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The Blueprint to Paint the Big Blue Black and Blue

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"Whoever gets the mismatch gets the ball with us," Bennett said. "I think it's a great tool and a great weapon we showed."  Martellus Bennett dead panned.

Personally, I think this may have been the definition of tipping your hand, but then again, I think most defenses in this league expect the mismatches to get picked on.  And then, to take that a step further, how will defenses applying that information use it against us?  Honestly?

Here's what opposing defenses, provided our weapons can stay healthy, are up against.

Wide Receivers

Roy Williams (6'3" 215):  I think we can, at least, all agree he is a clutch possession receiver.  Though, I have to say, that Touchdown early in the second half looked alot like the Touchdown Larry Fitzgerald scored late in the Super Bowl last season.  Romo throws a beautiful rope hitting Roy in stride, effortlessly pulling in a ball that would break my hands off.

Patrick Crayton (6'0" 204):  He has often been regarded as having the best hand's on the team.  But after that 80 + yard touchdown against the Bucs, I'd say his offseason work added quite a bit to his explosion and overall speed.

Miles Austin (6'3" 214):  Speed has never been a concern.  It's what earned him a look from the Cowboys in the first place.  But last year, when he turned up field rather than keeping his orginal direction allowing the defense to thrwart his otherwise touchdown against Green Bay, we all saw why he was still a work in progress.  But against the Bucs, he showed the speed and the moves to complement him, as he took a 40+ catch in for a Touchdown, making two players miss one shortly after the first, to take the lead shortly before the end of the 1st half.

Sam Hurd and Kevin Ogletree (6'2" 208 & 6'0: 192):  Unless one of the above see injury, it's unlikely we see much of either this year.  But as a quick reminder, Hurd was the receiver who arguably had the best training camp of all the receivers making acrobatic catch, one after another and Kevin Ogletree played the best in preseason, unseating a fairly rooted 3rd year receiver Isaiah Stanback who was much better in Special Teams than Kevin; that mean's the coaches must have thought alot of Kevin to drop Isaiah, considering the 5th receiver spot typically goes to the Special Teams standout.

Tight Ends

Jason Witten (6'5" 263):  He won't wow you with speed or explosion, but he find's the soft spots in coverage and does not drop balls, as a general rule.  He is also a fairly dominant lead blocker out of the backfield and from the standard TE lineup.  Furthermore, he is Romo's favorite target.  That speaks volumes to Witten's reliability.

Martellus Bennett (6'6" 265):  Big mouth.  Big personality.  But he is all business on the field.  He, too, has displayed the ability to make some clutch catches, even when contested by a would-be defender.  This teamed with his wide receiver like speed, makes him extremely dangerous after the catch.

John Phillips (6'5" 255):  Think Jason Witten in the early years.  Of course, rather or not he can maintain intensity through severe adversity, such as a deabilitatant injury, remains to be seen, but in terms of his hands and his ability to block, he certainly seems to have the tools to be described as Witten-esqe.

Running Backs

Marion Barber (6, 0" 222):  Has proven on a fairly consistent basis that he is a reliable target out of the backfield.  If we are being honest, we haven't really seen the Barbarian like play, a moniker earned in the 2007 season, but he is still solid and can typically pick up 3 to 4 yard's after the 1st contact with the opposition.

Felix Jones (6'0" 218):  The first thing you notice is his explosion.  In space, he can turn a check down from Cowboy's 5 yard line to a touchdown 95 yards down the field in about 10 seconds.  After his initial explosion, you might notice that second gear he hit's when turning the corner.  If you don't know what I'm talking about look for Romo on a pitch to Jones on 4th and 3 against the Bengals on youtube or google it.  If you can, watch it in slow motion; when he turn's the corner watch as it seem's as though for a brief moment he is running in real time while everyone around him is still moving slow.  Lastly, there is his vision.  The ability to set up the next defender while making the 1st defender miss.  It's a rare ability that among Cowboy great's, only Emmitt Smith had and, though I'm not sure on this, perhaps Tony Dorsett.  But outside of those two, I don't think any RB's had vision that rivals that of Felix.

Tashard Choice (5'10" 212):  A combination of Felix and Marion, is the best way to describe him.  And, yes, he too can be threat out of the back field in screen and check down situations.

