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Dallas Cowboys at Houston Texans Final Film Observations, Player Grades | The DC Times

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Dallas Cowboys at Houston Texans Final Film Observations, Player Grades

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Jonathan Bales

In case you missed it, check out my Cowboys-Texans post-game observations and “What We Learned” about Dallas in the football game.  Here are my more in-depth film study findings. . .

  • The Cowboys ran a variation of the same play four straight times in the fourth quarter.  They motioned into “Strong” formation and ran a strong side dive.  The only thing that changed was the type of motion.
  • I’m starting to notice that Jason Garrett tends to motion a lot in the beginning of the game, with that trend decreasing as the contest progresses.  The Cowboys have motioned 46 times in the first half as opposed to just 31 in the second half, but seven of those second half motions came in the last nine plays on Sunday (when the ‘Boys already wrapped up the game).  The reason is that the team’s first drive or two are scripted plays.  On the Cowboys’ three opening drives this year, they’ve motioned 14 times (4.7 times per drive).  That’s nearly twice the rate of other drives (2.5 motions per drive).
  • The Cowboys had just five red zone plays on Sunday, but they took advantage of their time in the area.  They ran the ball twice for one yard and a touchdown, and also threw three passes for 32 yards and a score.  Give Jason Garrett props for excellent red zone play-calling all year.


Base (TE, 2 WR, RB, FB): Seven plays
2 TE, 2 WR, RB: 18 plays
2 TE, WR, RB, FB: Nine plays
TE, 3 WR, RB: 22 plays
3 TE, RB, FB: One play


25 formations in Week One, 19 in Week Two, and 19 again in Week Three

3 Wide I (4), 3 Wide Strong Left (2), Ace (3), Double Tight I (3), Double Tight Left/Right I (2), Double Tight Left/Right Strong (2), Double Tight Left/Right Twins Left/Right Ace (2), Gun TE Spread (15), Gun TE Trips (4), Gun TE Trips Empty (1), Gun Trips (1), I Formation (1), Power I (1), Strong (9), TE Trips Empty (1), Trips (3), Twins (1), Twins Right Strong Right (1), Weak Left (1)

  • You may have noticed on television how often Romo checked out of plays at the line of scrimmage.  He’s certainly been given a lot of freedom this season, and he utilized it on Sunday.  He audibled nine times, six times to a run (for 38 yards) and three times to a pass for 14 yards.  Four of the six runs were draw plays.  I noted that last season, 77.27 percent of Romo’s run audibles were to draw plays.
  • Think the Cowboys wanted to run the ball up the middle and to the right?  Check out the chart below.

  • As I stated in my article on What We Learned About Dallas in Week Three, the Cowboys decided to return to an old staple of the running game: the draw play.  After running only six combined draws in the first two games, Dallas ran 10 in Houston for 66 total yards.
  • After throwing 16 passes of 10+ yards against Washington and 13 against Chicago, the Cowboys attempted only nine in Houston.  However, they obviously threw far less passes against the Texans, so the ratio is actually about the same.
  • The Cowboys seven playaction passes totaled just 30 yards.  Five of the seven passes came with exactly 10 yards-to-go.  That trend dates back to last year.  Take a look at these numbers.
  • The Cowboys attempted only one screen pass and it fell incomplete.
  • How awesome was Romo?  He threw two passes which I labeled as “off-target” after throwing 12 such passes last week.
  • Of Dallas’ 30 passes, Witten went into a route on 19 of them (63.3 percent).  That’s lower than last year’s rate.  I still think he needs to be in a route more often.

Player Grades

QB Tony Romo: A

Only two off-target passes all day–about one-fourth of his average from ’09

RB Marion Barber: B

Barber’s best game this season; showed some explosion and good field awareness

RB Felix Jones: B+

Still hesitant on some runs, but looks great on draws; appears to be improved in passing game

WR Roy Williams: A

His hands are back, and his releases were tremendous–all about improved quickness

WR Dez Bryant: B+

Hasn’t been asked to do much, but always seems to make a play

TE Jason Witten:  B

Classic Witten–solid in all aspects of the game

LT Doug Free:  A-

Really held his own against Mario Williams without too much aid

LG Kyle Kosier:  C+

Struggled a bit before going down with knee sprain; not as punishing in running game as usual

C Andre Gurode:  B

Cowboys ran behind him often, and he’s seemed to have recovered from Week One pass protection woes

RG Leonard Davis:  B

Two false starts (only one called), but great at point-of-attack

RT Marc Colombo:  B-

Still not as high on him as others, but he brings a nastiness to the line

OLB DeMarcus Ware: A+

Only Troy Polamalu may be a better defensive player

OLB Anthony Spencer: C

Similar start as in 2009; sacks will come with consistent pressure

ILB Bradie James:  B+

Still stout against the run but has really come on in pass coverage

ILB Keith Brooking:  C-

Poor day for Brooking, who looks lost in pass coverage lately; team needs to find a true nickel LB

NT Jay Ratliff:  B+

Hustle on Arian Foster fumble was incredible

S Alan Ball: B+

Gets a good grade due to one thing–no big plays

CB Terence Newman:  B+

Jenkins is a bigger play-maker, but Newman is the better all-around cornerback right now.

