Cowboys’ Checkdown Run Game Equals Chunks

By FirstDown PlayBook on Nov 15, 2021

When we used to practice at the Chicago Bears against our defense there were times when we would check the ball down to our back. Immediately the defense would taunt us for it. The chant “checkdown…checkdown….” could be heard every time our quarterback made that decision. The Dallas Cowboys offense reminded me of that watching them yesterday. The Cowboys checkdown run game is a powerful weapon that they are using a lot.

We pulled this one play to draw up today but we could have chosen several others. At it’s bare essentials, this is just another way to create conflict of assignment for defenders. It all starts with a commitment to the run game. Everyone understands that the Cowboys are a dominant run offense. This play is also really not a check down. It is designed to get the ball to Elliot one more different way.

Any good offensive coordinator is going to have a play action pass game that comes off of a good run game. We have all seen Dak Prescott check that box as well. He is known for the explosives that come off of the play action fakes. It is a huge dilemma for a defense when a well coached offense can do both well.

Now to the third prong of this equation. When you coach defense against an offense like this you are really emphasizing every little key you can get. You’re looking for the difference in the backfield action from an actual run to a run fake on a play action pass. The linebackers and defensive linemen are looking for pad level from the offensive line as well as their aggressiveness.

The irony is that the Cowboys’ checkdown run game is not really a checkdown at all

Because of all the things above, the play below is almost unstoppable for a defense. Everything about it says it is a play action pass and Prescott is about to launch it. Instead, this will be as easy of a double digit yardage run that Elliot gets all day. He loves it. The offensive line loves it and Prescott just adds to his passing yards!

This Cowboys checkdown run game play comes off of a two tight end flank formation. The Cowboys ran the ball and play-actioned out of several different 2 back and multiple tight end formations yesterday. Our point today is that if you are a high school or college football coach, this might be perfect for your offense. Make a commitment to this run game in the off season and the pass game that comes off of it.

One last thing. If your defense chants “checkdown” in practice…take it as a compliment. Watch the video by clicking on the FirstDown PlayBook play drawing.