As Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott stated in February, the team will be adding more concepts to their offense similar to “what the Panthers are doing, what the Chiefs did [last year].” Although he was specifically referring to RPOs (run-pass options), that doesn’t mean the team shouldn’t “borrow” any other plays from their opponents.
The trade for former LA Ram Tavon Austin in April brings a dynamic versatility to Scott Linehan’s scheme that the offensive coordinator hasn’t seen since his 2013 season in Detroit when the Lions signed Reggie Bush in free agency. Austin’s experience and speed make him a more lethal threat to opposing defenses than former Cowboy Lucky Whitehead in 2016.
The speedy playmaker’s presence allows the Cowboys to utilize the jet sweep, something they ran frequently in 2016 but sparingly last year.
Jet Sweep Counter Option
In the following run play taken from Carolina’s wildcard matchup at the Saints, the Panthers’ offense combines the jet sweep with a counter run. The sweeper acts as misdirection for the actual run.
The jet action widens the defense, drawing one or two defenders away from the middle of the field. This creates space for the counter, a misdirection gap-scheme run with at least one pull blocker. The running back takes a jab step in one direction before cutting back in the other.
The defense is in an over front, meaning the 3-technique defensive tackle is aligned over the outside shoulder of the strongside guard (tight end side). The weakside linebacker is drawn out of the box by the jet sweep.
The right guard kicks out the left defensive end, who’s initially unblocked. The left tackle and left guard double team the other defensive tackle and work their way to the strongside linebacker. The second pull blocker, the tight end, will run through the lane to take on one of the safeties or any other defender that threatens the play.
Jet Sweep as the Primary Run
In this example, the quarterback decides before the snap that he’ll hand the ball off to the sweeper, although it’s possible to design the play so that the quarterback decides after the snap who’ll run the ball.
The main difference in this variation of the play is that the left tackle doesn’t help the left guard double team the defensive tackle. Instead, he either travels up to the second level to block the weakside linebacker or rushes to the third level to seal off the safety.
Adding the Read-Option
The defensive end on the same side as the running back (circled in red) is left unblocked. If that defender crashes inside to chase the runner, the quarterback keeps the ball and runs to the outside. If the defensive end hesitates or stays in his gap, then the quarterback hands the ball off.
Play in Action
Unfortunately for Carolina, they lost a yard due to poor blocking by the left tackle and right guard.
Left tackle No. 75 Matt Kalil whiffs on his block of Manti Te’o, No. 51, and right guard No. 70, Trai Turner, doesn’t use his hands when crashing into three-time pro-bowler Cameron Jordan, No. 94. Had both of them executed their assignments properly, the Panthers could’ve had an explosive gain.
Dallas utilized a similar concept in 2016, but on that play, the counter run flowed in the opposite direction as the jet sweep. This play from Carolina would have them run in the same direction.
The Jet Sweep Counter Option acts as a multi-misdirection run that combines the jet sweep, counter, and read-option. All three are already significant aspects of the Dllas Cowboys’ offense. This play brings a unique wrinkle to their ground game that will keep opponents off-balance. Occasionally running this on 1st down or short yardage situations should prove highly lucrative for the trio of Elliott, Austin, and Prescott.
Regardless of any new running plays the team installs in training camp, there’s a good chance they’ll see concepts like this in their season opener at the Panthers.
You can follow Allan on Twitter at @AllanUy22
*Animations derived from NFL Game Pass.