After a satisfying pre-season debut which saw the Cowboys control the game from the onset, I'd like to make my fanpost debut and focus on a position group that will be under the microscope leading into the season; the interior of the offensive line. Early training camp reports have been positive for rookie center Travis Frederick and young guards Ron Leary and David Arkin, but how did they look in action against different colored jerseys?
Let's review the tape and find out.
(Note: reviewed using the NBC telecast, so not the best angles for watching OL play, also - THIS IS A VERY LONG POST)
1st and 10 - 14:57
The hand off is to Dunbar on a stretch play to the left: Frederick and Leary double team the 1-tech while Arkin takes on the 3-tech, all do a good job of not allowing penetration into the backfield and provide decent push while Dunbar goes around the edge for a decent gain of four.
2nd and 6 - 14:33
Orton drops back and hits Rosario for a first down and more: Frederick and Arkin easily handle Paul Soliai, giving up no ground; Leary does the same with #90 Vaughn Martin providing Orton a clean pocket, who makes the easy throw for a gain of about 19.
1st and 10 - 14:01
Frederick can be seen making line calls before Orton checks to another hand off left to Dunbar: Arkin fires out, chipping the 3-tech on the way to the second level, Frederick gets enough of Soliai to make him a non-factor on the play, and Leary works his way to the SAM, sticking on him while Dunbar heads outside to pick up 7.
2nd and 3 - 13:23
The Cowboys continue to attack the left side of the Miami defense with the run game: Frederick and Leary fire out toward the right while Arkin pulls around to lead left; Leary knocks Soliai back a step and Frederick finds the backside DE while Arkin catches a blitzing linebacker and holds his ground. Arkin doesn't make any push, but blocks sufficiently as Dunbar makes another good gain and picks up the first.
1st and 10 - 12:50
Run right is stuffed by the Dolphins: Arkin helps Free double team the playside DE, then slips to the second level and latches on to a LB; Frederick takes Soliai down the line and turns him away from the play; Leary gets good push on the 3-tech, but he and a pulling Tyron Smith fail to pick up Phillip Wheeler, who slips by to make the tackle for no gain.
2nd and 10 - 12:13
Orton from the shotgun drops off a pass to Dunbar for a good pick up: Arkin gives up some ground to Martin, but not enough to put Orton under duress; Frederick has no one to block initially, as the Mike showing blitz dropped into coverage, but gives a shove to Soliai who is unsuccessfully trying to get past a Leary block. Orton slides up a bit in the pocket and dinks it to Dunbar who runs for a gain of 7.
3rd and 3 - 11:23
Orton throws incomplete for Dwayne Harris: Leary and Frederick handle the 1 while Arkin holds off the 3, all giving up minimal ground; Orton has a clean pocket but throws a little ahead of Harris who extends and gets a hand on the ultimately uncatchable ball.
The three inexperienced lineman had a solid showing on their first series, but the Cowboys have to punt. Miami has a mishap on their first offensive play and the offense finds themselves back on the field in the redzone, this time led by Nick Stephens.
1st and Goal - 11:07
A tough run left by Phillip Tanner gains around 5 yards: Arkin goes immediately to the second level and latches on to a LB; Frederick pushes his man down the line of scrimmage, knocking him down while Leary helps Weems drop the playside DE and gets a piece of a LB. Escobar is pushed back by a linebacker, which forces Tanner to go horizontal and meet the corner, but Dimitri Patterson can't get him down on his own and Tanner churns out a few more yards before a host of Dolphins bring him down.
2nd and Goal - 10:35
Run right for a short gain: Derrick Shelby gets lower than Arkin and forces him back three yards while Tanner runs by, but shows effort and tries to move the pile forward at the tail-end of the play; Frederick slides down the right side line with #97 Kheeston Randall in his grasp, but unfortunately winds up right where the play is headed and Randall slips off to grab hold of Tanner; Leary gave Randall a bit of a shove at the snap, and moved on to backside LB who has no affect on the play.
3rd and Goal - 9:53
A Stephens pass from the shotgun intended for Cole Beasley draws a PI and a new set of downs: Leary and Frederick hold off the 3-tech while Arkin does the same with the 1; no pressure from the interior. Beasley tries to play the ball while rookie Will Davis doesn't get his head around and the refs make the easy call.
1st and Goal - 9:37
Tanner plunges up the middle from the one, but can't get in the endzone: Frederick and Arkin fire out low, as does the DL; no penetration is allowed, but there is no push either. Leary takes a couple steps to the right out of his stance and stops a LB from going over the top to meet Tanner, but other defenders are still able to keep him from scoring.
