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Cowboys vs. Eagles Week 14 Film Study Observations, What We Learned About Dallas

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Jonathan Bales

  • The Eagles didn’t blitz an inordinate number of snaps, but they did an incredible job of disguising their intentions.  Quite often, they tricked Jon Kitna into believing a blitz was coming when it wasn’t (or vice versa), forcing him to audible when he shouldn’t.  Last week, I talked about how productive Kitna has been on his checks all season, but that wasn’t the case last night.  He audibled seven times (a bit more than usual due to the Eagles’ unique pre-snap alignments).  Five of those plays were runs, going for 11 total yards.  The other two were passes: a two-yard touchdown pass to Jason Witten (which appeared to work because the Eagles anticipated a draw), and Kitna’s second interception.
  • Overall, Philly blitzed 12 times.  The Cowboys dropped back to pass on all 12 of those plays, completing six-of-10 for 35 yards, an interception, and a touchdown (giving Kitna just a 60.4 passer rating on blitzes).  Kitna also ran for nine yards and got sacked once on Eagles blitzes.
  • Philly also showed blitz on five plays but then backed out into a safe coverage.  Dallas passed on four of those plays for 17 total yards, and ran twice for four yards.
  • I thought the Cowboys had an up-and-down night in terms of Michael Vick’s rollouts.  The goal was clearly to not let him get outside to the left, and for the most part they did fairly well.  They did a particularly nice job of limiting Vick’s rushing yards without using a spy.  They also forced him to his right pretty often, and he threw one of his interceptions while rolling right.
  • It takes 60 minutes of great football to beat an elite football team, however, and the Cowboys failed to stop Vick from rolling to his left on the very first play of the game.  The Eagles ran a bootleg and Vick sat extremely comfortable in the pocket after rolling left, heaving a bomb to DeSean Jackson that set a tone for the whole night.
  • The Cowboys ran “Double Tight Strong” eight times, five of which were strong side dives.  Unfortunately, they ran the strong side dive in normal game situations, not just short-yardage.  They went for four total yards.  Nice.
  • On the three non-strong side dives from the formation, Dallas ran once for six yards and threw twice for 26 yards.  Quite a difference.
  • Dallas motioned on 14 of their first 20 offensive plays, but then on only eight of their final 40.
  • In my pre-game manifesto, I called for the Cowboys to throw a lot of screens.  They threw five for 44 yards, but I would have liked to see more.  Two of the “screens” were to wide receivers for just two total yards.
  • I hated the Cowboys’ 4th and 4 punt from the Eagles’ 39-yard line.  Statistically, they should have gone for it on all the way up until 4th and 11 in that situation.  Actually, they should have gone for it on 4th and 4 at their own 39-yard line.
  • The draw play was clearly part of Garrett’s game plan, as the team ran it nine times.  They gained 37 total yards on those plays and scored one touchdown, so it was moderately successful.
  • Meanwhile, Garrett dialed up on two counters.  They went for 23 yards.  Please. Run. More. Counters.
  • Kitna was four-of-eight on playaction passes for 65 yards, a touchdown, and an interception.
  • I told you I’d get you a breakdown of Kitna’s pass attempts by distance, so here you go. . .

  • I wanted the Cowboys to throw a lot of screens and deep passes on Sunday, but they tallied only nine total passes that were either behind the line-of-scrimmage or over 15 yards downfield (in the air).  They averaged 10.3 yards-per-attempt on these nine passes.
  • Meanwhile, the offense attempted twice as many passes (18) in the 0-5 yard range alone.  They averaged half the yards-per-attempt (5.2) on these throws.  This is evidence that the offense needs to get the ball downfield.  Let’s not forget that the simple act of stretching the defense (even on incomplete passes) can open things up underneath and in the running game.  Here is more evidence that Garrett needs to call more deep passes.
  • Witten went into a route 31 times of the 39 plays Kitna dropped back to pass (79.5 percent).
  • I credited Felix Jones as yielding the team’s only sack.  Leonard Davis and Marc Colombo blocked well on the play, but a defensive back came storming through the line between Davis and Colombo late on the play.  I’m almost certain from Jones’ body language during the play that he was responsible for any free rushers.  He really needs to improve in pass protection.

