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Preseason Week Four, Cowboys vs. Texans: Initial Post-Game Notes

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Jonathan Bales

The Cowboys got their butts handed them tonight.  They obviously played very “vanilla,” running very basic plays on offense and blitzing basically never on defense.  Nonetheless, there is really no excuse for a lack of passion.  Here are my initial reactions from the game:

Offense

  • Tony Romo continues to struggle.  The offensive line isn’t making his life easy, but he’s been off-target on more passes than I can remember.  His interception was a poor decision in which he attempted to fit a ball into very tight coverage.  Still, I’m not at all worried about his ability to be ready for the regular season.
  • It was interesting to see fullback Chris Gronkowski rotating in and out of the first team offense with Deon Anderson.  The Cowboys probably wanted to see if Gronkowski can hold up against a first team defense, but he should probably prove he can play well against the second and third teams first.  So far, he hasn’t.  I don’t see him making the 53-man roster.
  • Andre Gurode had a horrible night–one of his worst I can remember.  He got beat for two sacks, one of which came on a stunt.  He’s really struggled with stunts and twists in the past.  I need to check the film to make sure the defender was his responsibility, but either way, he played very poorly.  He also had two bad snaps (one of which was from Shotgun).

  • The offense ran a few strong side dives from “Double Tight Strong.”  Last week, all seven of the plays from the formation came once the first team left the game.  That wasn’t the case tonight.
  • I have never seen Jason Witten line up in an obvious pass protection stance. . .until tonight.  On a third down play, Witten lined up like an offensive tackle.  I don’t like that design by Garrett because the defense automatically knows Witten isn’t a receiving threat on the play.  That can be a big advantage for a linebacker or safety.
  • People don’t bring this up a lot because he’s so good in other areas, but Witten needs to limit his false starts.  He commits a lot of “dumb” penalties–almost as many as Flozell Adams, believe it or not.
  • The Cowboys continued to run weak side out of “Double Tight I” to make the lead block for the fullback easier than that in “Double Tight Strong.”  I talked about it in great depth last week.

Defense

  • Mike Jenkins needs to improve his tackling.  He had a tough match-up against Andre Johnson tonight, but he still can do more in run support.  His technique is awful right now.  He needs to show vast improvement if he wants to be considered an all-around cornerback.  He missed 14.6 percent of tackles last year.

  • Orlando Scandrick, on the other hand, showed that his tackling has improved.  He doesn’t use textbook form either, but he’s been getting the job done anyway this preseason.  He did give up a touchdown to Jacoby Jones, but it appeared as though he was expecting help over the top from safety Alan Ball.  I’ll check the film, but the coverage appeared to be “Man-Free” or “Cover 1”–man coverage underneath with a “centerfield” safety deep.  Thus, both players were probably at fault.
  • Bradie James’ pass defense has been outstanding this year.  He did take a poor angle or two tonight in pursuit of ball-carriers, but his coverage was once again superb.  He should stay on the field during nickel situations for Dallas.
  • After tackling well last week, Alan Ball struggled tonight.  He overran the ball-carrier on a few occasions, particularly on an 18-yard run by Arian Foster on which he was completely out of position.  His improvement is imperative to Dallas’ success on defense.
  • Rookie Sean Lee got absolutely dominated tonight.  Every play I watched him, he was getting pushed backwards.  He also showed poor pursuit on a screen pass–something I never thought I’d see from him.  He needs to become accustomed to NFL speed.
  • The Cowboys must keep three defensive tackles.  Siavii’s run defense and Brent’s long-term upside are too great to unleash.

Special Teams

  • Akwasi Owusu-Ansah’s kick returns were a rare bright spot for Dallas.  I’m most impressed with his decisiveness.  He sees a seam and hits it full speed.  The Cowboys haven’t seen that from a return man in awhile.  Bryan McCann and Kevin Ogletree also returned kicks.
  • I don’t agree with the team’s decision to put Patrick Crayton back deep for punt returns.  They already know what they have in him.  He doesn’t really need the practice, so why not see more of McCann, ‘Kwasi, or someone else?
  • Cowboys fans should appreciate the special teams trio they have in David Buehler (kickoffs), Mat McBriar, and L.P. Ladouceur.  They are extremely consistent and the effect they have on field position cannot be overstated.



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8 Responses to Preseason Week Four, Cowboys vs. Texans: Initial Post-Game Notes

  1. moses says:

    ugh. it was a hard game to watch. I saw the inside LBs get pushed around a lot and out of position. There were many time where they didn’t even hold their ground and let themselves get pushed 5 yards out of the play!

    awful!

    Do you think the OL is going to hold up this season? They look average at best.

  2. The OL is scary right now. Even Romo hasn’t been able to work enough magic to make them look okay. As of now, they won’t make the playoffs if the line plays like this.

  3. Tom says:

    Miserable effort all around (with a few exceptions). Looked even worse when you add in the fact that HOU was treating this like a regular season game. A mistake on Kubiak’s part, I think. While Dallas showed nothing useful on game film for the Week 3 match up, HOU was pulling out a lot of defensive looks, and the naked roll-out by Schaub that went for the TD, why show that? That was a great play, definitely to be saved for an actual game. I guess we’ll find out in the next game if Dallas got a lot of useful stuff on film.

    OL is really the biggest concern. They don’t know how to handle blitzes, especially the on the interior, heck they don’t even do very well on the stunts. They have to fix it ASAP, seems like its the same problem every season. Teams will be copying this formula to get to Romo every week. Garrett was a little slow to start the screens and draws to slow down the Texans rush. If Romo goes down, the post season is out of the question. Must protect the franchise.

    The defense has me a little concerned about failure stopping the run. This was two games in a row where the 1st unit had a lot of trouble stopping the power run game. And I didn’t consider HOU to be very good running the ball before this game, but they steamrolled the front seven and the safeties a few times. Don’t know what’s going on there.

    It looked like the team was tired, and ready for the pre-season to be over. I think all the travel and extra game played has been a bit much no matter what Romo says. I’m hoping they get the problems straightened out without playing guys in the final pre-season game. I think we’ve been lucky with the lack of serious injuries compared to most teams. I don’t want the team to push their luck in a 5th pre-season game.

  4. john coleman says:

    I would say yes, yes, and yes…. to all of the above. Akwasi looked good especially for his second game. He definitely has the talent to play at this level. Barber is still pathetic. On the punts with Crayton being there, I think it is an indication that they still intend to use Dez there. I think I woukd use Akwasi. My biggest concern continues to be the interior oline. I was also disturbed that we got pushed off the ball on D.

  5. Tom–I have no idea why they’d show that bootleg play. That obviously fooled Dallas and could have been of real use in the regular season. Now every team they play has it on tape.

    I too am concerned about the OL’s ability to recognize blitzes and stunts. It seems more cerebral at this point. Even when you are “vanilla,” each defender must be accounted for (or else you have to throw hot).

    I’m not as concerned about the D as you though. I think the run defense will be fine once Week 1 rolls around.

  6. John–I would use Dez on punt returns until he established himself as a main cog in the offense. That could take a week for all I know, but he’s too dangerous back there to sit.

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