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Cowboys Video: The Romo, Williams Connection

Jonathan Bales

I talked briefly about the Cowboys’ goal line plays during their first series against the Bengals in my film study observations and a recent mailbag.

Below is an analysis of the 2nd and Goal play which resulted in an incomplete pass to Roy Williams.  Williams ran a tremendous slant route, but the pressure forced Romo to overthrow him.  But was it the right route?  Take a look. . .

In my opinion, there’s no way for us to decipher whose “fault” it was that the play was unsuccessful.  The cornerback was playing with inside leverage, meaning a receiver would typically run an out-breaking route if given an option.

But not all plays have an “option” route designed into them.  It is true that goal line plays frequently have a receiver option.  If that was the case on this particular 2nd and Goal play, then Williams probably should have run an out, corner, back shoulder fade, etc.

We have no way of knowing the play-call, though.  Perhaps Williams wasn’t given an option and was told to strictly run a slant.

I also disagree with Bryan Broaddus’ interpretation that Romo’s shoulder position meant he was expecting Williams to run an out-breaking route.  Perhaps Romo was thinking just that, but he often uses his shoulders to manipulate defenders.

Further, it would have been extremely difficult for Romo to even recognize the slight inside leverage with which the cornerback was playing.  Romo was 15+ yards away from the cornerback and, unless his depth perception is superhuman, he probably wouldn’t be able to notice the difference between the cornerback playing head-up or with a half-yard of inside leverage.  Remember, he doesn’t have the bird’s eye view that we do.

Instead, Romo would wait for Williams to make his move on an option route before throwing the ball.  That slight hesitation is the price they must pay for implementing extra options into a route.  Thus, even if it was an option route, Romo wouldn’t be whole-heartedly anticipating an out-breaking route, even if he thought it might be coming.

So was the throw Romo’s fault?  Not at all.  He did double-clutch the ball (perhaps thrown off by Williams’ uncanny fake), but his initial pump was probably due to a lack of protection.  He had to get the ball out as soon as possible, meaning if Williams did run an out-breaking route, Romo had to be prepared to unleash the ball.

So was it all the fault of the offensive line?  Nope.  The Bengals sent eight defenders after Romo.  The ‘Boys had just seven players to block.  Sure, you might expect a little more time than what we saw, but it isn’t like Romo will have all day to sit back and throw.

You might be asking, “But how could it not be anyone’s fault?”  Well, the fact that no one is at fault doesn’t mean the play was perfectly executed (obviously).  Everyone can do the right thing without doing it perfectly.  Perhaps a more cohesive offensive line would have resulted in better protection.  Maybe a better connection between Romo and Williams would have resulted in a different outcome.

So while no one was at fault, everyone still needs to improve.  Hey, that’s what preseason is for.


Preseason Week 1, Cowboys vs. Bengals Preview: 19 Things to Watch

Jonathan Bales

Note: This is a two-page entry.

The Cowboys’ first game is finally here!  I’ve listed 19 (yeah, 19, wanna fight about it?) things for you to watch this Sunday night when the Cowboys take on the Bengals.

1. How much will the starters play?

Coach Wade Phillips has said most of the starters will be out of the game quickly.  Tony Romo & Co. will probably receive one series on offense, whether they score a touchdown or go three-and-out.  The lone exceptions on offense could be left tackle Doug Free, who the coaches surely want to monitor closely, and fullback Deon Anderson due to the nature of his position.

On defense, free safety Alan Ball may stay in the ballgame a bit longer than the other starters, although he has at least racked up significant game film at his position (as opposed to Free, whose left tackle game tape is minimal).

2. Will the first-string offense score on their first drive?

I recently recapped the Cowboys’ 2009 woes on initial drives.  It will be interesting to see how the offense starts (particularly if they are aggressive) against a much improved Bengals defense.

3. How will new Bengal Terrell Owens be treated by his former Dallas teammates?

T.O. left Dallas on somewhat bitter terms, but don’t think for a second that he doesn’t still have a lot of friends in this locker room. Owens figures to be greeted warmly by most of the roster, particularly because it is just a preseason game.  Let’s see how Owens and Romo interact if they cross paths after the game.

4. How will Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins perform against “Batman” (T.O.) and “Robin” (Chad Ochocinco)?

I guess Ochocinco isn’t a good enough nickname, so Chad needed a new moniker.  In any event, this will be a good test (albeit a short one) for a cornerback duo I rated as the third-best in the NFL.

5. Who will step up in the tight race for the fourth cornerback job?

The battle for the fourth cornerback spot is one of my favorite of the preseason.  It is particularly intriguing because, in my estimation, the versatility of safeties Ball and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah will allow Dallas to keep just four corners.

Each guy has advantages over the others.  Cletis Gordon’s experience has him in the lead as of now.  Bryan McCann is the most athletic of the group.  Coach Phillips has even labeled him the best in coverage “when he is on,” but he is also quite frail and may not be physical enough in live action.  Rookie Jamar Wall has struggled a bit, particularly in coverage, but the ‘Boys invested a sixth-round draft pick in him.

Right now, I’d give a slight advantage to Gordon with McCann’s upside putting him right in the mix.  Wall will need to show he can make some plays to stick around.

6. How will Alan Ball tackle?

Ball missed 22.2 percent of tackles last season, forcing me to provide him with a “D” in run support.  His athleticism and speed should allow him to make some plays in the passing game, but he really needs to show he can hold up against the run.  He could get a few series worth of work on Sunday night to prove he can do so.

7. Will Anthony Spencer, who has a bruised Achilles tendon, receive any reps?

Spencer hurt his Achilles before Tuesday’s practice and is now questionable for Sunday night.  I’d presume the Cowboys will hold him out for precautionary reasons, not risking putting the potential Pro Bowl player in for even a series.

8. If Spencer doesn’t start, who will replace him:  Victor Butler or Brandon Williams?

Butler is currently listed as Spencer’s primary backup at strong side OLB on the initial Cowboys depth chart, but Williams has been a beast so far in camp.  It will be interesting to see if Williams’ superior run defense skills and tremendous training camp play are reasons enough for the Cowboys to place him on the strong side as the starter opposite DeMarcus Ware.

9. Will either Robert Brewster or Sam Young, both of whom have played well at offensive tackle during training camp, step up in their first game action?

Brewster tore his pectoral muscle before even getting started last season.  Both he and Young have played pretty well so far in San Antonio.  With Doug Free, Alex Barron, and Marc Colombo all locks to make the final roster, Brewster and Young could be fighting one another for a job.

10. Will left tackle Alex Barron limit his false starts and outperform starter Doug Free?

Barron should see a ton of reps this preseason in his effort to take over the starting left tackle job.  I’ve already explained why false starts aren’t all that costly to an offense, but Barron will definitely need to limit them as to not infuriate the coaches.  I personally think Barron has a tremendous opportunity to unseat Free, and it starts this weekend.

Click here to go to page two.