2nd and Goal - 9:02
Tanner runs left and forces his way over the goal line: Frederick and Arkin plow submarining linemen into the ground and Leary gets low, forcing #69 Emeka Onyenekwu to the left, allowing Tanner to cut off Leary's backside and make it just through an Austin Spitler would-be tackle for the score.
No major mishaps and a score on the short drive gives Dallas the lead while the players in focus continue playing well. After the kickoff Miami's offense can't make it into Cowboys territory and the Phins punt.
1st and 10 - 6:52
Tanner takes the handoff left and goes up the middle mostly unscathed, gaining momentum that allows him to churn out a first down and then some: Frederick and Leary double the 1 and force him left, allowing Tanner space on their right while Arkin gives the 3-tech a nice shove, driving him back and further opening the hole, and then moves to the second level to turn a LB away from the play with a quality block allowing Tanner to build up speed that carries him through defenders for 8 or so additional yards after contact.
1st and 10 - 6:15
Hand off right for a short gain: Arkin gets a nice chip on the 3-tech, then makes a second level block; Frederick lets the 1 get across his face, who helps a LB that shed a poor Escobar block tackle Tanner for a minimal gain. Leary and Weems combine to force back DE Derrick Shelby into a LB who is also engulfed. If Frederick does a better job Tanner likely would have had a nice cutback, but can't win them all.
2nd and 9 - 5:35
A quick pass nets a few yards: Frederick and Leary again work together on a double team and allow no pressure on a stunt, while Arkin catches the other twisting lineman. The ball is out quick and Stephens feels little pressure on the way to gain of 3.
3rd and 6 - 4:54
Stephens with a nice pass to Cole Beasley, but it is just short of a first down: Arkin extends his arms nicely to keep Vaughn Martin away from his body and away from the quarterback; DT Tracy Robinson (oddly wearing #89) tries to knife between Frederick and Leary, but Frederick pops him with a nice punch that jolts his upper body back and Frederick and Leary keep him well away from Stephens, who has to evade a DE that badly beet Coughman.
Mostly positive signs as has been the theme, though Dallas must punt. Miami still struggles to move the ball and punts it back as the 1st quarter ticks down.
1st and 10 - 0:18
Play action pass ends with a sack due to poor pocket awareness by Stephens. Arkin and Frederick give up no ground to Kheeston Randall; Frederick then slides to aid elsewhere while Arkin stands his ground. Leary and Weems give up some ground to Tracy Robinson, but nothing that inhibits Stephens. Coughman is beat badly on a bull rush back to Stephens, but the QB could easily have stepped up and avoided the sack.
2nd and 17 - 15:00
Incomplete pass on a short drop, a penalty on the play gets the Cowboys a first down. Jonathan Ogden is being interviewed at the time so the call isn't audible, but it appeared to be a hold by corner Dimitri Patterson on Anthony Armstrong. Leary and Frederick combined to give up no pressure, Arkin also stood his ground.
1st and 10 - 14:58
Run right nets four yards: Leary pulls right to lead Tanner, finding a DT who is just beginning to slip under a Frederick block; both linemen can't quite keep #97 Randall at bay as he manages to reach for Tanner's legs as he goes by to assist in bringing him down. Arkin is pushed back by Robertson, but this doesn't disrupt Tanner. Not a great showing for the three, but still a gain of four which isn't bad.
2nd and 6 - 14:22
Screen to Tanner is blown up for a loss of 2: Frederick and Arkin chip the defenders across from them, then slip out to the right to lead for Tanner; the linemen wind up out of frame but it appears Frederick couldn't get to his man in space, who proceeded to land a nice hit on Tanner.
3rd and 8 - 13:37
Anthony Armstrong catches a low dart from Stephens to move the chains: Arkin gives up ground to Martin Vaughn, but still allows Stephens ample time; Leary stops Randall from making a push, and unoccupied Frederick slides over to guarantee Randall is a non-factor. Stephens steps up and puts the pass where only Armstrong can get it.
1st and 10 - 13:00
Run left by Tanner goes for 9: Frederick and Arkin stonewall the 1-tech, but Frederick extends a bit too far and falls, negating any chance of getting to the second level; Leary forces the 3-tech back, but similar to Frederick over-extends and winds up on the ground after making an otherwise good block. Tanner keeps up the physicality and picks up nice yards.
2nd and 1: 12:20
Incomplete pass intended for Beasley: In what appears to be blocking for a power play, Arkin pulls left and dives at the ankles of the defensive line, Frederick blocks down and drives a blitzing LB to the left, and Leary blocks the 3, who gets lower and drives him back a step. The blocking scheme had the defense flowing left despite the lack of an actual play fake, which would have left Beasley with room to run if he made the catch, but the ball went through his hands.
