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Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles Week 17 Film Study Observations

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Jonathan Bales

Before I get into my film study observations, I want to remind all of the DC Times regulars to submit ideas for studies you’d like me to complete.  The Cowboys surely need to move forward in 2011, but you can’t adequately progress as a team until you properly understand your weaknesses.  You can submit ideas in the contact form or in the comments of any post.

  • I noticed the Cowboys got to the line-of-scrimmage a lot quicker than normal this week.  Stephen McGee issued just one “Kill” call (indicating the team called two plays in the huddle), so I think Jason Garrett made a concerned effort to call just one play and allow McGee to have plenty of time at the line to assess the defense.  Nice job.
  • I wanted to see a lot of screens, but the ‘Boys ran just four.  Three of them were unsuccessful (an incomplete pass, a loss of a yard, and, inexplicably, a sack).  I think the sack was the result of predictability, as the Cowboys lined up in “Strong Right” and ran their typical “flare screen.”  The cornerback recognized it and jumped all over Felix Jones, however, so McGee couldn’t even make the throw.  The one successful screen was the 32-yard gain to Miles Austin on 3rd and 13 during the first drive.
  • Dallas also ran just two draws for five total yards.
  • Garrett clearly made an effort to use “big” personnel packages.  Of the Cowboys’ 61 “real” offensive plays (disregarding a spike and a kneel down), there was a fullback or two tight ends–or more often both–on the field on 48 of them (78.7 percent).
  • The Cowboys ran to the weak side with great success in this game, particularly out of regular “I-Formation.”  Actually, the Cowboys only ran to the strong side seven times, gaining just 16 total yards on those plays (2.29 yards-per-carry).  They ran to the weak side four times for 43 yards (10.75 yards-per-carry).  The rest of the designed runs were out of balanced formations due to the abundance of two tight end sets.
  • For the first time in his career as a play-caller, Garrett called more motions in the second half (10) than in the first half (five).  This strategy was likely an attempt to simplify the game plan for McGee.
  • Running back snap breakdown: Felix Jones: 31; Tashard Choice: 19; Marion Barber: 12
  • The Cowboys used playaction six times, gaining 63 total yards.  Only one of those six passes was thrown past the line-of-scrimmage (the 31-yard gain to Miles Austin).
  • I counted 10 of McGee’s passes as being off-target.  He only attempted 27, so that number is really poor.  As I mentioned in my post-game notes, McGee seems superior when throwing on the run.
  • I predicted the Eagles would blitz more than in the teams’ first matchup, and they nearly doubled that total with 20 blitzes on Sunday.  The Cowboys gained just 67 total yards on those 20 plays.  With the success Philly found early when pressuring McGee, I’m not sure why they held back.  Actually, McGee was just 4/15 for 70 yards on Philly’s blitzes.  He finished ahead of Tamba Hali (14.5) and Cameron Wake (14).
  • DeMarcus Ware finished the season as the league’s sack king with 15.5 of them.
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14 Responses to Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles Week 17 Film Study Observations

  1. Mark Watkins says:

    Thanks Jonathan. Looks like McGee has a lot of work to do before he has any chance of being even a quality backup, don’t you think? There were at least some positives though. There are several players that I was really disappointed in this season, but possibly none as much as Spencer. I really expected to see big things out of him this year, especially with the way he finished last year. Now it seems like V. Butler might take his starting gig away. Maybe a new D-Coordinator can get more out of him. Speaking of which, who do you think might be the best candidate to get that job, since it looks like Garrett is all but officially named HC? Also, the 9th draft spot isn’t too bad. I agree with you and some of the others that trading down might be the best option from that spot, depending on who is available. I would love it if Patrick Peterson was still available then, but I would think that is a huge long shot.

  2. Mark–Definitely. I like his raw skills and love his mobility, but he needs a ton of work with his arm. As far as DC, I would LOVE to see Dom Capers come in. He has the creativity and 3-4 experience to thrive here.

  3. JJ says:

    Here, here on Capers. I believe his contract is up with Pack at the end of this season (I may be wrong here) so I’m hoping he and Garrett are tight so Capers can be persuaded.

    Also, it would be fantastic if Miami got rid of Sparano and he came back.

    I posted this on another submission but I recall how much Romo used to praise David Lee and with Garrett as HC, there really needs to be another “QB whisperer” that can help Romo mentally and groom McGee…the only reason this does not launch me out of my chair (I have never been big with Wade Wilson as QB coach) is because Kitna is probably the defacto QB coach to some degree.

    Jonathan-i’d be interested in a real player evaluation based on your study. For example, you astutely recognized that Gurode improved as the year went on…I feel that happened for Scandrick as well. Ultimately, your insight as to the players abilities would be intriguing. This leads to questions such as:

    If Barber is gone, are the Cowboys solid with what they have?
    If Williams is gone, do the Cowboys have a real 3rd WR on the roster who can make plays?
    Are there two ILBs on the team today that could replace James/Brooking and make the team better?
    How well has Brent played? Well enough to take over the nose and move Ratliff to DE?
    Is Jenkins salvagable?
    Who needs to go on the OLine?

