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Preseason Week 1: Cowboys vs. Bengals Initial Post-Game Notes

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Jonathan Bales

Listed below are my in-game notes and initial reactions to the Cowboys’ preseason opener against the Bengals.  I will study the game film as soon as possible and report back with in-depth stat analysis and final player grades in the coming days.

Offense

  • Left tackle Doug Free looked outstanding in pass protection versus Antwan Odom.  He also appeared to block well in the run game.
  • The Cowboys did run “Double Tight Right Strong Right” a number of times.  I will get back to you with official results, but I do know they ran the popular strong side dive three of the first four times they lined up in the formation.  They ran that play 71.6 percent of the time they lined up in the formation last season.
  • Roy Williams looked fairly quick out of his breaks.  He ran a nice post on a 3rd down near midfield and also got open in the end zone on a slant, but Tony Romo missed him.
  • Romo showed off a back shoulder pass or two.  He hinted that he was working on that aspect of his game and so far so good.
  • John Phillips was the offensive MVP.  Before going down with a knee injury (which now looks to be a torn ACL), Phillips showed why coaches and players are raving about his play.  He displayed outstanding body control, good hands, and solid route-running ability.  I was most impressed with his blocking, an area in which he struggled some in 2009.
  • I was impressed with Jon Kitna’s arm strength.  He’s no Brad Johnson back there.  He seems to love getting the ball to Phillips.
  • Stephen McGee also showed what appeared to be improved arm strength.  He’s gotten some negative reviews during practice, but I thought he moved around the pocket fairly well and made good decisions.
  • Robert Brewster moved from right tackle to left tackle after Alex Barron left the game with an injury.  He struggled at both positions.
  • Pat McQuistan played some guard and did really poorly.  He got beat multiple times by rookie DT Geno Atkins.
  • Rookie fullback Chris Gronkowski struggled blocking.  Scott Sicko performed much better and the two players are probably fighting for the same roster spot.
  • Lonyae Miller will have a tough time making the team, but he appeared to be a very natural pass-catcher out of the backfield.

Defense

  • Defensive end Stephen Bowen looked absolutely sensational.  His pass rush moves were incredible and he looked like he was a man among boys at times.  That was probably the best I’ve seen him play.
  • Jason Hatcher had a quiet night.  It is just one game, but he fell behind Bowen in their battle for extra snaps at defensive end.
  • Nearly as dominant as Bowen was the performance of outside linebacker Victor Butler.  The Cowboys are looking for someone to emerge as a part-time replacement for starters DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. Butler showed he may be that guy, acquiring a sack and displaying tremendous burst all night.  I was most impressed with his run defense (the weak spot in his game).  He tracked down the running back from the weak side multiple times.
  • Rookie cornerback Jamar Wall was abused by Matt Jones all night.  He has struggled in practice and it has carried into the game.  At one point, the Cowboys were in “Cover One” and Wall unsuccessfully jumped a comeback route.  With no help over the top in that coverage, Wall has to be safer.  He wasn’t even close to making a play.
  • Linebacker Leon Williams played well.  He had a great form tackle in the third quarter and later showed good pass rush skills.
  • Newly-acquired cornerback Teddy Williams, a former track star, played much better than I anticipated.  His technique appeared pretty good and he was very close to making some plays.

Special Teams

  • The numbers don’t show it, but David Buehler had a poor night kicking field goals.  He was three-of-four, but a few chip shots just snuck in and he missed a 49-yarder by a wide margin.  He also nearly missed an extra point.
  • On the bright side, his kickoffs were tremendous.  They traveled to the six-yard line, two yards deep, five yards deep, six yards deep, and out of the back of the end zone.
  • Wide receiver Titus Ryan returned the opening kickoff.  He showed a good burst and some “wiggle.”  He also was back deep to return the first punt, with cornerback Cletis Gordon back for the second.
  • Jesse Holley had an up-and-down night, but he got called for a bad hold on an early punt return.  He wasn’t even near the returner and needs to play smarter.
  • Undrafted rookie cornerback Bryan McCann was back deep to return a punt or two, but didn’t get an opportunity to show his talent.
  • In addition to struggling on defense, Jamar Wall also didn’t do well on special teams, completely whiffing on Bengals return man Jordan Shipley during his long punt return which set up Cincinnati’s only score.
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13 Responses to Preseason Week 1: Cowboys vs. Bengals Initial Post-Game Notes

  1. john coleman says:

