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Cowboys vs. Redskins Week 15 Initial Post-Game Notes, Observations

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Jonathan Bales

  • Bryan McCann looked great on his first three returns, and he should be the Cowboys’ primary return man.  I think Dez Bryant will be a large enough part of the offense in 2011 that McCann should retain that spot next year as well.  He’s clearly a better option than Kevin Ogletree.
  • When the Cowboys fake an end-around after handing the ball off to a running back, the fake needs to be cleaner.  The wide receiver is often too late in coming around, making it easy for defenders to recognize the call.  I think Jason Garrett should change the design of those “ghost” end-arounds so that the receiver comes in short motion from the slot to make the timing easier to execute.
  • I’ve been extremely impressed with Orlando Scandrick over the last six or so games.  The biggest difference in his game is simply that he has regained his confidence.
  • Speaking of Scandrick. . .every time he blitzes, good things seem to happen.  The offensive line never accounts for a cornerback, and if the running back sneaks out early or misses his block, Scandrick is home free.  The same is true for the other defensive backs.  Both Scandrick and Gerald Sensabaugh had sacks today.
  • On the Cowboys’ second possession (I think), they had a 2nd and Goal from the one-yard line.  That is not the time to get fancy, but Garrett decided to throw the ball.  It might be boring, but three straight quarterback sneaks is probably the highest percentage play in that situation.  The chances of a loss are minimal, and I find it hard to believe Jon Kitna wouldn’t be able to gain a half-yard on three attempts.
  • On 4th an Goal on the same possession, the Cowboys needed a great push.  So what play did they go to?  You guessed it–a strong side dive from “Double Tight Left I.”  Unbelievable.  I know Garrett thinks the line should be able to drive defenders off of the ball enough to gain a yard, but he needs to be more realistic.  It’s a game of percentages, and basically telling the defense exactly where a play is going doesn’t help those percentages.  This play has to leave.
  • We saw the return of “Gun 5 Wide Tight” during situations in which the Cowboys thought a blitz might be coming.  I’ll get the numbers to you tomorrow.

  • With the exception of a throw or two, Kitna was extremely accurate all day.  I’m going to do a study on the off-target passes of Kitna/Romo sometime this week, but I think Kitna has been slightly more accurate.
  • Sam Hurd has the ability to make plays, but his biggest problem is consistency.  There are times when he seems just a little late to a ball or just slightly out of control.  I thought he should have made a play on the 3rd and Goal fade thrown to him.
  • We finally saw Garrett give some playing time to new players.  You may have noticed that Brandon Williams was active for what I think was the first time all season (need to check that).  Leon Williams also got some playing time, and Victor Butler got even more reps than usual.  Butler has plays superior to Anthony Spencer this year, in my view, due to his improvement against the run.
  • I thought we might see the return of the “Wildcat” today, and we did–for one play.  Tashard Choice took the snap and handed the ball to Felix Jones.  Jones tossed it back to Kitna and ran up the sideline.  I don’t think Jones was the first option on the play, but Kitna bought some time and then found Jones down the sideline for a big gain.  Awesome play call, and I hope we see Wildcat more in short-yardage situations.  If Garrett is going to allow the defense to know where the play is going anyway, he might as well allow for there to be an extra blocker with Choice receiving the snap directly.
  • Once again, the clock management before halftime was awful.  The Cowboys had three timeouts, but didn’t use one until there was 27 seconds left on the clock.
  • I’ve seen a steep decline from Terence Newman this season, particularly over the last month.  Most notable is a loss of straight-line speed.  He got beat by both Santana Moss and Anthony Armstrong today.
  • I think a large part of the Cowboys’ success through the air today came because they worked the middle of the field.  If teams are going to make sure Dallas can’t beat them outside, they’ll have to continue to find Witten up the seam.  You might see Martellus Bennett get more involved here soon as well.
  • Alan Ball is absolutely atrocious against the run.  Did you see him get trucked by Ryan Torain?  Even worse is that he takes poor angles to the football, which is unacceptable for a free safety.
  • Dallas was in a four-man defensive line for the majority of the second half.  I’m not sure why.  If your base defense is a 3-4, why run a 4-3 (or 4-2-5) for nearly an entire half?  It clearly didn’t work.
  • The Cowboys blew coverages on a handful of occasions, which rarely happened under Wade Phillips.  I don’t think Paul Pasqualoni is the answer at defensive coordinator.  He’s not innovative at all.