    Is there a player that played well this year that just never received the props he deserved? How about a player that really played poorly but somehow it was overlooked?

  4. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    Well now, you’re speaking my subject Johnny Bizzell

    Improvements for next year – let’s start at the top:

    Head Coach – Jason Garrett. Already decided and I think its a good thing.
    Off Coord – Someone who can come in and instill a 50/50 type offense. That’s 50 percent rushing and 50 percent passing type of balance offense. The vertical passing 65/35 type of offense isn’t what we need anymore.
    Def Coord – someone who can get more out of our DBs. I’m not convinced Sensabaugh, Ball, Jenkins, Scandrick and Newman are all that bad but are just asked to do too much and are vulnerable one on one for long periods of time.
    Specialty coaches – hire as needed.

    The team:
    QB – we’re fine.
    RB – given a movement toward more rushing, we’ll need another FB. 2 RBs and 2 FBs would be better suited and FBs are much easier to come by via free agency or later rounds in the draft.
    WR – we’re fine. Roy Williams has earned another year.
    TE – need to find a larger role for Phillips. Perhaps Martellus Bennett is trade bait.
    O Line – draft T, G and C w/ 3 of the 1st four picks. When you look around the league, the better O line personnel were taken earlier in the draft. There’s just no way around it. Cut Barron, Davis, Columbo and Holland. Pick up a Guard who can play C as backup via free agency.
    D Line – 1st pick in the draft. Either a prototypical DT (6’1″-6’4″; 325+ lbs) or larger DE. Acquire Richard Seymour via free agency for 2 years and use primarily on passing downs (and as player-coach to the young guys). Keep Bowen and Hatcher.
    LB – pick up an ILB/MLB via free agency. Barrett Ruud or someone of that sort. Lee and Williams need more grooming/time.
    DB – sign FS via free agency. Either Sensabaugh or Ball should go but probably not both at the same time.
    K – acquire a FG kicker; draft or free agency. Keep Buehler for kickoffs.

  5. Scott says:

    Jonathan, just a quick note that it looks like your last sentence of the penultimate point belongs at the end of the last one.

  6. VINCE GREY says:

    TJ – I know JB will respond, but here’s my 2 cent’s worth.

    I’d love to see us run the ball more, but by that, I mean more effectively, not (necessarily) more often. I think too often the team asks Romo to be Peyton Manning and carry the whole offense and maybe he’s not quite up to that. IMO, Tony’s a really fine QB, but maybe a notch below Brady/Manning/Brees level and he needs a running game.

    Defensive coaching staff needs an entire overhaul, with the emphasis on aggressive play, turnovers, and tackling.

    At TE, Phillips looked to be ready to step out as a real player, but it remains to be seen how long his recovery will take. Might be another year before he’s fully back. So far, Martellus Bennett is more tease than production. Not sure we’d get anything in trade.

    Agree the line needs an overhaul, but 3 top picks might be overkill with all our other needs. I’d look at center as well. Personally, I’m tired of the bad snaps and poor blitz reads. Draft looks deep at tackle, weak at guard, ok at center, but Penn St has a really good one coming out.

    Rather than draft a 3-4 DE with such a high pick, what about getting a stud NT (Like Jerrell Powe from Ole Miss) and move Ratliff to DE, which is probably his better position anyway? One pick, upgrade two positions.

    ILB, a need but not a big one. I think we just need to find one nasty slobber-knocker to go inside with Lee and we’ll be fine there. Shouldn’t be that hard to find one of those later in the draft.

    DB – Overhaul. I think (Hope?) Newman just had a bad year and has another decent year or two left in him, but Jenkins either must man up or go. His wussy tackling was just a sign of this defense’s lack of hard-nosed play overall. He can change, but I’d have him on a short leash. The safeties are average on their best days, and stink on the bad days. Does anyone realize we could have had Ed Reed instead of Roy Williams back in the `02 draft?

    Kicker… I just don’t know. They’re so darned iffy and streaky that Buehler could well be a great kicker next year. Or suck. Who knows? I just know we never had kicking issues when Steve Hoffman was here, no matter who the kicker was.

  7. Yes, I believe Capers’ contract is up JJ. I’m not aware of a Garrett/Capers relationship, but it doesn’t take long to become buddies if a guy is helping you win football games. I think Capers’ style really fits well with what JG will try to do offensively.

    Also, my player grades and evaluation will be coming in the next few weeks. It will be similar to what I did last season (check the “Grading the ‘Boys” segments in the film study section). And some quick thoughts on your questions:

    1. Yes, but a developmental 3rd back is needed.
    2. Not really…I think the Cowboys need to stray a bit from their “prototypical” WR and find a Harvin/McCluster-like player who can do a lot of different things, including thrive in the slot. That type of player would also aid with question no. 1.
    3. No. I think James and Lee will start next year. Lee is already an upgrade to Brooking IMO, but James is still the best ILB on the team, and by a wide margin.
    4. Brent played well, but not incredibly. If he was high to mid-round draft pick, I don’t think people would be so high on him. Nice find in the supplemental draft and I think he’ll get better, but not close to being ready to start.
    5. Jenkins will improve in 2011. Mark my words. It’s all about confidence, and he’ll regain it.
    6. Colombo HAS TO GO! If he is starting in 2011, there is a major problem.
    7. Most Overrated: Igor Olshansky. He really had a horrible season, but people haven’t focused on it much. He needs to go. Another candidate would be Jay Ratliff.
    Most Underrated: Gerald Sensabaugh. I know he isn’t a popular guy, but he actually played okay over the second half of the season. Not outstanding, but not as bad as people think. Other candidates for ‘underrated’ would be Martellus Bennett (blocking) and Scandrick.