CB Mike Jenkins: B-

Great coverage, but his tackling is becoming a problem

K David Buehler:  A-

Want to see same distance on kickoffs as in ’09, but have to be thrilled with two long field goals

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12 Responses to Dallas Cowboys at Houston Texans Final Film Observations, Player Grades

  1. Omar says:

    As far as Ware goes, I think Trent Cole, Patrick Willis, Nnamdi Asomugha, and maybe Justin Tuck are better defensive players…he had a great game though.

  2. JJ says:


    Again, great summary and insight. Omar, I’m really surprised by your selections. If you were starting a defense in which to build around, i doubt any of those players you mentioned would be picked ahead of Ware.

    I think Cole is a solid pass rusher but not as physically as dominant as Ware. I just cannot compare Tuck to Ware…seems ludicrous to me. Willis is solid but still a notch behind. Ware is strong, quick, instinctive and is not bad in coverage. After watching the first two games, I may even place Briggs ahead of some of the guys you mentioned.

  3. Omar–I’m surprised as well. I would take only Polamalu ahead of Ware (and I’d think about Revis and Asomugha). Ware just has such an enormous impact on every game and his presence makes the entire defense better.

    JJ–Thanks for reading!

  4. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    I still think the the safeties are not playing as well as yoiu indicate. I now realize that the reason why they tend to be absent from most of the action is the way they are utilized (deep middle zone coverage). I think after seeing Sensabaugh get scored on by Sidney Rice (Vikings) last year, the Boys ask less man coverage of him. I think I’ve seen him cover a TE once or twice this year but that’s all.

    Other safeties around the league (Polamalu, Reed, Sanders, Weddle, Landry, etc.) seem to be a much more prominent part of their teams defense whereas Ball seems to be only needed for 2-3 plays a game when the other team goes deep over the middle. Oddly enough, on the deep middle pass in the Bears game that Jenkins got beat on, Ball was elsewhere (to his credit, I think he was where he was supposed to be).

    This is still not an elite team. Too many penalties, to many mental mistakes and still to little safety play. Maybe they can work on things in the bye week.

    Good analysis by the way.

  5. Jason Neighbors says:

    How did Gronkowski grade out? I was surprised by the Anderson move, although it’s true he wouldn’t be able to help us for several weeks anyway because of the knee injury. But he could have been there for the rushing game down the stretch. I’m anxious about Gronkowski. Is he going to be able to make the tough blocks?

  6. Thank Tyrone…I think our views aren’t polar opposites. You want the safeties to make more plays, but do realize they have different responsibilities than the Reeds and Polamalus. I want them to limit the big plays, but I also think they can do that while still making more themselves.

    Jason–I didn’t specifically grade Gronkowski, but I do think he’s been improving as a run blocker each week. He’s still not close to Anderson IMO, but he’s coming along. I still think he’s biggest asset to Dallas is his ability to convert in short-yadage. Those quick-hitters to the FB can be very efficient.

  7. Vince Grey says:

    Jenkins tackling is a sad joke. He doesn’t wrap up at all and seems extremely hesitant to stick his nose in under any circumstances. Even Deion was a better tackler, and that’s saying something. And, Jenkins isn’t even in the same universe with Sanders as a DB or a playmaker. It’s ridiculous.

    These coaches are far more tolerant than I would be. Jenkins would sit on the bench every time he whiffed on a tackle, period, and I’d make a show of benching his behind every time. Has no one in the media questioned Jenkins himself, or Wade, on this?

    Gronk may turn into a fine blocker/all around player one day, but that day hasn’t arrived. Look back at the goal line play where Witten and Gronk led into the line for Barber. Witten stuck his nose in and made his block. Gronk just sort of leaned into the group. It looked even worse than I’ve described it.

  8. Jonny Danger says:

    Omar – I appreciate your opinion but I hope you are joking. Seriously Trent Cole and Tuck give me a break buddy. Did you see the hustle out of Ware last week? He is the most dominant force on the field. Only Troy Polamalu can match what he brings to the table.

  9. Vince..Right on Jenkins. I know the play with Gronk you are talking about. . .and it was one I watched quite a few times. The ‘Boys were in Power I on that play, and I actually wish they’d use that formation more often in very short-yardage.

  10. john coleman says:

    I would have to agree with Ware being the man. It’s not just the sacks either. He is rarely ever out of position. Even when he is playing the run and setting the edge or dropping he is in position to make plays. Also I’m not sure whrer Omar got the Justin Tuck thing. Trent Cole is hardly Ware either. After the game JJ mentioned in his interview something about Romo calling his own plays. I didn’t see the game as it wasn’t televised on the East coast. Did you notice and what was he talking about?

  11. Well, Romo did audible much more than usual, and they weren’t all the typical “kill” calls. I believe three were actual play changes at the line.

  12. Vince Grey says:

    You know, Tom Landry was the first guy I ever saw to put a TE in motion and wham block him into the center of the line. Worked great the first game or two, but of course, defenses adjusted to it pretty quick. Still effective as a surprise play every now and then.

    Patrick Willis is close to Ware’s level as a great player overall, but they’re different players. Ware is really a pass rusher (Re: DE) first and LB second, while PW is much more a true ILB who occasionally blitzes.

    Tuck and those other guys don’t even belong in the same conversation.

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