Deon Anderson (5'10" 245):  His colleague's describe him as a devastating lead blocker.  Considering his compact size and, yet, considerable weight, I don't doubt it.  But I've also seen him be pretty reliable in catching situations, as well.  So, he is something else an opposing defense has to think about.

Now, let's think of the above as a big odd number that a team has to find a common denominator to divide the Cowboy's by utilizing the combination of size and weight  and the respective talents of their own defensive players.  Quick note:  some players, regardless of size, play big, so you can't always just compare size and say it's a mismatch.  How do they match up to the various looks the Cowboys can create utilizing the above weapons?  I feel a series coming on.

Let's take a look at our next week opponents the Giants starting unit in the secondary.

Corners

Cory Webster (6'0" 202):  Clutch, but by no means what you would consider a lockdown corner.  So Roy Williams and company, with precise route running, will have opportunities.

Terrell Thomas (6'0" 199):  A second round pick by the Giants from 2008, you could say he's on Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick's level, which means, once again, Roy Williams and company will have opportunities.

Aaron Ross (6'0" 197):  According to the injury report, Aaron has a hamstring injury and is definitively out for next week's game.  Though, it would not be the first time Coughlin had a player miracously recover from an injury to play afterall.

Bruce Johnson (5'11" 182):  Who?  Oh, that undrafted rookie free agent.  Not much can be said, other than he beat out the rookies DeAndre Wright and Stoney Woodson drafted in the 6th and 7th rounds respectively to make the 53 man roster.

Linebackers

Danny Clark (6'2" 245):  A 10 year veteran, he is solid, particularly against the run, but I can't see him running with any of our TE's down the seam.

Antonio Pierce (6'1" 238):  A 9 year veteran, same issue as Danny Clark.

Bryan Kehl (6'2" 237):  Logged the least amount of tackles in his first year with the Giants last year, despite starting all 16 games.  If a Safety doesn't move up to cover our TE's, he will likely be the unlucky soul charged with the responsbility.

Safeties

Kenny Phillips (6'2" 210):  He's my favorite Giant, in a weird "I still hate you because of the team you represent" kind of way.  Not only is he good in coverage, but he can still lay the wood like the orginal prototypical SS.  Think 1st and 2nd year Roy Williams, with the coverage ability of  Gerald Sensabaugh.

Michael Johnson (6'2" 207):  I don't know much about him, but looking at his stat's, I'll say he is, at least, solid.  I would expect nothing less from a Coughlin staffed defense.

Four corners, with one definitely out for the game and the other an undrafted rookie, 3 safeties, and 4 linebackers.  That is the price the Giants paid to win battles at the line of scrimmage.  But for that ideaology to be effective, they have to win every battle at the line and, honestly, I don't think they can do that against the Cowboys, particular when the Cowboys show the 12 formation (i.e. two receivers, two TE's and one RB).  Considering the aforementioned, we will likely see a much more effective version of the Bucs defensive gameplan.  The Giants are going to force us to beat them deep, which also means the Cowboys offensive line is going to have to give Romo time; and that, admittedly, considering the talent and depth on the Giants defensive line, is going to be a tall order.  I said it of the Bucs game, and I'm sticking to this philosophical belief, the Cowboys will also need to employ some screens to back off that blitz, but I would not be suprised if Jason Garrett didn't come out of the gate wanting Romo to sling it deep to test that very thin secondary.

Now for the fun part.  Consider the above described 12 formation.   Webster and Thomas will likely pick up RW and Crayton.  Brian Kehl will likely pick up either Bennett or Witten, dependent on their alignment.  Who pick's up the other TE, particularly if they get motioned out wide?  The Safety.  What does that leave?  Either Crayton or William's in a one on one situation.  Are we getting the picture?  All of our receivers last Sunday displayed the ability to beat single-coverage.  It come's down to protecting Romo long enough to take advantage of the obvious mismatches:  The receiver in single coverage and/or the TE matched up with Kehl.  Pretty simple, actually.  I could do this all day, but I hope most of my reader's can read the above and imagine the amount of different alignment's the Cowboy's can do that will create several different undesirable situations for the Giant's defense.

The other side of the ball is a different question entirely.  Given the Cowboy's performance last week and considering the above, one could surmise that Sunday could turn into a shoot out.  I seriously doubt it, though.  It will be a close game, that will likely be decided by Special Teams and the turnover ratio.

