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Cowboys vs. Chargers Preseason Film Study Observations

Jonathan Bales

I’ve already posted initial game notes, “DOs and DON’Ts analysis,” and what we learned from the Cowboys/Chargers game.  Now that I’ve finally had a chance to completely break down the film, here are my final observations.

Play-Calling/Formation Notes

  • The Cowboys lined up in Double Tight Left (or Right) Strong Left (or Right) seven times on Saturday night, running a strong side dive all seven times. They gained 22 total yards (3.14 yards-per-carry).  I know it is only preseason, but this is getting a bit ridiculous.  However, all seven of the plays came with the backups in the game–perhaps not a coincidence.  Here is my full analysis of the Cowboys’ play-calling out of the formation.
  • Overall, the Cowboys have run a strong side dive out of the formation on 12 of 14 plays this preseason (85.7 percent).
  • Last season, the Cowboys ran a strong side dive out of both the “Strong” and “I” variations of the “Double Tight Left or Right) formation (below).

  • This preseason, they are running weak side out of the latter variation (I-formation).  The reason is simple: the weak side lead block for the fullback is easier if he lines up behind the center as compared to lining up between the strong side guard and tackle.  On Saturday night, they lined up in Double Tight Right I Right twice, running weak side both times and losing four total yards.
  • The Cowboys have lined up in a new formation this year called “Double Tight Left Twins Right Ace” (or vice versa).  The play-calling out of this formation is by no means as predictable as that from “Double Tight Strong,” but I’ve noticed that Dallas has frequently lined up in “Double Tight Right Ace” and motioned the receiver on the Double Tight side of the formation over into a twins set, running a toss to the two-tight end side.  The play, which I (and not the Cowboys) have titled “Double Tight Right Ace Liz 28 Toss” is shown below.

  • The Chargers said they would blitz the Cowboys, and they did.  San Diego came after the Dallas’ quarterback 17 times after Oakland blitzed the ‘Boys just five times.  The Cowboys gained only 88 yards on these plays (5.18 yards-per-play).  Unfortunately, Romo was just one-for-five against the blitz for six yards and an interception. That won’t be a trend for a quarterback who is one of the league’s best in the face of pressure.
  • It seemed as though Dallas made it a priority for the quarterbacks to get the ball out of their hands quickly.  They allowed only one sack (Sam Young), but only six passes traveled more than 10 yards in the air, and only two more than 15.  An incredible 18 of the passes were five yards or less.

Players

  • I haven’t been impressed with fullback Chris Gronkowski.  I’ve seen multiple 53-man roster projections with him making the team over Deon Anderson.  You won’t find that in my roster projection.  Sure, Gronkowski is probably more athletic and a bigger receiving threat out of the backfield, but with the weapons the Cowboys possess on offense, does that really matter?  They don’t need another pass-catcher.  They need a powerful lead blocker, and right now Gronkowski isn’t showing that ability on film.  I’ve witnessed him lose his balance and dive at defenders on multiple occasions.
  • I still cannot figure out how Lonyae Miller has not jumped over Herb Donaldson on the depth chart.  Donaldson is extremely hesitant when running the ball and a poor receiver.  Miller has shown a knack for catching the ball and, although inconsistent, has at least shown some burst with the ball in his hands.
  • I’ve been impressed with Phil Costa at center.  Starter Andre Gurode is still one of the most important pieces of the offense, but Costa is making a case that he, and not Kyle Kosier, should be the backup center.
  • After watching more film, I am beginning to like safety Barry Church more and more.  He is never going to be a ball-hawk in the secondary, but he sure can tackle.  He has come flying up from the back of the secondary to make a few extraordinary tackles, yet still maintains control.
  • I was wrong on cornerback Cletis Gordon.  He will be the Cowboys’ fourth cornerback.  The one-handed interception and subsequent return he displayed in the fourth quarter in San Diego was a thing of beauty.
  • For more player observations, check my post-game notes. Player grades coming tomorrow.

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Cowboys News and Notes: 5/11/10 (Sean Lee, Alex Barron, Dez Bryant)

We agree, but only if Buehler shows he is not ready to handle all kicking duties.  The extra roster spot freed up by retaining just one kicker may seem minuscule, but it can really make a dramatic difference.  Players such as Marcus Dixon, Curtis Johnson, and Patrick Watkins will become huge Buehler fans this summer.

Still, kicker is such an important position that the Cowboys must make sure they are comfortable with whoever is kicking field goals.

Interestingly, the Patriots called Dallas.  Pats’ owner Bob Kraft opened with, “Hi Jerry, are you in the dealing business?”  Also significant is the fact that Coach Belichick appeared to be on the phone with the Ravens while Mr. Kraft was finalizing the deal with Jerry.  Said Belichick, “Hey Ozzie (Baltimore’s GM), Dallas is coming up here in front of us, unless you want to take it.”  This was followed by a prompt “okay” and Belichick hanging up the phone.

The draft is a cut-throat business, and the Patriots do it about as well as anyone.  Luckily for Dallas, the Ravens weren’t willing to make the move for Dez Bryant.

You probably know we are very high on Williams.  From a physical standpoint he is basically a rookie, but he does have a year of mental reps under his belt.  Williams is also immensely athletic–by far the defense’s fastest non-secondary player.  Lee also has underrated athleticism, however, so this will be an exciting battle to watch.

Cowboys’ undrafted rookie safety Barry Church, Pre-Draft

Overall, this was a great trade for Dallas.  Barron has disappointed thus far in his career, but so did Marc Colombo and Leonard Davis before joining the ‘Boys.  Barron has the right mindset to turn his career around.  We expect him to be the primary backup to Doug Free at left tackle, with Free moving to right tackle in the event of an injury to Colombo.

The Cowboys also rid themselves of Bobby Carpenter–the player we determined to be (by far) the worst on the entire defense last season.  We gave him a “D+” overall grade.

We actually don’t think Dez Bryant will receive enough targets to be in the 65-70 catch range.  Expect Roy Williams to open the season as the starter and for Bryant to attain somewhere in the vicinity of 45 catches for 650 yards and four touchdowns.