July 31, 2014

Behind The Star: The Latest on the Dallas Cowboys

Well it certainly wasn’t pretty but Dallas did manage to beat the Browns last Sunday.  Actually Cleveland lost the game more than the Cowboys won it.  Listen, a win is a win, but needing overtime to beat a 2-7 team at home, not good.  Dallas has an easy schedule the last six games, problem is everyone facing Dallas could be saying the same thing.  Dallas has some good players, but all in all they are not a good team, nothing more than average.  There is a reason they are 5-5.  Their offensive line is beyond pathetic and with left tackle Tyron Smith possibly missing the game versus Washington on Thanksgiving due to a high ankle sprain, Tony Romo may be running for his life.  Romo was sacked seven times against the Browns, hit another ten, keep this up and he won’t make it to the end of the season.

 

The offensive line is really in shambles.  We already talked about Smith, he is unlikely to play Thursday.  Even with Smith in the lineup Dallas doesn’t pass protect well or open up holes for the running game.  Right tackle Doug Free has been a traffic cone, easy to get around or just run over.  He wasn’t very good last year either at LT.  What happened to the guy that earned a $32 million contract two years ago?  One hast to think now that he is a candidate to be released after the season.  The center position has been a black hole all season long.  Phil Costa has had injury concerns all season long, not that his play was all that good anyway.  Ryan Cook is nothing more than a stopgap, but he has also been banged up all season.  Mackenzy Bernadeau actually had to play his first career game at center this past week.  Bernadeau started off slow this season but his play has picked up of late.  Nate Livings, the other big off-season signing, has been average at best.  All in all if the Cowboys don’t make the playoffs it will be because of the line.  Fixing this problem should be priority number one next off-season.

 

Dez Bryant’s play has picked up dramatically of late.  Perhaps the light bulb has finally gone off.  Dallas will have a decision to make with Dez after next season.  Do they re-sign him to a big free agent contract or let him go?  Dez has all the tools to be one of the better receivers in the NFL.  His play has generally been erratic at best, but over the past couple of games he is showing what he can do.  He has the speed to get deep and the strength to fight off bigger cornerbacks.  As always it’s the mental part of the game that he needs to bone up on.  If he can get that part correct, make the right sight adjustments, run the correct routes, know where to be when he is the hot receiver, the sky is the limit.  It should also help that his assault charges have finally been resolved.

 

The Cowboys other receiver, Miles Austin,  hasn’t been used as much of late.  This is more than likely due to the emergence of Bryant, but also has to do with how defenses approach the duo.  If they try to take away Dez, than Romo will hit Austin and vice versa.  This is how the Cowboys offense is based, not to force the ball into anyone’s hands.  One problem with Austin however is he does seem to have problems with the deep ball.  Sunday was another example.  Austin was running a fly pattern down the left sideline, had a step on the defender, but for some reason slowed down rather than run through the ball.  This play was eerily similar to the play against the Giants last year.  Last year Austin stated that he lost the ball in the lights, no word if the same problem happened Sunday.  He did come off the field immediately after the play so perhaps something else was amiss.  Have to also wonder, and I don’t say this as a joke, if maybe Miles needs to have his eyes checked.

 

Defensively the Cowboys have been good, not great, but good.  Once again however they do come up small when things matter most.  They allowed Cleveland to take the lead after getting the ball back with just over a minute left.  Now Cleveland only had to go about 30 yards to score a touchdown and might have scored anyway, but to do it in one play, and with Dallas only having nine players on the field at the time, what a joke.  Dallas also couldn’t put any pressure on the Browns rookie quarterback.  Just a strange day for the defense.  Secondary did play well however as Brandon Weeden seemed to have enough time to order a pizza in the pocket but wasn’t able to hit the big play.  Speaking of big plays, the hit safety Gerald Sensabaugh put on Trent Richardson may have been the play of the game.  Sensabaugh generally has been a disappointment however since signing his contract extension last year.

 

Hate to pile on Jason Garrett, but the Cowboys seem to win in spite of him, not because of him.  He is a vanilla coach, rarely doing anything on offense you wouldn’t expect.  With Dallas up 17-13 and the ball on their one-yard line with under two minutes on the clock, Garrett elected to run the ball three straight times right up the gut.  Predictably these runs went nowhere and took very little time off the clock.  Everyone knew Garrett wouldn’t have the guts to call a pass, Cleveland sure did.  Sometimes you have to coach to win rather than hoping not to lose.  Calling three straight running plays when you’re top back is out of the game, you’re offensive line couldn’t open up a hole for a rabbit to run through, and the other team knows what’s coming, just isn’t going to cut it against better teams.

 

As for turkey day, this should be a game the Cowboys win easily.  The Redskins are a banged up team with an average offensive line, no receivers to really worry about, and a secondary that is in shambles.  That being said, Dallas really doesn’t have much of a home field advantage and the Redskins are actually playing better than Dallas of late.  Have to think Washington defensive coordinator Jim Haslett is going to look to protect his secondary but putting as much pressure on Romo as possible.  He saw all the hits Romo took last week and knows he has only had three days to recover.  Could be a boom or bust type of defense.  If Romo is able to avoid the rush however, there will be big plays to be made as the Skins CBs will not match up at all with Bryant and Austin.  Really think this game comes down to the end once again.  I’ve been wrong it seems on just about all of these predictions.  I’m just having a hard time believing in the Cowboys being consistent.  Washington 23  Dallas 20.

 

 

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