Prediction:  Cowboys 24 Giants 20




I am 35, married and a father of 2 boys. I have been a Cowboys fan since Jimmy Johnson took over; not because I had anything against Tom Landry, but because it just so happens I was old enough to start following and understanding football right as that new era began. Since then, I haven't missed games if I could help it.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Joe C

    September 15, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ndsUZ6guWM&feature=fvw

    Link to Felix’s play you talk about here, also a few other of his highlights.

    Reflecting on that video, I am glad T.O. is gone, but no one can deny he was a workhouse until the end of every play, check him out @ 1:46-1:56… that is hard to replace, but I think we will be ok.

    Can’t wait or Sunday, hopefully we can come out with the W.

  2. Mick

    September 15, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    Hi Jonathan, thanks for the invite to your site, and congrats on the forum to contribute. I see your tune hasn’t changed regarding your fascination with the Martellus Bennett matchup vs. Giant LB’s. Pass-defending Linebackers are truly the weakspot for the Giant defense at least until Michael Boley gets up to speed. The problem with this alignment is that it leaves your average OT’s on islands with Tuck and Osi (Flozell is average at best at this stage of his fine career). Considering Romo’s compromised escapability (ankle), it will make for edge-of-your-seat action to see if he gets it off on time. My tune hasn’t changed either: Though the ‘Boys may win this game, personel will not be the Cowboys eventual undoing this year – Wade’s inability to lead and prepare his team will. Unfortunately for you and your comrads, JJ’s steadfast insistance at having a weak Headcoach to manipulate, and absorb the blame is what continues to pull the rug out from under the blue star. When it all falls apart this year, you all need to take some action to voice your displeasure . . . or don’t. Fine with me if the Cowboys continue to fall short of expectations – twelve years and counting . . .
    BTW, the player of the game last week for the G-Men was Corey Webster, who blanketed Santana Moss the entire game. Expect him to be covering your boy Roy.
    BTWW, the guy I fear the most on your offense is Felix the friggin’ cheatah – Dude is deadly! Garrett would be wise to get him alot of touches.

  3. Jonathan

    September 16, 2009 at 7:14 am

    Thanks for the response Mick.

    1st, just because the 12 alignment presents the Cowboys the opportunity to send up to 5 capable receivers out, doesn’t mean all will be sent out. A quick chip by each of our TE’s very well may be all that Romo need’s to find the open receiver. In defense of Flozell, he was average last year, because he had to play all year with injuries to his legs and hand, due to the lack of depth behind him. Are depth is better this year, and so is he.

    A team doesn’t alway’s need a coach to lead; sometimes the players can take that upon themselves. Watch for Demarcus Ware and Tony Romo to step up in a big way.

    I give the Giant’s defense their due, which is why I’m saying it’s going to be a close and moderately low scoring game. Corey Webster may keep Roy in check the vast majority of the day, but it only takes one mistake to change the outcome of a game.

    • Mick

      September 17, 2009 at 2:22 pm

      I agree with that. Truth be told, I predicted on our blogsite (NY Giants 101 – MVN) that Dallas would win this game. Giants usually perform poorly in early-season primetime. I’m sure Eric, Mike D and the boys will try to banish me, but who cares? I also said that the Cowboys’ won’t be able to handle their success. This is where Wade’s true liability will become glaring. Though Romo’s improv skills are tremendous (and he’s a great guy too), I don’t believe his leadership skills are enough to keep a whole team from going Twitter-happy. Though Ware’s a beast, he’s relatively soft-spoken – how’s he gonna convince youngsters like Felix, Martellus, et al to stop getting drunk on their Sportscenter highlights. Players such as Ray Lewis, Mike Strahan and Drew Brees possess the ability to fill the void of a headcoach that cannot lead. Jerry Jones doesn’t recognize the NEED for people like that (especially in his coach). JJ – great talent evaluator, poor mixologist.

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Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Defensive End

Jess Haynie

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DeMarcus Lawrence

If quarterback is the most important position in football, then the guys who hunt them down might be second. As such, the Dallas Cowboys face a major offseason decision in 2019 when it comes to the free agency of Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence.

This will be Lawrence's second year as an unrestricted free agent, with Dallas retaining him last season using the franchise tag. Even though he accepted it in 2018, DeMarcus swore all the way back in that summer that he wouldn't play for the Cowboys in 2019 if franchised again.

Despite his sack numbers dropping a bit last season, "Tank" remains one of the top defensive ends in the NFL. He is a total package of pass-rushing and run stopping, and he's now given Dallas two-straight Pro Bowl seasons.

