Dallas Cowboys Need Shorter Plays to Succeed in 2013

Christian Blood@@cowboysguruContributor IIIJuly 7, 2013

Tony Romo handing off to DeMarco Murray
Tony Romo handing off to DeMarco MurrayRob Carr/Getty Images

It's never been a secret that Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo likes to throw the ball down field. This was evident almost the moment he took over as Dallas' starting quarterback in 2006.

This trend only continued in 2007 when then-offensive coordinator Jason Garrett arrived.

The wide receivers have come and gone in the years since that 13-3 record in '07. Terrell Owens was Romo's primary weapon for a few seasons before names like Miles Austin, Roy Williams and Dez Bryant entered the picture.

Owner and general manager Jerry Jones has always wanted two top-tier wide receivers involved in the offense, a good strategy given the history of the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s, the San Francisco 49ers of the 1980s and also the Cowboys in both the '70s and the 1990s.

Today's Cowboys seem set at wide receiver with both Bryant and Austin the primary wideouts for at least another year. The presence of 2013 third-round draft pick Terrance Williams will keep the Dallas offense capable of going downfield even if Austin finds his way out of town within the next year or two.

For many teams, getting big plays from the offense is a major weakness. This inability allows opposing defenses to play a much easier contest than they can against a team like Dallas.

For the Cowboys, the problem is those shorter plays, especially inside the red zone where the field is much smaller.

The last time the Cowboys were a championship contender, Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith was considered the heartbeat of the offense. Smith was the reason that Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman generally didn't post huge numbers in the passing game. It was never because Aikman couldn't throw the football better than all other quarterbacks—Aikman just didn't have to.

Running plays generally don't gain much in the way of yards. Sure, former running back Tony Dorsett took a carry 99 yards for a touchdown against Minnesota more than 30 years ago, but runs like that are definitely the exception as opposed to the rule. Current running back DeMarco Murray has also shown the ability to go the distance from a long ways out.

But just as important as big plays are the small plays, which the Cowboys aren't very good at. The offensive line bears most of the responsibility for this weakness, but Garrett's lousy play-calling over his entire tenure in Dallas is just as problematic.

With Bill Callahan calling the offense this season, we'll soon find out if the Cowboys gain more strength in terms of running the ball. His history suggests that this is certainly a possibility and a younger, healthier offensive line will only help this issue.

I look for Dallas to chalk up more rushing touchdowns than it has in several years in 2013. The Cowboys need more rushing first downs and, overall, more rushing attempts as a whole.

It's critical to remember that throwing the ball relinquishes possession of it and if this is all your offense can do then it's only a matter of time before you probably turn it over. If not the dreaded interception, you've got incomplete passes, sacks and penalties that conspire to destroy precious possessions in games.

Sound familiar?

The solution to the problem?

Get better at the shorter plays and this is done by running the football. The occasional screen pass is usually a good idea, but the Cowboys need to run the ball more effectively in 2013 or they can forget about the postseason for a fourth consecutive year.