Analyzing Pre-Game DOs and DON’Ts for Cowboys vs. Texans
Before the Cowboys’ game in Houston on Saturday night, I published a list of DOs and DON’Ts for the team. Let’s see how they performed:
DO give Alex Barron plenty of reps at right tackle.
Despite Robert Brewster’s solid play during the Chargers game, Barron got the start at right tackle. He played there until near the end of the third quarter–about 30 plays.
I think Dallas got about what they expected from Barron. He was okay in pass protection but showed pretty poor leverage and power at the point-of-attack in the running game. He’s by no means a “mauler” like starter Marc Colombo. I’d love to see more of both he and Brewster at right tackle on Thursday.
DON’T take Marion Barber out of the game too early.
Barber rotated in and out of the game with Felix Jones until near the start of the fourth quarter. According to my stats, he was on the field for just 11 plays, though. That had a lot to do with the fact that Dallas simply could not move the football on offense.
I have Barber at five carries for -2 yards. Not exactly lighting it up. Despite all of the reports that Barber’s weight loss has given him some much-needed explosion and burst, I don’t see it.
DO implement “max protection” so the quarterbacks can throw the ball downfield.
The Cowboys did utilize max protection quite often against Houston. Tight end Jason Witten stayed in to block on 10 of 20 pass plays–far beyond his normal rate of pass protection. However, the Cowboys really didn’t attempt too many passes downfield. Of the 10 pass plays that Witten blocked, only one resulted in a pass attempt over 20 yards, and Dallas attempted only two such passes the entire game.
DON’T throw the ball to tight end Martellus Bennett in the red zone.
This was a strange request, but I actually think it is better for Bennett to not score during the preseason so the success doesn’t go to his head.
Dallas quarterbacks targeted him three times on the night–all on the Cowboys’ side of the field.
DO run a lot of Shotgun with Phil Costa at center.
The Cowboys did run a lot of Shotgun with Costa at center–by default. The team was down so much late in the game that they went to their hurry-up offense with Stephen McGee at the helm. They ran eight straight plays out of Shotgun to close the contest.
Nonetheless, Costa got a lot of work and all of his snaps looked good. In my opinion, he’s earned the right to be the Cowboys’ backup center.
DON’T take safety Michael Hamlin out of the ballgame too quickly.
They didn’t, although Hamlin didn’t really show much. He wasn’t terrible, but he also didn’t really make any big plays–just a quiet night. That might be a good thing for a free safety, but probably not a strong safety. He’s been outplayed by Barry Church this preseason, in my opinion.
DON’T put safety Barry Church solely “in the box.”
Church didn’t really get enough reps for this result to be statistically significant, although Dallas did use him deep in a cover 2 when he was in the ballgame.
DO throw a back-shoulder fade or two to Roy Williams.
Tony Romo did attempt a back-shoulder throw to Williams, but Williams wasn’t prepared for it. Romo anticipated Williams cutting off his “go” route since he hadn’t beaten the defender off of the ball, but it never happened.
With all of the film I watch, I still cannot figure out what is the cause of the disconnect between these two. Romo doesn’t seem to have this problem with any of the other receivers, but I don’t think Williams is entirely to blame.
Like Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas, I believe the two are simply a bad match. Williams isn’t the type of receiver who is going to get wide open. He uses his size, great body position, and normally solid hands to beat defenders, so he really needs an extremely accurate quarterback.
Romo is accurate in certain situations and on specific routes, but unfortunately they aren’t the routes which Williams runs best–slants, skinny posts, and digs. Romo is better at making things happen with his feet and allowing receivers to find their way open, not necessarily using his arm to throw them open when they are initially covered.
Result: Pass, sort of
DON’T keep Bradie James in for nickel plays.
James over-pursued the ball-carrier on a couple of runs, but he showed that he is still a valuable weapon in the nickel package. He’s been all over the place in coverage this preseason.
Having said that, I wanted to see more of Jason Williams and Sean Lee in coverage. We know James is a veteran and will get the job completed, but both Williams and Lee need more reps.
Seven passes and two fails. As much as fans think this was a “wasted game,” the ‘Boys really learned a lot about themselves on Saturday night.
Lesson No. 1: If you don’t bring maximum effort to a football game, even in the preseason, you will get blown out.