  8. Tyrone–I agree with some of your assessments. What I disagree on is the 50/50 offense. I think a “balanced” offense nowadays is 60/40. Rushing efficiency matters more than attempts, and efficiency can be garnered by rushing less. That efficiency (if used correctly) can be parlayed into big plays in the passing game, which wins games.

    I also think two fullbacks is a stretch. I do wish the Cowboys still had a punishing lead blocker (Deon Anderson was wildly underrated in that department). The importance of receiving skills from a FB is overrated, so I think Gronkowski is just an “okay” player.

    I don’t think Williams will be back next year. He played okay, but his contract is way too steep to justify keeping. I also don’t want to trade Bennett. His value on the market is nowhere near justifying letting him go. He’s actually quite valuable in the run game.

    Agree both safeties can’t go. I’d actually keep both players, but move Ball back to a CB/FS backup. Bring in a free safety and live with Sensy at strong.

  9. Vince–Didn’t see your comment before I answered Tyrone, but you can see I agree with your thoughts on rushing efficiency. JG needs to find a way to improve the running game, and the big plays will follow. People sometimes think I undervalue the running game because I think teams should pass 60-65 percent of the time, but I think running the ball effectively is extremely important. It’s just that the value comes later through big plays in the passing game, not in the four and five yard runs that set it up.

  10. VINCE GREY says:

    Retouch on a couple of things. On Martellus Bennett, I agree that he’s a top run blocker, and while that’s important, let’s face it, run blocking TE’s who don’t factor in much as a receiving threat aren’t exactly top trade bait.

    Thing is, I think Bennett has all the tools to be a Witten level receiver, but for some reason it’s not clicking yet. Phillips, OTOH, really impressed me as a receiver before he got hurt.

    As for two FB’s, I agree that’s overkill unless you have one “pure” lead blocker and another who can block but also be productive as a RB. Personally, assuming Barber is gone, I think we need to get a power back to go with Jones and Choice. Should be able to find one in the later rounds.

    JB, “Jenkins will improve”. Hmm… we’ll see. My question, is that supposed “confidence” going to get him to tackle? Sensabaugh impressed you more than me. I see him as a good backup safety more than as a starter on a quality defense.

  11. Mark Watkins says:

    Speaking of power backs, what do those of you who are draftniks think of John Clay of Wisconsin if he comes out. I was watching him run and thinking he could be a good fit for the Boys, depending upon how high he goes.

  12. JJ says:

    One of the challenges is that you just can’t replace everyone…ILB, to me, is so critical in the 3-4 because once your DLineman engage, the running game up the middle needs to be shut down by your ILBs. While James is the best, he is woefully inadequate in coverage. I’d like to see another ILB that can run and be physical.

    Nevertheless, to me it doesn’t make sense to give up on Jenkins, Bennett and other young players that have talent but just need coaching. A new voice coaching the secondary (we miss Todd Bowles) will help. I think it’s too much to ask aging veterans like Newman to “get it back.” It’s time for him to depart or become a back up. I once thought he could be FS but I’m not so sure because he isn’t that physical. I agree with JB that Ball should go back to 3rd or 4th CB. I’m not sold on Sensabaugh though. He’s better than what we have but he just does not bring forth a dominating presence as a strong safety that you would like to see. He reminds me of Kosier on offense. Not great. Probably underappreciated but if you could upgrade, you would, but other needs are more pressing.

    The pending coaching news not just for a head coach but the assistants will make for great anticipation as well as the draft and “talent acquisition.”

  13. bW says:

    Didn’t we have a chance to get capers a couple of years ago? I though he was going to be a consultant or something but he declined because he didnt want to make our DC at the time uncomfortable.
    Do you guys think capers would want to make a lateral move? He’s got a good gig in GB. I doubt GB just let’s him walk.

  14. Vince–I too am excited to see Phillips come back next year. He looked outstanding in the preseason, and although he’ll be coming off a major injury, I think he will have had enough time to return in the greatest shape of his life.

    Jenkins will improve simply because of regression to the mean. Even if he doesn’t TRULY improve, his play SHOULD be a lot better simply because, with his skill set, it can’t get much worse.

    Mark–I have watched Clay a few times, but I have no idea how high he’s slated to go. I’m a little weary of spending a high or mid-rounder on a limited RB, but a late pick or FA signing would be great.

    bW–That is going to be the problem..really doubt Capers would leave GB for the same spot, but $ can make a big difference.

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