More to come tomorrow. . .

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13 Responses to Cowboys vs. Redskins Week 15 Initial Post-Game Notes, Observations

  1. starred4life says:

    I’ve been meaning to ask this question for a while now: who would you bring in for defensive coordinator when the season is over?

  2. JJ says:

    Jonathan-

    Glad you mentioned clock management…still an issue.
    Bob Sturm beat me to it but I kept thinking the entire game…who in Cowboys organization is adept at talent evaluation in players and coaches. I don’t think any Defensive coaches nor Houck nor Wade Wilson should be back next year.

    Many writers complain that the Cowboys are stupid due to penalties. I say that are just not as talented as people think. Penalties on DBs and the OLine prove this out.

    I hope Ratliff gets a shot to be a DE next year. Then go add another DE and hope Brent emerges…maybe…just maybe.

    Either Newman is really hurt or is just slipping. Either way, he’s aging and time to find another starter. Everyone thought it should be to replace Jenkins…I’m not so sure.

    Ball is just useless. whether in coverage or against the run, I find it appalling that someone thought he was the answer.

    Somehow Austin needs to emerge even if double covered.

    Finally, the Cowboys must hope some of the younger LBs emerge. Brooking is old and James is not getting any younger. Watching James and/or Brooking in coverage is painful.

  3. moses says:

    Garrett has gotten a lot more creative in the offensive calls and personnel which is great.

    The defense has fallen off quite a bit. Remember that the Redskins only scored 13 points in the first game. The secondary has regressed a lot. Which is funny since everyone thought that it would be a strength.

  4. bW says:

    I think brandon Williams was active last week against the eagles. I think they had Butler inactive in his place that game. Could be wrong.

  5. john coleman says:

    starred4life-Mike Nowlin/Nolen from Denver last season. I’m not sure where he is, but he had them playing pretty well. A darkhorse could be Dave Wannstedt, if he is interested. He has history with us. I definitely think PP is not the guy. I would keep him as a position coach though. I think he and Sherman should be the only holdovers. Campo must go! The DBs are atrocious. Newman is clearly overmatched outside and if the coaches can’t see that they are blind. Newman should be moved inside or to FS. His skills and experience would allow him to be a good centerfielder. People question his tackling, but he is better than Ball. I think O-Scan could better run with guys outside. We also have McCann and T.Williams who can run and should improve. Although the may be considering T.Williams for a move to WR. I know he has been running at WR on the scout team. There are also some nice prospects at FS and CB in the draft that will/should be available in the 2nd -4th. The top two will be gone unless we trade up. I think a move up is unlikely unless we give up quite a bit. Peterson would be great, but our little winning streak is moving us out of position. A guy like Rashad Carmichael, Va Tech, 5-10,185, 4.29 40 late 2nd -3rd ight work. He seems to play best against quality competition. Simply put we need a guy who can run with DeSean Jackson. Rules won’t allow us to knock his head off. We have McCann who has great speed. Two guys who can run low 4.3 to high 4.2 would be unmatched in the league. The question becomes can they tackle and cover. Newman to FS would allow us to groom Ansah and a rookie such as Deunta Williams. Clearly the defensive side of the ball is the biggest concern. IMO we need to trade down or out of the 1st and make three strikes in the 2nd and a couple in the 3rd. A few names I like; Ballard DE, Taylor DT, Williams FS, Carmichael CB, Cannon OT/OG, Ziemba OT, Hightower ILB, Irving ILB, and McCarthy ILB. That list is not all inclusive but all should be 2nd-4th rdrs. Sorry for the rant like post, but it is clear that we must improve our D. When Grossman torches you, you are bad. There are also some great prospects in later rds like Kenrick Ellis DT, Zach Hurd OG, Scott Lutrus ILB, and Chris Nairston OG/OT who have good measurables but will likely require coaching up. JB have you researched Dom DeCicco? He is 6-3 230 4.64 and has played both safety and ILB. A touch slow for a safety but he should be a thumper. A touch light 5 to 10 lbs for an ILB, but his speed is in line at ILB and he should have SOME cover skills. If we get widebody guys for NT and move Rat/Brent we could keep big olinemen off of a 230 lb ILB. I also think with the no contact league future you better have SS and ILB players who can cover. A couple more names for you JB; Chris Conte and Brian Lainhart. Looks like were picking 12th at best now. PS-Witten seems to be coming back to form.

