Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett
December 10, 2020
Q: Your 13 personnel packages last week, especially in the second half, worked pretty well against Seattle. Can you talk about, if you don’t mind, the blocking of your tight ends? Maybe in particular Evan Engram, a guy who’s been much maligned for his blocking.
A: We like to use different personnel groups. Week to week, we might use one personnel group more than another. 13 has been a pretty good one for us all year long, both running and throwing it, and really probably has a lot to do with how much confidence we have in those tight ends. You talk about Evan, you talk about Kaden (Smith) and Levine (Toilolo), those guys are really good football players. They’re good blockers. When we throw to them in the passing game, typically they come through for us. You get in some different formations with that big personnel group that can cause some problems for the defense. The game the other day was about running the football. We tried to attack them a few different ways from those big personnel groups. It’s one thing to try to put a player or a unit into a position where they can have some success. It’s a whole other thing to go block those guys like those guys did. Really throughout the ball game, I thought they did a really good job capturing the edge for us, coming off the ball, hitting them in the mouth, and then sustaining those blocks that allowed us to drive the ball as well as we did running it. They did a really good job in the ball game. I really believe in those guys.
Q: I wanted to ask you kind of a follow up on that. Watching the power football that you guys played in the second half on Sunday is kind of fun. What does it mean to an offense and to a team when you can line up that way, in those big packages, in those power packages, and more or less just kind of run the ball down a team’s throat?
A: It’s a challenge to run the ball in the NFL. It really is from any personnel grouping. Defenses do such a good job from a scheme standpoint and from a talent standpoint in stopping the run. It’s a challenge for us. It’s something we believe in. We believe in it very strongly to be balanced and to attack different ways. We’ve run the ball a lot better here the last six or seven weeks. I think that’s helped our team. It’s helped our offense. The residual effect to your pass protection and your passing game I think can be a positive one. Then really throughout the team as well, instilling that mentality of toughness, time of possession is a big part of it. You’re always trying to do whatever you can do to help the team win. I think running the football allows you to do that.
Q: You talked about the running game, but one of the things I noticed is when you run that well, generally, it opens it up for the passing game. I was wondering is that to come? Because I haven’t seen that many deep passes so far.
A: I thought we had some good opportunities in the second half. We didn’t throw it a lot, but I do think running the ball created some good opportunities for us. Down in the red zone, the touchdown pass that Colt (McCoy) threw to Alfred (Morris) I think was a result of them really trying to defend the run. Some of the other play action stuff we used throughout the game I thought really was a result of them committing people to the line of scrimmage to defend the run. It does work together. There can be different kinds of throws you can make off a play action. Sometimes it’s shots down the field like you suggested. Seattle typically plays way out of there with their outside guys. That’s kind of the DNA of their defense. You can picture Richard Sherman and those guys through the years playing high and deep on long throws, and have done a great job with that. You have to beat them more with some intermediate stuff. We were able to do that a couple of times in the game. But really what we tried to do in that game is to run the football and run it effectively. As that game wore on, we did a good job with that.
Q: I was curious about the run game just to follow up on something. Do you mix and match your offensive line personnel groupings according to running back these days? Does that allow you to do that? Is there any benefit to doing that?
A: Mix the offensive linemen regarding what? Sorry.
Q: Running back. Whichever running back you’re looking to, that you have in there. So if you have Alfred in there, you have one set that you look for versus Wayne versus Dion.
A: That’s a really good question. But we actually don’t really do that. We try to rotate the running backs around. Obviously, Wayne has gotten a bulk of the work. But Alfred has done a really good job coming in to his role, as has Dion. Those guys are playing some different roles for us. Wayne has done a really good job kind of carrying the load, and those other guys have been very complementary players. To give him a blow, but also in different situations we’ve used them. In regards to how that pairs up with the offensive line rotation, we haven’t necessarily tied that together. Sometimes we’ll play guys by series, how many plays they get, and sometimes the linemen and the running backs’ substitution will overlap in some way. But there’s no defined plan to do that.
Q: In the third quarter, for two straight drives you guys pound the ball on the ground with the same offensive line group and you score on both drives. You guys come out early fourth quarter with a different offensive line and go three and out. I’m curious I know you guys are rotating these offensive linemen to develop them and get them time, but who’s call is it to continue rotating in a situation where a group looks like its dominating the game? Are you making that call? Is Joe Judge making that call? Is Dave (DeGuglielmo), the o-line coach, making that call? How does that decision happen and do you agree with moving guys out of there if they’re kicking the other team’s butt?
A: I think with any of the personnel stuff, it’s all a collaborative effort. Obviously, Joe has the final say on all the personnel stuff. Who’s on our team, who plays and how much they play. But we have good conversations throughout the week as to what the plan is going to be going into the ball game and what it’s going to be throughout the game. That applies to the offensive line, it applies to the tight ends, the receivers, the backs, and some cases the quarterbacks. We try to have a plan and we adjust if we need to as the game goes on. I do think it’s helped us. We have a lot of young players on the offensive line get a lot of valuable snaps. I think that’s helped their growth and development.
Q: I’m wondering how much do you think you shifted your running game? Obviously, you had Saquon (Barkley) early. It seemed like you were running more outside zone. Then as you kind of moved along here, you realized ‘ok, we’re going to run a lot more gap or a lot more power’ kind of stuff.
A: I think the biggest thing we’ve tried to do is again, you try to attack different ways. It starts with run and pass, and then you try to do a variety of things within each of those. You want to be able to run the ball different ways in this league. The defenses are too good. The coordinators are too good on the other side. You can’t just do one thing. Nobody is that dominant. We try to have some variety. You mention the zone game. We’ve done some of that, we’ve done gap stuff. You try to get the perimeter and misdirection game going in your run game. All that stuff is important. Again, it has to do with the respect we have for the guys on the other side, the players and the coaches.
Q: Is it more based on what you’re seeing from the opposing team? Or is the shift more you think because of the personnel you kind of had to change to it?
A: I think it’s probably always a combination. The personnel you have is where it starts. There’s no question about that. You try to play to your players’ strengths, you try to limit their weaknesses if you will. You’re always trying to define what those things are. But we feel like we have a capable group on offense who can do different things in the running game. Again, we try to attack different ways.
Q: I’m curious how close is Daniel in your opinion to getting back on the field? If he can’t go, do you have two separate game plans, a Colt game plan and a Daniel Jones game plan? Or is it just going in business as usual?
A: That’s a good question. We’re in the midst of those discussions. We had kind of a jog through type practice yesterday. Daniel worked out afterwards. He looked good. He looked good moving around. We just have to continue to evaluate his situation as the week goes on, not unlike any other position you have. Hopefully he can do some more work in practice today and we’ll make our assessment afterwards. We feel like Colt is capable of doing whatever we ask our quarterbacks to do. I don’t think the game plan changes dramatically from a mental standpoint or a physical standpoint. Obviously, you customize things. Again, you try to play to your players’ strengths and limit their weaknesses. But in terms of capability, we feel like each of those guys is capable to do whatever we ask them to do. You might customize it a little bit for each of them to do what they do best.
A lot of credit needs to go to Jason Garrett.