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12 Responses to Cowboys vs. Eagles Week 14 Film Study Observations, What We Learned About Dallas

  1. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    Yeah, spot on analysis.

    Like mentioned so many times before – not enough down field or middle of the field attempts.

  2. johncoleman says:

    As I said on the post game I still have concerns with Garrett. Why continue to run plays that are ineffective? Also it is obvious that we can have success if we throw the ball down the field. We seem to be really comfortable with small ball. I also wonder what the comparison of Romo throw over 15 to Kitna throws over 15 would be. With the oline being what it is, Romo’s pocket shiftiness may allow for a few more deep throws. Let’s also establish that 15 yards is not a deep throw. How many 30 yard throw have we made with either QB. You can see that as a game wears on the defenses just clamp down on us. We don’t play well from behind either at least generally. This whole offensive system needs enough effective running to keep the d-honest. I do consider screens to be an extension of the running game. Please no more runs behind Davis and Columbo when we need positive yardage. Is there any talk of Brewster being moved to OG? I wonder if they will actually give him a shot at OG before they can him. Based on what I saw in preseason Brewster was as good as any RT who has played this year. The lack of innovation with personnel and playcalling has me on edge with Garrett. I do like the new look and show of heart under his regime. Two losses by 6 points to GOOD teams ain’t too shabby. It’s amazing to me that we have been that close with all of the issues on both sides of the ball. I do think a solid draft and a few subtle moves can have us contending seriously next season. BTW as things stand now we will pick no worse than 19th. I am thinking 2-1 from here out to finish 6-10. With a little help we could get to somewhere between 12th and 14th. I remember having a 6-10 post session about 3 months ago. Our schedule was brutal and I honestly thought we wold be 11-5 to 10-6. Oh well!

  3. Hey John–I’ll check out the Romo vs. Kitna numbers for you this week (probably Thurs or Fri). And as far as I’ve heard, there is no Brewster to guard talk. I’m glad to see you realize the Cowboys COULD be contenders next year if they do the right things. A lot of people have kind of given up on them, even in 2011, but there still aren’t THAT many holes on this team.

    Starred–I have noticed that, particularly with Barber and Choice. Felix looks more eager to bounce things, specifically on plays where it is sort of designed into the play (counters, draws as opposed to dives and powers). I think Garrett’s fear of negative plays is the reason for both the lack of creativity from the backs and the lack of counters despite their success.

  4. john coleman says:

    I may not have noticed but I don’t remember seeing a lot of nickel with Church or McCray in. Against those receivers 4 guys at safety plus three CBs isn’t overkill. Well maybe it is. Have I mentioned you can’t let Jackson/Macklin get behind you? How many times has Newman been ran by this year? How about last year?

  5. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    Oh Johnny Bales, I disagree…

    There are still quite a few holes to be filled next year. Honestly, starting 2-3 (maybe even 4) new offensive linemen in a year makes for a situation that is more likely to produce ineffectiveness. I don’t know what the #s are, but any team that has that many new linemen in the starting lineup probably doesn’t do too well. One thing for sure is that one of those linement will probably have to come from free agency – depending on who it is will make a difference. The Boys have had success acquiring Olinemen via free agency (Gurode and Free are the only linemen drafted by Dallas) so I’d expect the same.

    Given that, there is a decent (read that 55/45) chance that the Boys will be able to field an O line next year that will be at least average (this year, the clearly are not).

    That does leave other holes at DE, ILB, S and some would say CB. Only the 1st two picks should be expected to be good enough to field significant playing time (not necessarily start but possibly).

    Let’s not blow smoke up each other’s butts…the Cowboys are quite a distance away from being a serious Superbowl contender. Can you see any scenario where we’re ready to compete against the Patriots, Falcons or Steelers next year?

