Get Austin Hooper involved early
The Browns may have gotten a break. With Leighton Vander Esch and Sean Lee out, and Jaylon Smith struggling after his recent contract extension, the middle of the field and the flats are going to look awfully inviting. Smith’s struggles were a bit unexpected but many in Dallas are a bit surprised by how Smith has looked so far in 2020, with complaints that he doesn’t have the athleticism needed to do his job.
Without Vander Esch, the linebackers are awful and while Aldon Smith does have four sacks, he’s 31 and has been out of the NFL for five years. That’s 80 games and about 150 odd weeks of not watching relevant film. Add that onto the fact he was never great as a cover linebacker and you can attack that guy all day.
That’s why it’s imperative to get Austin Hooper going across the middle and into the boundaries. Put that Pro Bowl catching tight end to work and get some decent mileage out of his abilities. Part of the key to victory for this game is controlling the play clock. You don’t want Dak Prescott with the ball against this secondary, so keep the Cowboys off the field. That means more dinking and dunking to Hooper, fellow TE Harrison Bryant, and even Kareem Hunt out of the backfield.
The Browns are capable of the big play against anyone with their wide receivers but that’s not always a guaranteed way to go about scoring points. Play the odds, grind the game out, and prepare for Prescott feasting on your defense. Then grind the clock out when you’re on offense. Limit Prescott’s time on the field by extending your own. You do that, in part, by working shorter passing routes to keep the defense honest and to avoid overloading the line of scrimmage.
That’s when you hit a play action roll out to Hooper for the first down. Wash, rinse and repeat.