CANTON, Ohio — The Dallas Cowboys orchestrated some “uncomfortable’’ offseason changes in offensive and defensive decision-making.
The playcalling of offensive coordinator Bill Callahan, elevated into greater authority, is intended to produce a tougher red-zone running game. The philosophy of defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, at 73 a creative legend, is intended to invigorate the club with his 4-3 Tampa-2 style.
Dallas’ 24-20 win over the Dolphins on Sunday in the Hall of Fame Game at Fawcett Field was a success in both areas.
As expected, quarterback Tony Romo and many of the first-teamers sat out this game, a “Week Zero’’ extra game on the preseason schedule with four more to go. Nevertheless, the offseason changes dictated by owner Jerry Jones and overseen by head coach Jason Garrett came to fruition in this nationally-televised exhibition.
The Cowboys jumped to a 17-0 lead thanks to a pair of takeaways that led to TDs and 97 rushing yards on 17 carries in the first half. Dallas got another turnover and another touchdown in the second half on a 75-yard interception return by rookie linebacker DeVonte Holloman.
“Turnovers were the name of the game in the first half,’’ Garrett said. “The interception by Holloman for a touchdown was a big play in the game. I thought we ran it pretty well and the defense played pretty well situationally.”
Garrett was the playcaller last year for a Dallas team that had the worst rushing performance in team history. Working in unison with Callahan – but here without skill-position standouts like Romo, Jason Witten, DeMarco Murray, Dez Bryant and Miles Austin – the first-half Cowboys actually ran the ball more times (17) than they threw it (10.)
Murray will remain the No. 1 back, of course. But Phillip Tanner, Sunday’s starter Lance Dunbar and rookie Joseph Randle all were effective behind an offensive line that may have found a new starting left guard in Ron Leary.
On defense, front-liners DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher, Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Mo Claiborne, Barry Church and Brandon Carr all sat out. But their replacements ballhawked their way to pleasing Kiffin, who has taken over for the fired Rob Ryan.
Defensive tackle Nick Hayden recovered a fumble on the Dolphins’ first play to start the action and Holloman’s athletic score essentially sealed the deal.
The changes are, so far, positive ones. Garrett wants his club to continue that trend.
“We’ve still got to clean some stuff up,’’ he said, speaking especially about the offensive “process’’ of playcalling. “For me it was a little different because I wasn’t directly involved, but just like a lot of stuff this offseason it allowed me to step back and coach the whole team … The conversations were good on the offensive side of the ball, the defensive side of the ball and on special teams.”