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Preseason Week Two, Cowboys vs. Raiders: What We Learned | The DC Times

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Preseason Week Two, Cowboys vs. Raiders: What We Learned

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Jonathan Bales

Early this morning, I published my initial reactions and game notes from the Cowboys vs. Raiders contest last night.  Since then, I spent about six hours dissecting the game film.  Below are the answers to the 13 pre-game questions I proposed a few days ago.  Pardon any typos, as I am running on three hours of sleep.

1. How much will the starters play and will they erupt against Oakland’s second-team defense?

Wade Phillips said the initial goal was to have the starting offense play 15 snaps (about two series).  Tony Romo and the skill position players ended up on the field for 17 plays, scoring just three points.  Meanwhile, the starting offensive line stayed in the game for another series to block for backup Jon Kitna.

On defense, a few players were on the field well into the second quarter.  After the first two series, Orlando Scandrick and Bryan McCann were in with the first-team defense, but starter Mike Jenkins was the nickel cornerback.

2. Will the first-team offense score a red zone touchdown?

No.  They got their once, but failed to get the ball into the end zone.  I’ve heard some criticism about Jason Garrett’s decision to run a Shotgun pass on first down at the Raiders’ 16-yard line, but I have no problem with the call.  Remember, in a previous article I showed that passing is strategically superior to running on first down anywhere on the field except inside the opposition’s 10-yard line.  At the 16, Garrett was right to pass.

3. What will the Cowboys do at tight end?  Will they run more three-receiver sets and unbalanced lines?

They certainly ran more three and four-receiver sets.  According to my film study, the Cowboys ran just seven two-tight end sets of a possible 67 plays (10.5 percent), compared to 44 plays with three or more receivers on the field (65.7 percent)–including 23 plays with four receivers.  In comparison, the Cowboys ran a two-tight end set 15.9 percent of the time against the Bengals and just 39.1 percent of plays implemented three receivers (and none with four).

The Cowboys didn’t run an unbalanced line per se, but they did line Pat McQuistan up at tight end for about a dozen plays.  He was never an option in the passing game, of course, so this could be thought of as an unbalanced line.

4. Will Doug Free come out on fire as he did in Week One?  Can Alex Barron rebound after a disappointing start to his Cowboys career?

Free played okay, but not great.  He allowed quarterback Jon Kitna to get sacked at the one-yard line and wasn’t particularly devastating in the run game.  Consistency will be key for him.

Alex Barron did not play due to an injured ankle.

5.  How will the starting receivers do against Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha?

Not great.  Tony Romo tested Asomugha once on a comeback to Roy Williams, but it was unsuccessful.  In fact, Asomugha nearly intercepted the pass.  Luckily for the ‘Boys wide outs, Asomugha isn’t on the schedule this season.

6. Will the second-string offensive line perform better on Thursday?

Yes, but not by much.  They allowed two sacks (Robert Brewster and Travis Bright) after yielding four in the Hall of Fame game, but the running game is still dragging.  Robert Brewster is really struggling and has given the coaches no signs that he is ready to even be a reliable backup.  They better hope Alex Barron comes back on fire.

7.  Will Robert Brewster get flagged for illegal formation?

After reviewing film of the Bengals game, I noticed that Robert Brewster was dangerously close to lining up in the backfield on a few plays.  I am fairly certain the coaches noticed this as well and corrected him on it, as he was much closer to the line of scrimmage last night.  In fact, there were a few plays where it appeared he may have lined up too close to the ball.

8. Can Stephen Bowen continue the success he had in Sunday’s game?  How about Victor Butler and Brandon Williams?

Bowen was quiet last night.  After Bowen dominated on Sunday night, it was Jason Hatcher’s turn against Oakland.  Hatcher looked quick on his feet and could be pushing for a starting job.

Butler played well again, particularly in the run game.  We all know he can get to the passer, but his improvement in the run game is one of the largest jumps in ability I have seen from any player this season.

Williams had an average night.  He is explosive off of the ball, but sometimes he runs himself out of plays.  Ironically, I see Butler as the better run-stopper (and overall player) right now.

9. Jamar Wall has struggled all preseason.  How will he play against a less-intimidating Raiders receiver corps?

Wall had an up-and-down night, although probably more down than up.  He allows too big of a cushion in coverage to make up for his lack of speed.  He’s particularly poor at covering out-breaking and deep routes, although he does well defending slants.  In fact, the Cowboys had a chance at a probable game-winning interception that was the result of a deflection by Wall on a slant route.

10.  How will rookies Sean Lee and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah perform in their first live game action?

To be determined in Week Three versus San Diego

11. Will the starting defense contain Raiders running back Michael Bush?

The Cowboys did fairly well in containing Bush.  He had seven carries for 31 yards.  The Cowboys tend to struggle against small, shifty backs.

