Dallas Cowboys: Jim Johnson

Ernie Zampese wins PFWA award

June, 9, 2014
IRVING, Texas -- Former Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Ernie Zampese was named to the inaugural four-man class as winners of the Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman Award by the Pro Football Writers of America.

Zimmerman was a long-time Sports Illustrated writer and loved the X's and O's of the game, spending hours with assistant coaches across the NFL. The award is a lifetime achievement as an assistant coach in the NFL.

Joining Zampese in the class are Howard Mudd, Fritz Shurmur and Jim Johnson.

“I had some great quarterbacks who ran the offense great,” Zampese told Peter King of TheMMQB. “It comes back to being in the perfect spot so many times. In Dallas, what a great position that was to be in, with such great offensive talent.”

Zampese was an NFL assistant coach from 1979-99 with the San Diego Chargers, Los Angeles Rams, Cowboys and New England Patriots. He was a Don Coryell disciple and was one of Norv Turner’s mentors.

From 1994-97, he directed the Cowboys' offense with the Triplets – Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith. He served as a consultant with the Cowboys in 2000-01.

In his Hall of Fame speech, Aikman called Zampese, “one of the best offensive minds and greatest people that this game has ever known.”

After clinching a spot in Super Bowl XXX, Aikman said of Zampese, “He’s just tremendous the way he prepares for a game. Not very often do we go into a game when a team throws something at us that Ernie hasn’t anticipated.”

QB Watch: Cowboys' Tony Romo

October, 16, 2013
A weekly analysis of the Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback play:

Rewind: There is something about the Washington Redskins that has affected the Cowboys’ passing game. Tony Romo completed only 60 percent of his passes (a season low) and threw for a season-low 170 yards against the Redskins. He was intercepted once but had a Romo-like touchdown, escaping trouble and finding Terrance Williams for a 15-yard score. Coming off a 506-yard effort against Denver when he was able to get the ball down the field, Romo’s longest completion against the Redskins was just 17 yards to Dez Bryant. Things started out well with Romo completing four of his first five passes for 50 yards on a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to open the game, but the Redskins' pressure and tight coverage forced him to be slightly off for the first time this season.

Fast-forward: For most of his career, Romo could expect to see a wide variety of blitzes from the Eagles' defense with the influence of former defensive coordinator Jim Johnson still being felt after he stopped coaching. Romo has yet to go against a Bill Davis-led defense in his career, but he has gone against Davis’ influences in the past that have employed similar schemes. He has had some success but also struggled at times against the confusing looks. Philadelphia, however, is allowing 314.5 yards per game through the air, which is 31st in the NFL. Without DeMarco Murray, the Cowboys' running game figures to be limited at least a little, so Romo will have to make plays through the air.

Mixing it around: The Cowboys have had 12 different players catch at least one pass in the first six games. Rookie running back Joseph Randle became the 12th with two catches against Washington. While Jason Witten is the security blanket and Bryant is the big-play receiver, Romo is at his best when he mixes it around. He had six different receivers versus the Redskins. He had eight different receivers two weeks ago against the Denver Broncos. He’s not afraid to go to Williams or Cole Beasley in a tight spot if needed. Six different receivers have caught Romo’s 14 touchdown passes. The ability to spread the ball makes it that much harder for a defense to key in on one or two targets. By going to so many different players, Romo is making his job a little easier.

Prediction: Romo was held to only 130 yards fewer than what I predicted he would get against the Redskins. In his two road games so far -- losses to the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers -- he has thrown for 544 yards. Let’s split it down the middle and say he throws for 272 yards against the Eagles and comes up with two touchdown passes as well. He has yet to throw an interception on the road this year, but that streak will end against Philadelphia. It doesn’t mean the Cowboys will lose though, does it?

Tony Romo ready for new-look Philly D

October, 28, 2011
IRVING, Texas -- Tony Romo has started eight games in his career against Philadelphia with a 5-3 record. He could tell you anything you wanted to know about the Eagles’ defense that was run by Jim Johnson and his successor, Sean McDermott.

He knew he would see a variety of blitzes and the middle linebacker in the A gap most of the time.

With Juan Castillo running the defense, Philadelphia has altered its scheme.

“You have to watch more and more tape,” Romo said. “We started right after the game last week and we’re just trying to get comfortable with what they like to do and some different things like that. But it’s definitely a little bit different from the way they used to be. They still have some things that are similar to what they used to do, so I think the stuff they were successful with in the past they’re going to keep incorporating.”

The Eagles use a “wide 9” technique with their defensive ends. They are aligned outside the tight end, similar to the look Detroit used this year and Tennessee used last year. Eagles defensive line coach Jim Washburn was with the Titans last year and worked with Lions coach Jim Schwartz in Nashville.

“I think there’s a different overall defensive schematic structure there, but they still play a 4-3 defense,” coach Jason Garrett said. “They don’t seem to be pressuring as much as they have in the past, which was a trademark of those Jim Johnson defenses, but they provide pressure because they have a really outstanding front four.”