  6. Mark Watkins says:

    I really have to wonder whether Gurode and Davis are as bad as they’ve played for parts of this year, or if they’re just mostly uninspired. I do see where Columbo should certainly be replaced. And as for DE, S and ILB, if we do manage to get a couple of starters out of the draft (at least the first pick should be a starter) and a couple more out of free agency, I still don’t see why we couldn’t be competitive. Maybe not a Super Bowl caliber team, but certainly a contender to go fairly deep in the playoffs. It will certainly be an interesting offseason with both player personnel and coaching changes.

  7. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    Mark, I think like you although I think you’re a little more optimistc than I. My expectations for THIS year were the Superbowl and we’re not even going to the playoffs. Now, I realize that is primarily due to coaching but the O Line is probably 28th to 32nd in the league (and there are only 32 teams).

    The secondary, I’m convinced, is not really all that bad but our safety play is horrible. They’ve had interceptions but have for the most part been out of position most of the time.

    Let’s hope for all our sake that YOU are right and that they are at least a playoff team next year…

  8. Mark Watkins says:

    I probably am a tad too optimistic Tyrone. I have my Cowboys blinders on. They should definitely have addressed the O-Line more than they did this offseason. And as good as Dez is, they would probably have been a better team this year if they had drafted a D-lineman. That’s not to say that it wasn’t the right move to draft him, since he’s quite a talent. It sounds like you and some of the others have a far better grasp of who will be available in the draft that I do. I hope that the Boys can bring in a couple of good starters.

  9. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    Well Mark, this is just my opinion but for what seems to be “out there” as far as the draft goes is that it is HEAVY on D linemen (defensive ends and tackles). Depending on the underclassment that declare, it’s presumed that 5 of the top 15 prospects will all be D linemen. That’s fairly significant in that its usually skill players (RB, QB, WR, CB and LT) that dominate the higher draft spots. If Dallas gets a pick in the top 20, they’ll be set to pick up someone who should be an anchor next to Ratliff and Bowen for years to come.

    The 2nd round will probably go to an O lineman. TCU has a tackle who’s projected to play guard at the next level and would be a perfect replacement for Davis. They’re about the same size and have the same style of play.

    After that, there’s lots of different ways to go but those 2 picks are key to Dallas’ success NEXT year.

  10. john coleman says:

    Interesting banter Tyrone and Mark. I have to look at what has actually happened as far as wins and losses. Then I have to consider how injuries have played into that. 1ST- IMO we have been in all but two games this year. The 1st Giants game the score was deceiving as we scored a late TD against prevent and the game was already decided. Green Bay we were never in the game. Also I think it was Jacksonville, that we were never in as well. Our schedule was as tough as any in the league. Bottomline is that we could be 9-4 very easily. 2ND- We have had a ton of injuries beginning in the rookie camp. Players like Lee and Ansah have been behind from the beginning. Then we lose Phillips in preseason and he was arguably the most improved player on the team. Gronkowski probably wouldn’t have made the team if Phillips is healthy. Then you have Brooking and Columbo who both had scopes and missed a lot of reps. Add in Kosier and Spears who also missed a bunch of time. Now couple all of that with Wade’s soft camp and we have the perfect recipe for 1-7. Let’s not forget that Brent, Hatcher, and Lissemore all had set backs too. Now if we have solid vets to plug in it’s not quite as bad. Kitna is the perfect example for that. The young players need game time. Think about it we played games with Saddler-McQueen and Jeremy Clark. So to me a quick turnaround is not impossible. We all talk about the DE need, but if we were to get a space eater NT, like Phil Taylor, we could move Ratliff to DE. I feel sure even with a position change Ratliff would be no worse than anybody in the current DE rotation. Surely Brent and Lissemore will be better next year. Alos keep in mind that most 3-4 teams have a LOAD at NT(6-4/6-5 340 or so). That alone would drastically improve our middle run D. A widebody could also keep our ILBs a little cleaner to roam and make plays. Oh yeah, Ratliff missed a bunch of offseason lifting because of his elbows. We could potentially pick up widebodys in the 2nd -4th. All at once we are now looking at keeping only one of the rotation at DE from the start of the year. I would have to say that is doable. Other positions of need like OL, ILB, and safety can be had in later rounds as well. I don’t even think there is an ILB or safety prospect with a 1st round grade. There are several solid/good prospects in the 2nd and 3rd at those positions. O-line is the same as far as true 1st rd talent, but ther are several good prospects in later rds. I would love to see us trade down to load up on 2nd and 3rd round picks. I’m talking maybe even out of the 1st alltogether, depending on who is sitting there when our turn comes. As far as DE prospects I like Christain Ballard as good as any I have seen. His team mate Clayborn runs by plays and Ballard makes them. He’s a late 1st rd to early 2nd projection. We could move down from say 16th and still get him and a 2nd or 3rd rounder. Frankly, I just don’t like free agency and believe it should only be used to get the final piece. Paying big dollars for guys who lack loyalty is a risky proposition. It is Dallas though and Jerry is in control so what ever happens will probably be wild. As far as the 1st two picks go, after the first five guys in the draft the gap from 1st to 3rd rd isn’t as large as usual.