12. How will David Buehler respond after a shaky start to his NFL field goal kicking career?

Magnificently.  Buehler was one of the lone bright spots for Dallas, as he was three-for-three on field goals and drove the ball near the back of the end zone on all of his kickoffs.  More importantly, he struck the ball really well–something he didn’t do against the Bengals.

13. Can the Cowboys fix the problems that plagued their punt coverage unit against Cincy?

The coverage units didn’t get an overwhelming number of opportunities (due to a lack of scoring and a lot of touchbacks), but they did well.  Jesse Holley seems to always be the first guy down on punt coverage.


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9 Responses to Preseason Week Two, Cowboys vs. Raiders: What We Learned

  1. Frank says:

    Are Robert Brewster and Cletis Gordon eligible for the practice squad? Brewster could conitinue his development there, and with the way he has played, he may not be signed off the squad. Gordon could be snatched, but McCann would be more likely to be snatched.

  2. Omar says:

    “5. How will the starting receivers do against Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha?
    Not great. Tony Romo tested Asomugha once on a comeback to Roy Williams, but it was unsuccessful. In fact, Asomugha nearly intercepted the pass. Luckily for the ‘Boys wide outs, Asomugha isn’t on the schedule this season.”

    This isn’t a bad thing, despite the what the Mediots say Asomugha is by far and away the best defensive back in football. While Revis gets the hype, Revis can actually be passed on, Asmougha on the other hand, can’t. I don’t have the FO information infront of me right now (site search engine is down) but he’ll typically get around 20 attempts a year…no one throws on him, it’s just plain stupid.

  3. I’m not sure on Gordon, but I Brewster is eligible. It would be a risk to put him there though because I’m sure a lot of other teams were at least interested in him least year. I agree McCann is likely to be on SOMEONE”S 53-man.

    Omar..couldn’t agree more on Asomugha. Not sure if you read my list of the NFL’s best cornerback duos or the top 105 players, but Asomugha edged Revis in both. I believe he was targeted 28 times last season, which is actually much more than in previous years…simply incredible.

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  5. john coleman says:

    After having a chance to look at the game, things were a little different than i expected. Brand X site and comments there had me thinking the oline was terrible. I’m not saying there were not problems, but the sacks were largely due to coverage and possibly play calling. On the other hand I did not see the run blocking as being nearly as good as last game. Two things seem likely, just from what I have seen. One is that Marion Barber is still Marion Barber. I don’t see the burst I have been hearing about and he is still stumbling over his own feet. Choice has looked much better than Barber running. As you mentioned he did have blocking issues at Cincy. My guess is that nothing changes, at least early in the year. The second thing is that we need Dez Bryant making plays if we are to have a real shot at the Superbowl. I know we have been vanilla, but the receivers just don’t seem to be able to get seperation consistently. Bottomline is that we are still going to be dependent on a good running game and underneath to intermediate passing. I am also taking as a given that we will have stellar defensive play. Moving on, Buehler was really solid. The 42 yarder split the middle and his kickoffs were simply dominant, if there is such a thing for a kicker. He is a huge asset and if he saves us that spot, so much the better. I’m still thinking Brewster is going to have to move inside. I’m also sure that there are no serious threats to the oline starters. I think we have some guys who can help us, but are probably a year away. A year in the system and with Joe J conditioning and we may be ok. I thought Costa looked decent at center. I think Young is a better long term prospect at OT than Brewster. We have to remember that all of them including Brewster are rookies. Costa does seem to me that he can get to the second level. The special teams looked markedly better. Same guys as last week looked good with the addition of McCann. He looked fairly comfortable to me returning. Several guys are going to make cuts a tough thing. I think Teddy and Leon, the Williams. both have a shot. I also think McCann, Church, and McCray have good shots. Buehler will save us a spot and if we were to go with 5 receivers that would too. Also the new TE might stick on the practice squad. He did ok for two days. I did notice him blocking or trying to downfield and he had a nice catch. At the end of the day, the short week coupled with vanilla, probably gave us a false picture, overall. I would also give the Raiders d-line and CBs a little credit for being solid. If they can find a way to score they might surprise. For us, I need to see the whole team healthy. Hopefully that happens next game. At least everybody but Dez. Sorry for the book.

  6. john coleman says:

    Hurd looked pretty good as a WR. Probably the best we had other than Miles and Witten.

  7. Choice certainly looks better than Barber in the run game. I am willing to give Barber some more time to prove he is back though. I agree with all of the lower-end guys you mentioned as having shots to make the team, although McCray and Church are battling or the same spot (as are Williams and McCann). I really like Teddy W. but how do you keep him over a more polished McCann? You could keep both, but then it would be very difficult to retain either Church or McCray. Hurd looks good, but unless he looks GREAT, I think there’s definitely a shot he gets released now in favor of Holley.

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