  6. Pingback: Cowboys vs. Redskins Week 15 Film Study Observations | Dallas Cowboys Times

  7. Starred–I’d personally want an aggressive D-Coordinator. I think Ron Rivera from SD would be a perfect fit, but the problem is, if Garrett wins the coaching job, no D-Coordinator is really going to just give up their current gig for the same one here. Rivera would come to Dallas to be the head coach, but why would he leave the same position where he’s comfortable? That’s why I think the DC next season will probably be a college guy or a current position coach, assuming Garrett wins the job. Example of guys I like (not that Dallas could necessarily get) are Rivera, Gregg Williams, and Dom Capers.

    JJ–You know, I wasn’t initially in favor of moving Ratliff to DE, but I’m warming up to the idea. It would be less damage on him, and I think Hatcher/Brent/Ratliff is a better starting line than Hatcher/Ratliff/???, assuming Hatcher stays next season. A lot will depend on the draft.

    bW–I’ll check that out.

  8. John–I think a trade down is more likely, as there are a lot of holes to fill. I’ll have a better feel for the draft in a couple of weeks once I can study it more. Can’t wait for that. And Witten has been great lately, which would support your idea that he may have been hurting. Don’t forget the ‘Skins left the middle of the field wide open yesterday though. I still think Witten’s lost a little something, but maybe not as much as we had thought.

  9. And no..haven’t been able to look at much stuff on DeCicco or many players other than the top guys (and whoever I was able to watch during the college season). I’m hoping to have draft coverage that is even better than that of last year, though, so we’ll definitely have some awesome debates in the coming weeks/months.

  10. JJ says:

    In reading the comments, you tend to forget how quickly time passes and must commend teams like the Eagles and Pats for getting younger and better. While the Cowboys now have to deal with the incorrect assessment (and honestly, my biggest concern…the inability for Jerry and the coaches to really assess talent) of players in secondary and OLine as well as the 09 draft…father time begins to nip at the heels of good players such as Witten, Ware, Romo and James.

    This does not mean they are washed up but the Cowboys must find “players” not stop gaps to take advantage of this window of players such as Ware, Austin, Romo, etc. Frankly, they waited too long on Newman, the DLine and the OLine. And, if for some reason Roy Williams is gone next year, it’s not clear that the Cowboys have an answer for a capable 3rd receiver.

    John Coleman, I like your thoughts but I’m not convinced T Williams, McCann, etc are anything more than just projects. McCann is serviceable but not a fit for a championship defense. I think Jerry lowered the bar this year with dancing bears going off in his head thinking this team was something it was not. There was no one like Parcells to get him thinking straight. I really though Stephen Jones was that guy but it appears that’s not the case either. I certainly hope someone steps up with personnel real soon.

  11. JJ–You’re spot on about what I consider to be the organization’s largest weakness–not replacing players a little too early instead of too late. However, I somewhat disagree with your assessment of McCann. I don’t think he’s a Championship-caliber defender YET either, but I wouldn’t write him off as a guy who can turn into that. Certainly as an undrafted free agent, he’s not there yet. I do think he has the raw tools that make for a very high ceiling, however, as opposed to a guy like Crayton (first name that came to mind) whose skill set naturally limited his upside.

  12. JJ says:

    Jonathan- Thanks for insight (it makes for healthy debate…just like if Buehler can be the guy or not). I’ll leave the door open for McCann. I think he’s a good returner and can be serviceable as a DB. I’m just skeptical that he could replace Newman…I suppose I would rather see a taller DB with speed that can tackle. U

    I also must add that when i hear Jerry or any member of the coaching staff rave about a player…it now concerns me. They did this when talking about Ball, Sensabaugh and the OLine….

    By the way, what is your best guess on why the Cowboys would not give a few reps to a player like Young? There must be a reason.

  13. JJ–I’d agree McCann isn’t ready to replace Newman for another year or two. I do think his skill set is there, so it just comes down to work ethic and opportunities. He seems like a gamer to me.

    I think the Cowboys aren’t giving Young reps because of OL continuity. It’s easy to take out a cornerback if he’s struggling, because his presence doesn’t necessarily affect his teammates to a significant degree. The offensive line must play as one cohesive unit, though, and Garrett might be scared Young doesn’t possess the experience with Davis to play right now. I don’t think it is a great reason, but that would be my guess.

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