McCarthy history speaks to where TE is in Cowboys’ offseason priorities
As the Cowboys mull over their roster and make decisions regarding pending free agents, they must decide what kind of offense they intend to run.
Are they a passing offense that leans on 11 personnel (three receiver sets). Are they a running offense that goes heavy on the line and uses multiple running backs? Or are they something in between and an offense that uses multiple tight ends?
Looking back at Mike McCarthy’s past could give insight to what the new offensive playcaller intends to do. It can indicate how he intends to build the team and how he wants to invest resources (both in free agency and the draft).
Using tracking data at nfelo we can see the frequency in which Dallas used certain personnel groupings. Looking at first-down packages to adjust for in-game context, we can see how frequently the Cowboys leaned on 12 personnel.
In 2022, Dallas used 12 personnel on 31% of their first-down snaps. This rate ranked No. 6 across the league. In McCarthy’s last full season with the Packers, he used 12 personnel just 15 percent of the time, ranking No. 29 in NFL.
That season was hardly an outlier, with Green Bay going 12 personnel just seven percent of the time the season prior (second to last in 2016). All which indicting a McCarthy offense isn’t one that favors multiple tight end sets.
At face value, this doesn’t bode well for Dalton Schultz’s future in Dallas. Schultz is a free agent in March, and figures to command top-of-the-market money. With the rising talent of Jake Ferguson, Sean McKeon and Peyton Hendershot lurking in the shadows, McCarthy may not see a need for a pricey veteran.
McCarthy may intend to field an attack that greater resembles his old Green Bay teams in 2023. Then again, his previous personnel packages could be a byproduct of what he had to work with and not preferred strategy.
“Marty Schottenheimer used to say it all the time, ‘Think of players, not plays’ ” McCarthy reminisced back in Green Bay.
Perhaps McCarthy gained the reputation as a receiver-heavy play designer because he just always seemed to have more receivers than tight ends. In Dallas, he has access to the level of tight end depth he rarely had with the Packers.
The catch is if McCarthy wants to keep his tight end personnel, he’s going to have to do something about it. Schultz is a free agent so McCarthy will have to lobby the front office to keep or replace the personnel.
If he wants to move back to what made him famous with the Packers, he’s going to be more interested in receivers and less inclined to spend limited resources on redundancies like extra tight ends.
Will McCarthy scrap the frequent use of 12 personnel in 2023?
His past indicates he will move away from it but given the shallow depth at receiver in Dallas right now, a major overnight swing would be difficult.
The Cowboys initial moves (or lack thereof) in free agency will be very telling with what McCarthy plans to do as an offense. Will Schultz walk? Will Dallas sign any viable veteran depth at tight end or receiver?
How they handle free agency should be very indicative to what they’re planning in 2023
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