The Cowboys got their butts handed them tonight. They obviously played very “vanilla,” running very basic plays on offense and blitzing basically never on defense.
Nonetheless, there is really no excuse for a lack of passion. Here are my initial reactions from the game:
- Tony Romo continues to struggle. The offensive line isn’t making his life easy, but he’s been off-target on more passes than I can remember. His interception was a poor decision in which he attempted to fit a ball into very tight coverage. Still, I’m not at all worried about his ability to be ready for the regular season.
- It was interesting to see fullback Chris Gronkowski rotating in and out of the first-team offense with Deon Anderson. The Cowboys probably wanted to see if Gronkowski could hold up against a first-team defense, but he should probably prove he can play well against the second and third teams first. So far, he hasn’t. I don’t see him making the 53-man roster.
- Andre Gurode had a horrible night...one of his worst I can remember. He got beaten for two sacks, one of which came on a stunt. He’s really struggled with stunts and twists in the past. I need to check the film to make sure the defender was his responsibility, but either way, he played very poorly. He also had two bad snaps (one of which was from Shotgun).
- The Cowboys ran a draw play on third-and-6 for a first down. I loved the call. It’s one which Jason Garrett would have been ridiculed for had it failed, but in that down and distance, runs are just as efficient as passes.
- The offense ran a few strong side dives from “Double Tight Strong.” Last week, all seven of the plays from the formation came once the first team left the game. That wasn’t the case tonight.
- I have never seen Jason Witten line up in an obvious pass protection stance...until tonight. On a third down play, Witten lined up like an offensive tackle. I don’t like that design by Garrett because the defense automatically knows Witten isn’t a receiving threat on the play. That can be a big advantage for a linebacker or safety.
- People don’t bring this up a lot because he’s so good in other areas, but Witten needs to limit his false starts. He commits a lot of “dumb” penalties...almost as many as Flozell Adams, believe it or not.
- The Cowboys continued to run weak side out of “Double Tight I” to make the lead block for the fullback easier than that in “Double Tight Strong.” I talked about it in great depth last week.
- Mike Jenkins needs to improve his tackling. He had a tough match-up against Andre Johnson tonight, but he still can do more in run support. His technique is awful right now. He needs to show vast improvement if he wants to be considered an all-around cornerback. He missed 14.6 percent of tackles last year.
- Orlando Scandrick, on the other hand, showed that his tackling has improved. He doesn’t use textbook form either, but he’s been getting the job done anyway this preseason. He did give up a touchdown to Jacoby Jones, but it appeared as though he was expecting help over the top from safety Alan Ball. I’ll check the film, but the coverage appeared to be “Man-Free” or “Cover 1″–man coverage underneath with a “centerfield” safety deep. Thus, both players were probably at fault.
- Bradie James’ pass defense has been outstanding this year. He did take a poor angle or two tonight in pursuit of ball carriers, but his coverage was once again superb. He should stay on the field during nickel situations for Dallas.
- After tackling well last week, Alan Ball struggled tonight. He overran the ball-carrier on a few occasions, particularly on an 18-yard run by Arian Foster on which he was completely out of position. His improvement is imperative to Dallas’ success on defense.
- Rookie Sean Lee got absolutely dominated tonight. Every play I watched him, he was getting pushed backwards. He also showed poor pursuit on a screen pass, something I never thought I’d see from him. He needs to become accustomed to NFL speed.
- The Cowboys must keep three defensive tackles. Siavii’s run defense and Brent’s long-term upside are too great to unleash.
- Akwasi Owusu-Ansah’s kick returns were a rare bright spot for Dallas. I’m most impressed with his decisiveness. He sees a seam and hits it full speed. The Cowboys haven’t seen that from a return man in awhile. Bryan McCann and Kevin Ogletree also returned kicks.
- I don’t agree with the team’s decision to put Patrick Crayton back deep for punt returns. They already know what they have in him. He doesn’t really need the practice, so why not see more of McCann, ‘Kwasi, or someone else?
- Cowboys fans should appreciate the special teams trio they have in David Buehler (kickoffs), Mat McBriar, and L.P. Ladouceur. They are extremely consistent and the effect they have on field position cannot be overstated.