What we learned about Dallas this week is...not much. They beat a team they should have beaten, and they did it in a manner which you would expect. Despite my remaining uncertainty regarding the team, I had some thoughts on the game...
Jason Garrett finally called a deep play-action pass from “Double Tight Strong.” Better yet, it came in a short-yardage situation. The play didn’t work, but Garrett made a good call.
Maybe he read my article for Advanced NFL Stats on why his predictable play-calling is hurting the team. Let’s hope he continues to utilize his running tendencies to develop big plays via the passing game.
Dez Bryant returned punts yesterday for the Cowboys, leading owner Jerry Jones to again publicly criticize Garrett’s coaching tactics. Jones is concerned about the possibility of Bryant getting injured, and rightfully so. Although the risk of injury on a punt return is not significantly higher than on offensive plays, Bryant’s punt return ability is not so incredible that it makes up for the risk involved with him lining up deep.
Others are bound to disagree, but Bryant is not a punt returner. There is no doubt he has the ability to be electric with the ball in his hands, but he’s not the fast, shifty sort of player who thrives on returns.
DeMarco Murray is the real deal, and he should receive the bulk of touches even after Felix Jones returns. We knew he was fast, we knew he was quick, but who knew he could run over defenders? He hits holes much harder than Jones. Here is my recent article and scouting report on Murray.
Tony Romo had a really nice day, throwing 31 times for 279 yards and two touchdowns. Murray’s emergence has seemed to help set up play-action looks for Romo.
Bruce Carter got his first defensive snaps and looked good. He had one play in particular on which he broke on the football, reaching around the receiver to knock it down. I thought it was a safety at first, and it was a play neither Bradie James nor Keith Brooking would come close to making. I’m excited about the future with Carter and Sean Lee inside.
Really nice job by the offensive line to control Chris Clemons. There were some double-teams, but a lot of the success versus Clemons came because the offense ran right at him. By overpowering him in the run game, Dallas was able to limit his ability to fly upfield at the snap of the ball, ultimately neutralizing his pass rush.
Phil Costa is really struggling. He gets demolished in the running game and isn’t performing particularly well in pass protection. He also had another premature snap.
The most underrated player on the 2011 Cowboys (and it isn’t even close) is Gerald Sensabaugh. He is playing out of his mind, flying around in coverage and tackling better than just about anyone else on defense. I thought the Cowboys should have signed him to a long-term deal this offseason, but forcing him to play in another contract year was a smart move.
Did you see Romo’s performance as a holder? He was remarkable, catching the ball every time and putting it right down on the ground. There isn’t another quarterback/player in the league that can hold like him.