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Cowboys vs. Texans Preseason Film Study Obervations

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Jonathan Bales

I’ve already posted initial post-game notes, “DOs and DON’Ts analysis,” and what we learned from the Cowboys/Texans game. Now that I’ve finally had a chance to completely break down the film, here are my final observations.

Play-Calling/Formation Notes

  • I’ve never seen a team blitz as much in a preseason game as what I saw from Houston.  They were clearly trying to send a message to Dallas, and that idea is supported by the fact that they immediately stopped blitzing once Romo and the first-teamers left the game.  Check out the chart below.

  • It didn’t take long to notice the Texans weren’t running just basic plays against the Cowboys, and a 66.7 percent blitz rate is absurd.  Garrett attempted to counter the multitude of blitzes with screens–Dallas ran four (for 34 yards) after running just six combined in the first three games.
  • I talked about this before, but the Cowboys ran the same play five times from “Double Tight Left Twins Right Ace.”

As you can see, the inside tight end runs a five-yard hitch while the outside tight end runs a flat. The inside tight end (usually Martellus Bennett) is the first read on the play.

On the opposite side, the slot receiver runs a little hook, sitting down in a weak spot in the defense, while the outside (Z) receiver has an option route. Depending on coverage, he either runs a 15-yard dig or a fade. If he beats his man off of the line (as Roy Williams did on the second quarter pass on which Romo overthrew him), the quarterback can hit him deep. If the defense is in a “safe” coverage, such as cover 3 or 4, the receiver turns his route into a dig.

The running back runs a swing to the double-tight side of the formation.

This was the play on which Jon Kitna threw a 24-yard touchdown to Kevin Ogletree.

  • Romo called four audibles.  One was the aforementioned draw play on 3rd and 6, one was a three-yard run, one was an incomplete pass, and the last was the play where he tossed the ball to Felix Jones as Jones was expecting a handoff.  Romo’s reaction seemed to indicate that he audibled to a toss and Jones made a mental error.
  • After watching the Jacoby Jones touchdown numerous times, it is clear that both Orlando Scandrick and Alan Ball are to blame.  Scandrick got beat inside and had poor position while in man coverage, while Ball, who was in Cover 1, bit up because Matt Schaub rolled out.  Ball then had a difficult time turning his hips to get back to the middle of the field.  Unfortunately for Houston, I don’t think that play will fool the Cowboys again.

Player Notes

  • It is a big problem that Andre Gurode is struggling to recognize twists and stunts.  As the center, he makes the line calls, meaning that, outside of quarterback, he plays the most cerebral position on offense.  If he doesn’t know who to block, who will?
  • Having said that, it looked like Marion Barber may have been able to pick up the blitzing Texan who sacked Romo in the first quarter after Gurode missed him.  It’s very difficult to tell whose responsibility it was, though.
  • The Cowboys gave fullback Chris Gronkowski a big-time opportunity on Saturday night.  He was in with the first team by the fourth series.  He’s obviously a better pass-catcher than Deon Anderson, but I don’t think Dallas needs (or can even use) another weapon on offense.  He’s also been lackluster as a blocker.  The Cowboys released Scott Sicko today, though, boosting Gronkowski’s chances of making the team.
  • I originally thought Romo’s interception was his fault.  He did try to squeeze the ball into an awfully tight window, but the pass was actually on-target.  It bounced off of Jason Witten’s hands and ended up being picked off, but the throw itself was actually quite impressive.
  • Despite having many detractors, Jon Kitna has proven to me that he’s a capable backup quarterback.  Will he individually win you any games?  Unlikely, but he can hold down the fort in the event of a minor Romo injury.
  • I do wish the Cowboys would give Kitna more reps, though.  Yes he’s a veteran, but right now, he’s much more valuable to the team than Stephen McGee.  The Cowboys should put themselves in a position where an injury to Romo wouldn’t be entirely debilitating, and adequately preparing Kitna is part of that.

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5 Responses to Cowboys vs. Texans Preseason Film Study Obervations

  1. Pingback: "Grading the 'Boys": Preseason Week Four, Cowboys vs. Chargers | Dallas Cowboys Times

  2. john coleman says:

    I’ve been wondering all along how the heck Gurode is a pro bowler. Those guys inside got whipped at Minnesota. At least Columbo was injured. I’m not sure I go along with all of these big slow guys. People talk about Costa being undersized. I would tell them to check Stepnoski’s playing weight. We had better have some darn good blitz plays. That also gives some merit to having Miles in the slot. He has a connection with Romo and can adjust for blitzes. Philly killed our donkey with blitzes all tose years and blitz pickup was one of Parcell’s first concerns. I still blame Romo for throwing into triple coverage or at least three guys in the area. There had to have been somewhere else to go with that ball. Moving on. Kitna is IMO, the best backup we have had since Buerlein. I think if it comes down to it he can win games for us. Kitna never has played as a starter for a team as good as this team. We probably would have to change things a tad, but he is servicable. In defense of Romo the throw to Roy was dead on and Roy blew it. Perfect back shoulder and Roy keeps running.

  3. Yeah the throw to Roy would have been complete. . .from everything I’ve seen, it was Roy’s fault. Obviously it was an option route, and Roy was nowhere close to beating his man.

    I like your point about Austin in the slot. Of all the advantages it brings, I think their connection on hot routes is the most important.

  4. percyhoward says:

    Great analysis. Especially the info on the Texans’ blitzes. You can’t get that anywhere else. Thank you.

    I just have a different take on Kitna. I think we’ve reached the point now where we’re better off just getting into the season with the top two QB’s healthy.

  5. Thanks Percy. And I definitely can’t fault you for your view on Kitna. I don’t think either of us would feel comfortable with McGee as the starting QB, so Kitna’s health is imperative.

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