This was a piece about Dallas, but clearly applies to us also. In fact, I'm not sure Dallas has the depth at TE required to run this offense consistently...we didn't last year. The Pats could be the first team to really hammer both 2 and 3 TE sets all the way to the SB... This is where the offense is headed Pat Kirwan NFL.com Just before I came on the air for my daily radio show at Sirius Radio last week, Bill Parcells was being interviewed and I listened to what the Tuna had to say about where he thought NFL offenses were headed in 2006. Parcells made a very interesting point about why his Cowboys selected tight end Anthony Fasano (Notre Dame) in the second round. The Cowboys, like every other NFL team, has multiple needs. And unlike many other teams, the Cowboys already have an elite tight end in Jason Witten. Parcells said, "There are more favorable matchups right now in the NFL when you can come out in two-tight end sets than there are when you come out in three-wide receiver sets." It is a very powerful statement about NFL offenses and defenses. I thought I would break down the matchup possibilities and discuss them with coaches around the league. The defensive coaches stand on the sidelines and wait to see which personnel group enters the playing field before deciding what they will do on defense. So, let's start with the concept of running an offensive personnel group on to the field and the pressures it can put on a defense. If a team sends out two tight ends, two wide receivers and one running back, which we will call ACE personnel, the defense will usually respond with base defense personnel, which is four linemen, three linebackers and four defensive backs. If the defense happens to be a 3-4 package, it switches the number of linemen and linebackers, but the key is it still sends out four defensive backs. The matchup possibilities can favor the offense if it has an athletic tight end like Witten, Jeremy Shockey, Todd Heap, Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez or newcomer Vernon Davis. Some imagination in formations by any decent offensive coordinator and an offense can isolate one of the tight ends on a linebacker or safety and still have a quality strongside running attack option behind the other tight end. For example: TE LT LG C RG RT TE WR WR The quarterback will look to see how the defense is configured to the open tight end side. If he sees a 5-foot-11 safety singled up on his 6-5 tight end, he likes the matchup. If he sees a linebacker out on the open tight end, he likes it even more. If he sees some combination of safety/linebacker out there, he really likes the run options back inside, especially to the opposite of the tight end side. If the defense has any combination of two people on the open tight end and the extra safety in the box for the run game, then the two wide receivers are singled up on the corners with no safety help. Coach Parcells' point was if he sent in a third wide receiver into the game for one of those tight ends, the defense will sub in an extra defensive back for a linebacker, and that shifts the advantage back to the defense. The third corner, or nickel corner, on most teams today is a legitimate starter and usually plays more than 50 percent of the plays during the season. He can become a very effective blitzer from the slot. The defense knows there is very little chance for a lead blocker in the backfield to get out there on him, and the defense can disguise man and zone coverage schemes very easily. CB TE LT LG C RG RT WR WR WR Most defensive coordinators code personnel by how many wide receivers are in the game. Three- and four-receiver packages usually dictate five or six defensive back packages. But unless the down-and-distance situation is third and more than 6 yards, Parcells and other coaches with two quality tight ends like their chances against four defensive back defenses for a number of reasons. They can usually reduce the number of quality blitz and zone-dog pressures teams can use against them. They can always motion one of the tight ends into the backfield to create a power lead play from a two-back set. They can create an extra gap to defend by lining up the two tight ends together, and they can get to a legitimate eight-man pass-protection scheme if they have to against pressure teams. I asked an NFL defensive coach to think through the problems Dallas will pose this season in the two-tight end, two-wide receiver, one-running back personnel grouping, and his first comment was, "I'm glad we aren't playing them unless it's in the Super Bowl." Here are some of the things that look real good on paper for the Dallas offense right now. As one coach said, "Consider the Kansas City offense has rarely had trouble moving the ball in this personnel grouping with Gonzalez and that they don't have Terrell Owens on the field as one of the wide receivers." Dallas can expect a number of opportunities when the opponent "rolls" the coverage to Owens, something teams rarely do against Kansas City or San Diego wideouts. When they do tilt the coverage to Owens, Drew Bledsoe knows he has Witten or Terry Glenn singled up, and the advantage goes to Dallas. If teams try to play Owens as if he were Eddie Kennison, then Owens wins more often than not. One secondary coach said, "Early in the year, Witten and Glenn may get a lot more opportunities than Owens, but things will shift back to T.O. later on." As my coaching friend pointed out, "The real winner in the new 'Dallas offense' should be running back Julius Jones. Priest Holmes, Larry Johnson, Tiki Barber and LaDainian Tomlinson are all great backs, but the running opportunities they get when they set up the offense the right way doesn't hurt their chances. Julius Jones is going to get more rushing plays with a blocker on every defender in the box than he has had in the past." And, as the coach pointed out, "Bledsoe is the perfect guy to run the show." He will make very good play choices. Do the math! A man and a half on the flexed tight end, Witten, three defenders on Owens and Glenn, and all of a sudden the five Cowboy linemen and Fasano can get everyone blocked for Jones. As for third-and-long, another coach added that if the Cowboys elect to stay in this personnel grouping on third downs in what would be considered very high pass-to-run ratio situations and the defense sends out nickel defense responding more to down-and-distance than personnel grouping, then guys like Bledsoe and Parcells will take the run options, and that will stress the defense even more. When you look at the possible matchup problems in the red zone, especially with a team like Kansas City, which has been the top point producer over the past few years, it appears Dallas has the matchup game covered again. Also, it's a place Fasano could come alive because he definitely will get linebacker coverage down there, and he could resemble Parcells' old favorite, Mark Bavaro. For now, it looks like Parcells, by drafting Fasano and signing Owens, finally has built an offense that has all the classic conflicts a coach could want heading into a season. Parcells said the matchups are more favorable for the two-tight end sets than the three-receiver sets and I agree.