Linehan: Cowboys must run 'when we want'

OXNARD, Calif. – The Dallas Cowboys will feature a physical offense that asserts its dominance by pounding away with the running game.

New play-caller Scott Linehan will make sure of it.

Yes, the same Linehan whose offenses ranked in the NFL’s bottom 10 in rushing attempts in eight of the past 10 years for four different franchises.

In his defense, Linehan didn’t have elite offensive lines during those years with the Minnesota Vikings, Miami Dolphins, St. Louis Rams and Detroit Lions. He does with the Cowboys, where No. 16 overall pick Zack Martin joins proven recent first-rounders Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick to form a core of the group that has gone from Dallas’ most glaring weakness to its greatest strength during the last few years.

“We have a great young front,” said Linehan, who had the league’s top-ranked running offense with the Vikings in 2002, his first year as an NFL play-caller. “I love our running backs and our tight ends and how they fit in our running game, commitment of our receivers on the perimeter. I think that that is a mindset. I couldn’t agree more to that being something we want to really make a big point of emphasis this year.”

The Cowboys proved that they could run the ball effectively last season, when tailback DeMarco Murray rushed for 1,121 yards and nine touchdowns. His average of 5.2 yards per carry was the league’s highest among backs with at least 120 carries.

Yet the Cowboys had the second-fewest rushing attempts in the NFL.

Linehan echoed vows from the front office and head coach Jason Garrett about the Cowboys truly committing to the run this season. That means running the ball even against defenses that are designed to stop it. (Think late in the Green Bay loss.)

“If we play smart, winning football, physical football, we have the ability to run the football when we want, not just when people are giving us the run,” Linehan said. “That is something we really want to work on.”