Dallas Cowboys: Ricky Williams

Cowboys looking for new Moe Williams

May, 21, 2014
IRVING, Texas -- In talking to Dallas Cowboys passing game coordinator Scott Linehan last week during the rookie minicamp for this story, he mentioned the success he has had in the past with a running game.

[+] EnlargeScott Linehan
Bruce Kluckhohn/USA TODAY SportsScott Linehan has a track record of using running backs efficiently in the passing game.
Since his arrival with the Cowboys, most of the discussion has been about how much he threw the ball with the Detroit Lions. He pointed out -- not in a defensive way -- that the Minnesota Vikings ran it well when he was the coordinator when he had Randy Moss catching Daunte Culpepper's passes. Many assume, he said, that he had Robert Smith running the ball.

He didn't. He had Michael Bennett as his lead back.

Linehan was also quick to mention another back.

"Moe Williams was a big part of it, too," he said. "He had like 600 yards that year. He is my all-time favorite third-down guy."

There have been questions about the Cowboys' receivers not named Dez Bryant or Terrance Williams and the roles of Cole Beasley, Dwayne Harris and Devin Street.

While the Cowboys have been a three-wide receiver dominant team in recent years, the need for a 50-catch No. 3 receiver isn't a requirement, unless there are injuries. With Jason Witten, the third receiver is mitigated. With the Cowboys looking to get Gavin Escobar more involved, the No. 3 receiver role could be diminished.

But Linehan's mention of Williams was interesting. He will use the running backs in the passing game. In 2003, Williams caught 65 passes for 644 yards and three touchdowns. From 2002-04, he caught 113 passes.

Linehan's top backs in Detroit, Reggie Bush and Joique Bell, caught 56 and 53 passes respectively. They combined for 1,053 yards. With St. Louis, Steven Jackson had a 90-catch season. When Linehan and Jason Garrett were together in Miami, Ronnie Brown caught 32 passes and Ricky Williams caught 17.

Last year, DeMarco Murray caught 53 passes for 350 yards. Injuries prevented Lance Dunbar from being used as much as the Cowboys wanted to use him in 2013. He caught just seven passes for 59 yards. He ran 30 times for 150 yards.

If he can stay healthy, he could be Linehan's next Moe Williams.

What will run game look like with Linehan?

January, 28, 2014
IRVING, Texas -- With sources saying Scott Linehan will take over as the Dallas Cowboys' playcaller, his track record suggests the offense will be Tony Romo friendly.

[+] EnlargeScott Linehan
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesScott Linehan has been the Lions' offensive coordinator for the past five years, but can he get the Dallas run game going?
For the past five years Linehan was the Detroit Lions offensive coordinator. In the last three seasons, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has thrown for 14,655 yards and 90 touchdowns with 52 interceptions.

From 2011-13, Calvin Johnson caught 302 passes for 5,137 yards and 33 touchdowns. So that would appear to be good news for Dez Bryant.

But what about the running game?

Linehan has been an offensive coordinator/head coach from 2002-2013, except for the final 12 games of the 2008 season when he was fired as head coach of the St. Louis Rams.

Using the 11 seasons as a backdrop, Linehan has had a top-10 ranked rush offense just twice and those were in his first two years with the Minnesota Vikings in 2002 and 2003. A Linehan-led running game has not finished better than 12th in the NFL since. With the Lions he had running games ranked Nos. 24, 23, 29, 23 and 17.

The Cowboys have been at their best offensively when DeMarco Murray has been involved.

Linehan is not averse to the run.

In 2002, Michael Bennett ran for 1,296 yards for the Vikings. A year later Minnesota had four different players with at least 400 yards rushing. In 2005 with the Miami Dolphins, where he worked with Jason Garrett for the first time, Ronnie Brown ran for 907 yards and Ricky Williams had 743 yards.

In his first year with the Rams, Steven Jackson, the runner so many Cowboys fans wanted them to take in 2004, ran for 1,528 yards. He had 1,002 yards in 2007.

With the Lions, he had to make due with Kevin Smith, Jahvid Best, whose career was cut short by injuries and Mikel Leshoure. Last season, Reggie Bush ran for 1,006 yards. Joique Bell ran for 650 yards.

In Murray, Linehan will inherit a back coming off the best year of his career and an offensive line that finished the year on a high note.

It's up to him to use the running game.