  11. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    good words John,

    Keep in mind about injuries – EVERY team has injuries and/or major contributing players not play for one reason or another: the Saints lost both starting RBs; the Chargers had their starting LT and WR holdout; Vikings had an unhealthy Favre and no Sidney Rice, even the Lions have about the same record w/o their starting QB out (and being robbed of a win vs. Chicago on a bad call). Even the Browns have had injuries to Colt McCoy (QB), Lawrence Vickers and Mike Bell (RBs), Erick Wright (CB), Josh Cribbs (WR/KR), Kenyon Colemen (DE), Scott Fujita (LB) and many others but they’ve found a way to win by blocking for Payton Hillis. In other words, there are lots of teams that have found a way to win in spite of the injuries.

    And, all the injuries that have occurred this year, you’ve gotta factor those in for next year. Whomever we pick up in the draft, expect 2-3 of them to miss significant training/playing time due to injury. Most likely, one of our RBs will be put out for 4-8 games. Expect to have a few O lineman, CB or S and D lineman to miss as well. Point is, there will always be injuries – Superbowl caliber teams find a way to win w/ their backups. We can’t even produce a winning record w/ ours and we were “supposed” to have one of the most talented teams on paper to begin the season.

    My point is simply that we all over-estimated their talent in some areas and ignored major deficiencies in others. We don’t have any super dominant player outside of D Ware and he’s easily game-planned for w/o a threat somewhere else on the team. Our QB play is above average (Romo 6th in QB rating) and that is in spite of poor pass blocking. But, as you clearly pointed out, he’s injured. The WRs are decent but each year, we have at least one WR who is among the league leaders in on-target dropped passes (last year – Williams; this year – Austin). The RBs are OK – we’re 23rd in the NFL in rushing (again, primarily due to the O line woes). The defense averages giving up 255 yards per game passing (27th in the league) and 110 yards per game rushing (17th in the league). How good can the players be that allow that to happen?

    I would agree w/ you about who/what positions to draft. 3-4 NTs are usually huge which makes Ratliff such a unique anomoly in that he’s good while being undersized. I wouldn’t put too much stock, though, in picking up OL, ILB and S prospect in later rounds. We have that now w/ Butler, Williams, AOA, Church and Young. All late rounders – all prospects. None of which could break the starting lineup even as bad as the starters are playing. I believe that if half of these prospects become above average players at some point, that makes us competitive in 2015 – not next year.

    My point is that there are simply to many positions that need upgrading to be fixed in one year.

  12. JC–Nope, no Church/McCray. Newman was FAR better last year than this.

    Tyrone–I don’t see four, or even three, new OL. I think you’ll see two OL replaced at the most. That’s not to say that’s the right move, just the most likely. And I really believe the majority of the Cowboys’ problems have nothing to do with talent. I still believe they are a top five teams in terms of on-field talent. Unfortunately, there’s much, much more to being a great team than having great talent.

    Mark–I’d agree, but I DO think Dallas can compete next season for a SB. Teams like Atlanta and Chicago could NEVER compete for a Super Bowl this year, according to just about anyone outside of those cities. The ‘Boys are far more talented than both teams, in my opinion. A change in philosophy, which may or may not have already taken place under Garrett, can take that talent far.

    By the way, awesome commentary and analysis by all. Love to read your thoughts.

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