Immediately after the game I had a different opinion than most regarding Brandon Weeden’s performance. I was confident that the excessive use of check downs was a direct result of the Cowboys’ skill players failing to get open.
After reviewing the tape I could not have been more wrong.
The game plan with Weeden as the QB was obvious: let the RBs make plays in space against the Atlanta linebackers. However, while check downs are useful and did have success early in the game, you can not rely on them to consistently move the ball down the field.
Premeditated decisions seemed to kill Brandon Weeden this past Sunday. While his completion percentage may look appealing (only 4 incompletions), he left a lot of plays on the field.
On the play above you will see that Brice Butler is open. However, Weeden made up his mind pre-snap that he was going to Dunbar. Without any pressure, Weeden released the ball to Dunbar quickly, not even giving a chance for Brice Butler to finish his route.
If Weeden held onto the ball and went through his progressions a nice gain could have been made.
This kind of play happened way too often this past Sunday. In fact there were some plays where a receiver would be running alone, and Weeden never looked to that side of the field. Here is one example.
Junior on Twitter: “Look at witten at the 50, then dunbar at the 44, ball goes to dunbar, someone tell me why pic.twitter.com/6Bay5CMxQu / Twitter”
Look at witten at the 50, then dunbar at the 44, ball goes to dunbar, someone tell me why pic.twitter.com/6Bay5CMxQu
It was apparent in this game that Weeden is not confident throwing to the left side of the field. Weeden was hesitant to even look at the left side of the field far too often in this game.
On this play, Weeden was pressured early, rather than staying poised and finding the open man, he rolls right and throws the ball away.
Weeden failed to keep the defense honest, as he was overlooking open WRs consistently and opting for the safe check down throw.
Failing to look off the safety
One reason why the Atlanta Falcons were able to load the box on Sunday was that one deep safety covered the entire back end.
This is an area often under appreciated with elite quarterbacks like Tony Romo. Too often on Sunday their safety was able to take a straight drop back and not even move from the hash mark until the ball was released. It is incredibly hard to take shots down the field when a single high safety is not swayed to a side of the field and is able to cover multiple receivers with his positioning.
While often overlooked by the fans and media, I think this small part of the game was a major reason the Cowboys offense was limited in their playmaking ability.
Overall, Brandon Weeden did not play as I anticipated. Leading up to the week you heard Jerry Jones himself complement Weeden’s natural throwing ability. It is difficult to show that ability, however, if you do not have enough confidence in yourself to make throws down the field.
If Brandon Weeden doesn’t make better decisions, the Cowboys may have to evaluate their QB situation sooner, rather than later.