GENERALLY Eagles fans ignore the plotting of our rivals. However, there are times when something a rival does or plans to do, can affect who we start, or how we implement our own systems when we face that rival. It can even impact how we build our roster. The Cowboys are making a low-key move centered around a 4th round draft pick, which could send a ripple effect through the division. So now might be a good time to pay attention.
WR Cole Beasley isn’t very fast, but he’s quick. He has an ability to stretch a defense not vertically, but laterally. Due to being so quick, he can’t be covered in a short-area by most OLB’s. That forces teams from their base defense to their Nickle alignment, just to get a Defensive Back to cover him. This already puts a defense at a disadvantage just by being out of their base. It further presents a problem, because it swaps out a big body (OLB) from run defense for a smaller one (DB).
When the Cowboys drafted Beasley clone WR Ryan Switzer in the 4th round this year, the knee jerk reaction was to assume that he was a younger, cheaper replacement for Beasley. Rumblings out of Dallas seem to indicate that Switzer isn’t a replacement for the slot receiver, but actually an accompaniment.
Normally that would mean putting them on the field together a lot, but there wouldn’t be a lot of upside to having two 180 pound slot receivers out there at the same time. While it would allow for a lot more option-style short passes and quick Out routes, it would conversely rob the Cowboys run game of reliable blockers at the point-of-attack inside the numbers.
The best way to employ these two is to rotate them in a way that keeps at least one of them on the field for 75 to 90 percent of the snaps. Last year when Beasely came off the field, the Cowboys would put out a second TE, or another WR who was more straight-line fast, than short-area quick.
This year with two players who can stretch a defense laterally on every down, that threat can help create less congested running lanes, inside the numbers. They could gain the advantage of extra blocking without any wear and tear (or risk of injury) to the blockers themselves.
If the Cowboys actually go in this direction, we’ll have to find ourselves a S/LB hybrid (or two) who can stay with players like Beasley and Switzer. Examples of Eagles who might help, would be Safety Nate Gerry whom we drafted in the 5th round this year, or LB Kamu Grugier-Hill. (Neither is a lock to make the roster in 2017.)
With any luck, I’m wrong and the Cowboys will opt for trying to play ‘B and S’ together. That would severely limit their individual effectiveness as well as the effectiveness of the entire offense to boot. That however, would require a LOT of luck, as no one (even the Cowboys) could be stupid enough to miss how much more dangerous these two would make the entire team, if they are rotated. Sometimes fellow Eagles fans, you might want to pay attention to what your rivals are up to.