I'd like this picture if we were happy fans right now...
Terrell Owens. Some people see his name and think of a dude doing sit ups in a drive way. Some think of one of the greatest receivers to play football. Some think he's a walking Orville Redenbacher's commercial. Me? I dunno, I'm probably the second option leaning to the third.
Anyway, if you've seen the past few games (or read box scores and reviews like me) you'll see that Owens hasn't done much. Has he faced lock down corners? Not really. Has he been ignored? Not really. In fact, both Romo and Jerry Jones have said that they are trying to actively get the ball to Owens, quite possibly to the detriment of the rest of the offense.
Now, more than ever with the Romo injury and the hemorrhaging offensive line, T.O. Owens needs to get the ball and needs to make plays. The question is...how?
Innovative routes? Trick plays? The Wildcat formation? Change jersey numbers? Change his last name to Ocho Uno? Jason Witten becoming Antonio Gates?
The curious case is solved not by Owens or Romo/Johnson/Bollinger, but by Patrick Crayton.
If I'm a defensive coordinator and I'm playing the Cowboys, here's my strategy:
- 4 man rush against the week offensive line.
- 2 linebackers rushing the quarterback
- 1 linebacker spying or dropping back to cover the slot/flat
- 1 corner and 1 safety dedicated to Owens
- 1 corner for Crayton
- 1 safety playing zone or robber, if not blitzing
(See? Even my alcoholic brain managed to figure out the Dallas offense...)
The Cowboy offensive line has proven they can't stop a wet sneeze, so the extra combo of Witten or Curtis with a running back have to stay in to help protect the pocket. That leaves the two receivers on the outside. I can dedicate double coverage to shut down Owens, a guy you can bump off his route and he won't recover before my rush gets to the quarterback.
What about Crayton?
No one. I repeat, no one is afraid of Patrick Crayton. The Cowboy offense is not built around having two receivers. It's Owens, a check down to Witten and then a check to the flat. You remove everyone else and go man on Crayton, you'll stop him more than you'll get burnt.
Patrick Crayton has to instill the fear of God in defensive coordinators so they are kept honest and must open the coverage off of Owens to cover Crayton or decrease the rush, thus giving Romo the time he needs for Owens to free himself off the bump.
Think about Arizona, a bonefied two receiver offense. Boldin's out, but the Cowboys can't pull coverage off of "receiver two" and put it on Fitzgerald. Steve Breaston has the best game since his Wolverine days. Why? The offense is catered around both Boldin and Fitzgerald. Just because Boldin isn't there, doesn't mean the Cowboys could ignore him, so Warner has a wide open Fitzgerald to throw to, and Breaston breaks coverage if the Cowboys try and play off him to get Fitzgerald. Now you've got two first options, your check down to Pope and then the check to the flat. The two receiver offense at work.
Patrick Crayton must destroy other defenses CONSECUTIVELY and prove things to three people:
1) to Jason Garrett that he has a second/first option to build into the playbook
2) to Tony Romo that there is another option to look at prior to checking down to Witten
3) to Defensive Coordinators that they must fully respect Dallas's two receiver set and they can't commit to a 8 man rush AND a double up on Owens.
Once Crayton (or another legit number 2...) becomes that "fear of God" threat, then you'll really see Terrell Owens have the break out he needs.