    Looks like you got a better look than I did on some of the things. I had trouble seeing the interior linemen like Bright, Costa, Tepper, and McQuistan. I had to go to the roster to see who was what number. It seemed to me to that the cameras were a mile from the field. I did see on replays Mcquistan getting burnt and Brewster was lackluster. I still think Brewster will end up inside at OG. Phillips looked like a #2 but that is history. If Marty B can get his butt on the field, it would be nice. The injury to Phillips may have saved his job and will probably allow Sicko to make the team. BTW Sicko looked like he has good hands and can play. He does need to improve his blocking. Also they have him listed at 255lbs, but he doesn’t look that big. My biggest surprise and you mentioned him was Teddy Williams. He was right there on at least two plays that got replay time. He may have been closing, but at least he was there. To me that’s pretty impressive for a guy who hasn’t played football in 4 years. He is a big guy too. At 6-3 and 200lbs with his speed he would be pretty imposing at CB. Bowen was a beast, a full grown beast. I also thought Free looked borderline dominant against a pretty good player. Wall continued his lackluster play and McCann didn’t get much of a chance thanks to the cheap shot. That was a bogus call. I will say that special teams looked shaky. Non of the returners looked comfortable on punts. They looked nervous to me, almost scared. McCann didn’t look that way but he should have. Ryan did look Ok on the kickoff. McCray and Church showed a little promise on the coverage units. I’m holding the phone on Buehler. I agree with you that the 49 yarder is not the problem. He obviously rushed that one. All of those hooks are scary. He almost hooked the last kickoff out of bounds. He’s going to have to play the hook like a golf shot or straigthen it out. I don’t know about kicking, but in golf a hook will travel farther. So that may be Buehlers natural ball flight and the source of his distance. That extra point was close. Overall, on a scale of 1 to 10, I would give them 6 to 6.5. Defense was a 9 to 9.5. Offense was a 7 to 7.5, because of redzone inefficiency. Special teams was about 3.5 to 4. Coach D will no doubt be pissed. I was surprised that Dixon was a no show. A couple more do nothing games from him and he is gone. I haven’t heard anything from him in camp either.

  2. A lot to discuss here. I still haven’t reviewed the film but I should have a lot more info (including grades) once I do. Short week to get in all completed and onto Oakland.

    I didn’t bring up Dixon, but I’d agree with you. He needs to step it up or he is gone. Same thing with Curtis Johnson.

    I was truly incredibly surprised with Teddy Williams. It will be a tough situation with him, as giving a roster spot to a player who probably won’t help much this season is tough to do, but continued play like that will mean someone will pick him up before we can sneak him on PS.

  3. Vince Grey says:

    Well, as these things inevitably tend to do, it appears our exceptional luck with injuries (Last season) has turned for the worse. If Phillips has a torn ACL, as it appears, he’s done for the year in all likelihood and we have several other less serious injuries popping up all over the place.

    The ones keeping guys out for days or even a few weeks aren’t so bad to overcome, but those “year-enders” are tough.

    Shame about Phillips. He looked like a future star last night.

  4. Tom says:

    The Bad:
    Backup OL was awful, I was really disappointed in Barron, hope this isn’t a sign of things to come.
    Jamar Wall’s night was one to forget, I was hoping he could fill the #4 or 5 CB spot, but I wouldn’t trust him at all based on that game. Gordon and McCann didn’t stand out one way or the other, but both are injured, so CB depth is tenuous.
    Phillips injury is a blow. He looks to have a lot of Witten traits in both blocking and receiving, seems weird to be so bummed over losing a #3 TE, but I really am. If Sicko can continue to impress, it will take some of the sting away.

    The Good:
    The starters, Free especially looks good at LT.
    The DL depth (Bowen looked like he’s improved since last year, watch out Hatcher and Spears).
    The LB’s were great, and there were a lot of plays being made by a lot of guys. The scary part (in a good way) is that Sean Lee wasn’t even out there. This group looks even deeper than the DL.
    Out of all the backup DB’s, Teddy Williams was the most eye catching. Hope to see more from him the rest of pre-season.
    McGee looked much improved over last pre-season. You can see flashes of talent and it was encouraging.

    The defense’s play is what sticks out in my mind as the most important take away from the game. Some good players aren’t going to make the team, but if I were GM for another team, I’d keep my eye on the Cowboy’s roster cuts.

  5. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    Good summary.

    But, after you look at the film, you have GOT to discuss play calling. 1st and goal on the 2 and we throw three passes? I don’t buy the “we didn’t run the ball becuase we didn’t want to show our had” argument. The Boys have the best 3 back trio in the leauge and need to utilize them more. Sometimes I feel like Garrett is just trying to pad Romo’s stats.

    Also, I’m interested in your thoughts about the starting D vs the Bengals starters. I know that they only played a few plays, but no mention of Ratliff, Jenkins, Sensabaugh and most imporrtantly, Alan Ball. (Like Coleman mentioned above, the camera angles from the game didn’t allow me to see him in much of the plays).

  6. Vince…It really is ashame about Phillips. I think this is a bigger blow than the casual fan realizes.

    Tom…agree on all your pros and cons. Can’t wait to see how Sean Lee adds to the LB corps.

    Tyrone…I will definitely report after watching the film. I thought I would get it today but I’m having some issues. Hope to have it in the morning and get something posted by tomorrow night for you.

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