Scott Linehan and the Jet Sweep Screen

One staple of Scott Linehan’s offenses have been the jet sweep, and the Cowboys offense is no different. Joseph Ferraiola explains how he implements it as a traditional run play and also how he uses the jet motion to catch the defense off guard and run a jet sweep screen. 

Despite an injury to Tony Romo, the Dallas Cowboys offense is playing well and putting up plenty of points. The play of rookie quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott have a lot to do with their on-field success, but the man calling the plays should also receive credit. Scott Linehan, the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator, has done an excellent job playing to his team’s strengths and has been impressive as well as creative with the offensive play calling. Last week, Linehan called a couple versions of the jet sweep against the Chicago Bears to set up a creative play later in the game.

Early in the first quarter on 1st and 10 with the Dallas offense driving in Chicago territory, Linehan calls the jet sweep to Lucky Whitehead. The Cowboys are in 11 personnel with Elliott as the single back behind Prescott. Whitehead is the widest receiver to the left. Chicago’s defense is prepared for the run with seven defenders in the box pre-snap. The Bears have a single high safety shell before the snap, and appear to be playing zone by the way their corners are positioned looking in toward the quarterback.




Prescott signals to motion Whitehead and the corner across from him does not follow, instead the defender, Cre’Von LeBlanc (#22) lined up across from Terrance Williams moves alongside the line of scrimmage with the motion. Prescott signals for the snap when Whitehead is behind left tackle Chaz Green (#79) and hands the ball off to him, then fakes the handoff to Elliott. The deception is enough to keep linebacker Jerrell Freeman (#50) on Elliott and to slow down safety Harold Jones-Quartey (#29). However, LeBlanc is ready for the play as he had been moving laterally across the field in pursuit of Whitehead since he was motioned.

Up front the offensive line has La’el Collins (#71) and Travis Frederick (#72) combo block the 1 Technique defensive lineman and then Collins looks for additional work in the second level. Zack Martin (#70) and Doug Free (#68) do the same by combination blocking the 3 Technique. Free then works off the block and seems to attempt to throw off LeBlanc, but is unable to. Tight end Jason Witten and Williams are the blockers leading the way against four Chicago defenders on the right side, and Whitehead is tackled for a 3-yard gain.

Later in the fourth quarter Linehan gets creative with his play call. It’s 1st and 25 because of a chop block by Green on the previous play. The play the penalty was called on had Whitehead in motion, but instead the play was a handoff to Elliott with Whitehead acting as a decoy on the end around, also known as a ghost motion.

On 1st and 25 the offense is trying to gain most of the penalty yardage back, making it a likely passing down. Dallas is in 11 personnel with the same formation it ran on the jet sweep earlier in the first quarter. Only this time the tight end and receivers are flipped. Whitehead is aligned to the right side instead of the left. Rather than run it out of the same look, Linehan calls for a screen pass designed for Elliott using the ghost motion to trick the defense.

Prescott motions Whitehead across the backfield and the ball is snapped when he is near the right tackle. Instead of handing the ball off like in the first quarter, Linehan calls another ghost motion to get the defensive flow moving to the left because the screen is being run to the right. It works as Chicago’s linebackers all shift as Whitehead looks to receive the handoff. The offensive line initially blocks, but lets the defensive line into the backfield to give Elliott more room to run after he receives the screen pass. Prescott has to be patient before throwing to Elliott as he needs the defensive line to be deep enough in the backfield to gain a good amount of yards and have offensive linemen blocking second- and third-level defenders. Free makes a block that saves Prescott some time before he eventually throws the screen pass to Elliott.




Elliott makes the catch and now has a ton of room with three offensive linemen blocking out in front of him. The rookie picks up 18 yards, making 2nd down much more manageable. Bryan Broaddus also broke down this play and some of Elliott’s other plays from last Sunday night’s game.

The Cowboys rank 11th in points, eighth in yards, and second in first downs per game. A lot of the credit should go to the players executing their responsibilities, but some has to go to Linehan for calling the correct plays. It was expected that Dallas had to score a ton of points to win games because of their porous defense and so far they have succeeded despite the injuries to key players.

Check out more of Joseph’s work here, including a look at Dak Prescott’s first start. the offense Doug Pederson will run with the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Stanford Cardinal‘s unbalanced run schemes.

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All video courtesy of NFL GamePass.

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