If the Cowboys have any plans to contend for a championship next season then they can't risk losing a player like Lawrence. We've seen what this defense looks like without a premiere pass rusher and it isn't pretty.

Of course, Dallas could try to replace DeMarcus with a different free agent signing. If Jadeveon Clowney or Frank Clark avoid being tagged by their own teams, perhaps the Cowboys can lure one of them over. But don't expect any big difference in compensation between these three players.

Whether it's Lawrence or one of the other premiere pass rushers in free agency, you can expect the Cowboys to make one of them their top offseason priority. The greater mystery is if Dallas will make any other moves to upgrade the DE position, or stick with what they've got.

Randy Gregory

Dallas Cowboys DE Randy Gregory

Dallas finally enjoyed some real production out of Randy Gregory in 2018, whose personal issues nearly derailed the talented pass rusher's career. Gregory posted six sacks last season and was starting to look like the Robin to Lawrence's Batman.

Also in the mix is 2017 first-round pick Taco Charlton, who took a backwards step last year and seemed to be in the coaches' doghouse by season's end. Motivation and attitude seem to be an issue for him, and he'll need to step it up this summer if he doesn't want to wind up at the back of the depth chart again.

One of last year's fourth-round picks Dorance Armstrong also returns. He will hopefully be ready to take on a larger role in his second season and provide another pass rushing threat, plus insurance in case Gregory suffers any return of past problems.

If Dallas doesn't make Tyrone Crawford a salary cap casualty, or chooses to re-sign David Irving, those are two other guys who can play some defensive end for you.

Despite these options, the Cowboys could still look at adding another mid-grade free agent for depth and insurance. They could hope for a bargain on veterans like Ezekiel Ansah, Vinny Curry, or Chris Long. They might hope that Rod Marinelli could work his magic on first-round flop Dante Fowler.

Another guy that Dallas might look at is Benson Mayowa, who was with them from 2016-2017 and is a solid player. He spent the last season in Arizona on a one-year deal and is still just 27 years old.

Don't expect much from the draft, barring a major steal presenting itself. The Cowboys have bigger needs with their limited number of 2019 picks, and they also still need to see how recent selections like Charlton and Armstrong play out.

This offseason is all about DeMarcus Lawrence, or at least one of the other marquee free agents at defensive end. Some supplemental moves are possible, but arguably the biggest move Dallas makes the next few months is either retaining or replacing their top pass rusher.



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Dallas Cowboys

Offense or Defense, Which Should be the Cowboys Main Offseason Focus?

Brian Martin

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Cowboys Need to Upgrade the Offense or Defense More?

The Dallas Cowboys offseason should be approached like a puzzle. You have to know what the picture looks like beforehand before you start grabbing random pieces to try to fit them together. Keeping that in mind, I thought it be a good idea if we take a look at the Cowboys offense and defense to try to determine which one needs the most attention.

It may be somewhat surprising, but the Dallas Cowboys pretty much have the entire puzzle almost put together. There is just a few missing pieces they need to add, but for the most part the team that will take the field when the 2019 season kicks off is already in place.

There isn't going to be much roster turnover this offseason. Nearly all of the starters will return for the upcoming season on both sides of the ball, meaning the Cowboys are in good shape as far as having the teams nucleolus in place. In fact, there might be just one or two starting positions up for grabs on offense and defense.

Let's take a look…

Dallas Cowboys Offense

Kellen Moore, Jason Garrett, Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys OC Kellen Moore

As things stand right now before any moves are made in free agency or through the draft, the Dallas Cowboys offense may have just two starting spots up for grabs. But, even that's just a guesstimate because we still don't really know what the future holds for Center Travis Frederick, even though all signs point to him making a triumphant return to the starting lineup.

The way I see it though, the Cowboys will need to find someone to replace Cole Beasley in the passing game and also add a starting caliber tight end. That's it really as far as the starters are concerned. There is however need for more depth at several positions such as backup running back and offensive tackle, but those aren't necessarily "needs". I'd say they're in pretty good shape offensively compared to years past.

Dallas Cowboys Defense

Kris Richard

Dallas Cowboys Assistant Coach Kris Richard

Surprisingly enough, the Dallas Cowboys really don't have any glaring needs on the defensive side of the ball either. After finishing as one of the top defensive units in 2018, they will have nearly all of their starters returning for the 2019 season. But much like on the offensive side of the ball, there could be two starting spots up for grabs.

