Due to many suggestions of having multiple Chalk Talk articles every week, we at CRFF have decided to celebrate Bedlam week by having a Chalk Talk article release today, tomorrow and Friday. Our focus for this three part series is what the Cowboys must do in order to beat OU this Saturday in Bedlam. We all saw struggles on offense this past week against Baylor, but these struggles are not unfixable. In today's piece, we will look at the Cowboys' first key to success -- protecting the quarterback.
Quarterback protection was an issue for OSU last week against the Baylor Bears. The Cowboys gave up five sacks against BU. Those sacks both killed drives and kept the momentum on Baylor's side. Here are our three keys to keeping quarterback Mason Rudolph off his back on Saturday:
Sprint it Out
The Cowboys haven't consistently used the sprint out pass since the Zac Robinson era. The sprint out pass puts pressure on the defense's perimeter while giving the quarterback high percentage completions on easy-to-read route combinations. By having the quarterback on the move, it forces the pass rushers to cover more ground. It also puts stress on the defensive perimeter, as they have to account for not only the route combination, but the quarterback as well.
Here is a proposed sprint out play that the Cowboys could use in one of their base formations. Here, the sprint out pass protection is paired with a spot concept on the play side and a standard crossing route on the back side. The defense is essentially responsible for all four options on the play side: the corner route, the flat route, the spot route and the quarterback scramble. The sprint out passing game not only gives the defense one more wrinkle to worry about, but it also makes it harder to sack the quarterback.
Cut the Line
Cut blocking is something that the Cowboys have used this season, albeit only intermittently. Cut pass protection, also referred to as crab protection, is where all of the pass blockers drop to the ground in order to delay the path of the pass rusher. One benefit to cut blocking is that the defensive lineman will often shield their legs with their hands in order to protect themselves, thereby allowing the quarterback to look for open passing lanes.
The Cowboys used this strategy a couple of times against the Iowa State Cyclones. As you can see, the cut block prevents the defensive lineman from getting to the quarterback if it is executed properly. It is important to keep in mind, though, that cut blocking should only be paired with a three-step drop play, as in a passing play that quickly develops. If the heart of the route combination is taking place 15 yards downfield, it wouldn't be smart to use a cut pass protection, as the cut block only delays the rusher.
Screens are Your Friend
The screen pass is effective because it takes advantage of aggressive pass rushers and gives quarterbacks easy passes to players in space. The Cowboys haven't used the screen a whole lot this season, but when they do, it usually ends in a big gain.
Take their cross slip screen last week against Baylor, for instance:
Offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich cleverly set this play up earlier in the game with the same pre-snap look, so when the defense saw the back's motion to the flat, they instinctively flowed towards the strong side of the formation. The slip screen caught the defense off guard and gave running back Chris Carson an easy gain on the opposite side of the motion.
The Cowboys have used other types of screens as well. Against Kansas State, they showed an interesting variation to the tunnel screen.
The quarterback shows a quick flash fake to the running back and then delivers the ball to the outside receiver (Z) coming back to the ball. The receiver then gets upfield through the tunnel of space made for him, hence the name.
Screens like this can keep the defense wary of being too aggressive in their pass rush. They can also catch defenses off guard and give the offense easy plays for big yards.
Well that was our first part of our three part series! Make sure to leave your thoughts in the comments and tune in tomorrow for part two.