Analyzing Pre-Game DOs and DON’Ts for Cowboys vs. Chargers
Before the Cowboys’ third preseason game in San Diego, I published a list of DOs and DON’Ts for Dallas. Let’s see how they performed:
DO keep tight ends in to help right tackle Robert Brewster in pass protection.
In my original post-game notes, I remarked that it seemed as though the Cowboys actually let Brewster out on an island at right tackle quite a bit. I was wrong.
The Cowboys threw 11 passes with Brewster at right tackle, and tight end Jason Witten stayed in to block on five of them (45.5 percent). In my study on why Witten should go out in a route more often in the future, I noted that he did so on 77.1 percent of pass plays in 2009.
Thus, as I suggested, Dallas did leave him in to block more often than usual.
DON’T play Tony Romo for more than a few series OR use him on playaction when he’s in the game.
Romo did stay in the game for nearly the entire first half, but due to the Cowboys’ offensive woes, that ended up being just 17 plays (and four series). Good job, Wade.
I suggested that Dallas not run any playaction passes with Romo in the game so that he would never have his back turned to the defense. They ended up running just two playaction passes the entire game, and only one came with Romo at the helm. That play involved a rather weak fake during which Romo never turned his head to the defense, so there was no added risk of injury.
DO attempt a long field goal instead of punting.
The Cowboys never really got the chance to do this. Buehler didn’t attempt a field goal all night.
DON’T overdo it with rookies Sean Lee and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah.
I was surprised at the amount of reps the Cowboys gave to both rookies. Now, Lee was forced into the game early due to a minor injury to Keith Brooking, but he stayed in until the end. He did some great things and some poor ones, but the most important thing was that he looked, and stayed, healthy.
AOA got a lot of chances to return. He looked a bit hesitant on kick returns and needs to secure the ball, but he flashed his skills on a 45-yard punt return that got called back. As is usually the case with Dallas’ free safeties, he wasn’t “in” on a lot of plays–but he also didn’t yield any big ones either.
DO give Alex Barron some time at both left and right tackle.
This may have been an option. . .had Barron played. We will likely see him next weekend against Houston.
DON’T feel pressured to (necessarily) run the ball in the red zone.
The Cowboys ran four plays in the red zone all night–three with Romo from the eight-yard line, and one with Kitna from the 19-yard line.
I’ve showed why passing the ball in the red zone can still be statistically superior to running the ball (when outside of the 10-yard line and on first down in particular).
Three of the Cowboys’ four red zone plays were passes, and all four were the right call, statistically, for the situation. The Cowboys ran the ball (unsuccessfully) on 1st and Goal from the eight-yard line, then threw the ball twice following that (the third down play going for a touchdown).
The 1st and 10 play from the 19-yard line should have been a pass, and it was–a touchdown from Jon Kitna to Martellus Bennett. I give Jason Garrett a lot of crap, but maybe he’s improving.
DO give Phil Costa a lot of time at center.
Costa did get a bunch of reps at center and he made the most of his opportunity. There were no muffed snaps and he did a solid job blocking. In my opinion, he will secure a roster spot (probably at Travis Bright’s expense), barring a total meltdown.
DON’T give center Andre Gurode a ton of playing time.
Gurode stayed in the game for the first half, but it was just 18 plays.
DON’T allow Mat McBriar to do much directional punting.
It’s impossible to know whether it was intentional, but McBriar did boom some punts to give the Cowboys’ coverage unit some opportunities to make plays. Overall, they covered them pretty well.
DO give Jon Kitna more time with the first-team offense.
Kitna got some time with the first-teamers, but not exactly as much as I was hoping: one play (a strong side dive) before the end of the first half.
DO run some dive plays behind Montrae Holland.
It looked like the Cowboys made a conscious effort to run behind Holland. Of the seven first half runs by Dallas, Holland was at the point-of-attack on four of them. The Cowboys gained only eight total yards on those plays, although Holland didn’t appear to do an awful job on his blocks. He also performed well in pass protection.
Seven ‘passes,’ two ‘fails,’ and two ‘N/As.’ Overall, the Cowboys did a solid job of using this game to accomplish the task which I believe to be the most important in the preseason: analyze your unknown commodities.