3rd and 1 - 12:07
Tanner runs up the middle for a first down, losing his helmet as churns out a few more yards for naught: Arkin stones the 1-tech with help from Frederick, who slides off and picks up a linebacker; Leary holds up the 3-tech, but the defender is able to reach an arm out and slow Tanner. Tanner maintains his balance and spins ahead, but had his helmet pulled off in the process, negating the additional yards.
1st and 10 - 11:26
More physical running by Tanner leads to another first down: Arkin has a tough time with Randall on the play, but is able to just slide him out of Tanner's path with a little push from Frederick, who peels off and turns a LB out of the way. Leary pulls right and cuts down the 3-tech as Tanner sprints past. A few arm tackles are ineffective, and Tanner picks up about 15.
1st and 10 - 10:44
Joseph Randle gets his first carry for 2 yards: Leary fires straight out and pushes the 3 back a couple steps as Randle tries cut left off the block; Frederick and Arkin drive the 1 back a step, but still allow him to flow to the play side and block a cutback lane. Rosario and Escobar need to do better at the point of attack on this play.
2nd and 8 - 10:11
Play action, Stephens on the run can't hit Beasley wide open behind busted coverage: Frederick and Coughman drive back the strongside DE as Arkin pulls left but cannot find someone to block until Stephens releases the ball rolling the opposite way; Leary stops the 1-tech at the line of scrimmage. Rosario misses a blitzing safety and Beasley slips trying to come back to the ball causing an incompletion instead of TD.
3rd and 8 - 9:55
Stephens sacked by Dion Jordan: Arkin and Leary extend their arms well and stop the two defensive tackles, as Frederick slides between them, eventually aiding Arkin. Weems can't handle Jordan's speed and is ran around as Stephens is dragged down.
Bailey hits the field goal and on the ensuing Miami drive Holloman comes up with a pick 6. Again with the ball Miami actually sustains a drive, getting to the redzone, but the Dallas defense holds them to a fieldgoal. After a nice long break the offense comes back out with just over a minute remaining.
1st and 10 - 1:25
Stephens completes a pass to Escobar, but Weems puts his hands in Dion Jordan's face, moving the offense in the opposite direction: Costa is now at center and Frederick at RG; Frederick and Leary give very little ground to Vaughn and Randall, respectively, Costa giving Randall a shot as the pass is released.
1st and 20 - 1:20
Draw to Randle gains 5: Frederick gets nice push initially on the 1-tech with help from Costa, but allows him back underneath to impede Randle's progress; Leary holds off the 3-tech as Randle is brought down.
2nd and 15 - 0:55
Stephens throws the ball away: Frederick chips Vaughn, then passes him off to Costa before coming back to Vaughn when there is no one else to block; Leary does a decent job on Randall, who nearly gets around the edge. Coughman is ran around forcing Stephens to get rid of the ball.
3rd and 15 - 0:49
Inside hand off to Randle from the shotgun gains 9: Frederick and Costa block down on the 1-tech, clearing plenty of space for Randle to accelerate through as Leary pulls around to lead, but can't find a defender to hit.
Our interior offensive linemen certainly seem capable at this point, but the backup tackles leave much to be desired.
Following halftime Miami gets the ball and goes nowhere, Dallas takes over with Tanney at quarterback.
1st and 10 - 13:34
Run right for no gain: Leary pulls right and cuts a defender, who nearly extends and reaches Randle, forcing him to run parallel to the LOS; Frederick controls the 1-tech throughout the play, forcing him to the right. Coughman and Andre Smith do a poor job of sealing the edge on the playside and Randle has nowhere to go.
2nd and 10 - 12:55
Tanney fumble rolls forward and Benford falls on it for a first down: Frederick does not keep his feet square and is beaten when the 1 starts inside and then loops back outside, forcing Tanney to step into a collapsing pocket as Coughman again struggles; Leary jolts the 3 back at the snap, who jumps to swat the ball that isn't coming for no particular reason. Benford's awareness turns the play into a gain regardless.
1st and 10 - 12:10
Hand off right to Randle goes for a first: Frederick turns the 3-tech away from the play as Leary pulls right and takes out an incoming linebacker, forcing him to the ground. Randle just makes it across the first down line.
1st and 10 - 11:26
Tanney completes to Benford on a slant: Frederick and Costa force the 1 down the line into other defenders and Leary stops the 3 from getting anywhere. Benford makes the easy catch for 7 yards.
2nd and 3 - 10:53
Randle up the middle for minimal yards: Frederick washes Vaughn completely away from the play, who was never heading toward the point of attack in the first place; Leary leaves the 3-tech nearly free and misses the second level block. