Finding ways to get Bryant, Witten the ball

November, 1, 2013
11/01/13
9:00
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Every Thursday, Bill Callahan stands outside the Dallas Cowboys locker room answering questions about the offense.

This particular line of questioning was interesting this Thursday because the Cowboys are coming off a game where its star receiver, Dez Bryant, voiced himself loudly about defensive coverages and star tight end, Jason Witten also expressed some concern about it as well.

When problems arise, it's up to Callahan, the offensive coordinator and play-caller, to fix them.

He doesn't do it alone.

He turns to quarterback Tony Romo, who some say in the offense and talks to head coach Jason Garrett, who was the play-caller for several years before handing the duties to Callahan. Of course there's also quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson and receivers coach Derek Dooley chiming in.

The Cowboys enter the Vikings game at 4-4 with Callahan trying to figure out ways to get his primary offensive weapons the ball more. Defenses are doubling Bryant and Witten and forcing Romo to do other things.

Some corners are jamming Bryant at the line of scrimmage. Other corners play off coverage but shade a safety to Bryant's side of the field.

Linebackers play Witten tightly and in some cases two of them attach themselves to him.

So what is Callahan to do?

"Well, it’s a great question, one that we go back as a staff and continually work [on]," he said. "We always try to research and develop new routes, new schemes and put guys in different positions. We continue to do that as we did last week and the week before that. We’ll do a little bit more this week."

The run game's inconsistencies also forced defenses to stop Witten and Bryant by keeping more defenders in pass coverage. With starting running back DeMarco Murray out with a sprained knee the last two games, 136 yards was totaled on the ground.

Callahan wants the run game to produce more on first and second downs. In the Detroit Lions game on Sunday, the Cowboys rushed 10 times on first down where only two negative runs were produced.

On the season, the Cowboys have rushed 153 times on first-and-second down with the team producing 14 negative plays.

Callahan wants to see more positive runs so it can force defenses to respect the ground attack and maybe open the door for Witten and Bryant to make plays down the field.

But Callahan could also create some mismatches for the defense by putting Bryant in motion, bunch formations or lining Witten with another receiver, such as rookie Terrance Williams to minimize the double-teams.

"I think that’s definitely," Callahan said of creating mismatches. "When people use motion they get players off the press, get players off the bump. We’ve done a little bit of that. Around the league, people will put their receivers in what they call bunches and stacks, things of that nature. It makes it hard to double team. So we’ve done a lot of that as well. We’ll continue to use those aspects of attack, whether it be motion, whether it
be stacks, bunches, try to realign them at different positions. I’m sure you will see a little bit more this week."
Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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