understand how good they are at running the ball, but the Cowboys have finally crafted one of the best run games in the NFL.

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