The Cowboys will have to find someone to replace Damien Wilson as the starting strong side linebacker and potentially a new starting strong safety. That's really the only starting positions I believe are up for grabs on defense. But like the offense, they could stand to add more depth and competition throughout the defense, especially along the defensive line. But again, there really isn't a glaring "need" they absolutely have to address.

Verdict: Cowboys Offense

Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Even though the Dallas Cowboys offense and defense seems to be pretty evenly matched as to how many starting positions are up for grabs, the offense looks to be the one that needs just a little bit more help. The defense proved in 2018 they are someone to be reckoned with and with the loss of just Damien Wilson, that shouldn't change. The same can't be said about the offense though.

If Cole Beasley does indeed leave via free agency, that's a big blow to the passing game. But, it's not just him. Other than their rushing attack, the Cowboys offense was ranked in the bottom half of the league in nearly every other category. With Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan now gone we can hope that improves, but that doesn't mean improving the offense shouldn't be the Cowboys main offseason focus though.

Of course, this is just my opinion and you are more than welcome to agree or disagree with it. But, when the free agency and NFL draft ball finally starts rolling, I expect most of the Cowboys offseason moves to be on the offensive side of the ball. Improving things around Quarterback Dak Prescott would seem like the wise thing to do after all, especially since he's about to be paid quite handsomely.

Which side of the ball do you think needs more help this offseason?



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Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Quarterback

Jess Haynie

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Dak Prescott
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys have plenty of work to do to restock and refine their roster in the hope of improving of last year's playoff run. We'll be looking at all of the 2019 needs for this offseason in the coming days, and we're going to start with paramount position of quarterback.

Unlike most spots on the team, the quarterbacks don't have anyone with an expiring contract this year. Both Dak Prescott and Cooper Rush will be in the final year of their deals, while Mike White still has three years left on his rookie contract.

Despite this, Prescott's contract is still one the hottest issues the Cowboys face this offseason. They must decide if they want to go ahead and lock him up now to a long-term extension, or wait and see how Dak performs in his fourth season.

It's a real dilemma for Dallas. One the one hand, Prescott already has two Pro Bowls, two division titles, and all winning seasons on his three-year resume. However, he's also had ongoing accuracy issues and problems with consistent productivity in an increasingly pass-focused league.

Given what he's already accomplished, Dak can command a pretty sizable contract in current negotiations. Just within the week he's already commented on not planning to give the Cowboys a discount in his next deal.

If Dallas waits another year then they risk that price tag going up. They could be competing with the open market, or what if Prescott leads the team to the NFC Championship or beyond in 2019?

If Dak's camp is already going to be aggressive in contract negotiations this year, then there's a case to be made for just waiting. Let him play on his bargain $2.14 million cap hit and use the savings to load up on talent for a championship run. The team will still have resources to re-sign Prescott in 2020, or even franchise tag him, if that's their choice.

Mike White

Dallas Cowboys QB Mike White

However that situation goes, we know that Dak is the starter in 2019. But even though Cooper Rush and Mike White are both due to return next season, should the Cowboys be satisfied with that QB depth chart?

As I wrote about earlier this week, Dallas has good reason to look at adding a veteran passer to the mix this offseason. If Rush and White beat him out, that's great. But if not, it adds an experienced voice to help Dak Prescott in this critical upcoming year.

You can go a few different ways. Some of the projected free agents can match Prescott's mobile style, such as Tyrod Taylor, Trevor Siemian, or Robert Griffin III. Others give you the experience edge such as Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh McCown, or Matt Schaub.

It doesn't seem likely that the Cowboys would draft another QB after just taking Mike White last year with a fifth-round pick. Unless they are moving to a completely different philosophy, Dallas will likely give White at least another year or two to develop as a mid-round selection.

Ideally, at least one of White or Cooper Rush will show some growth this year and inspire confidence as the immediate backup. But adding a veteran for competition certainly couldn't hurt, and Dallas has the cap space to do it.

Thankfully, everything that Dallas might have to do this offseason at quarterback is optional.  They can choose whether or not to redo Prescott's contract, or whether or not to pursue upgrades behind him. There is no gaping hole being created by a potential free agent departure.

The Cowboys have the power now, but that can quickly change next season once Dak's a free agent. That's why they still have a big decision to make in 2019.



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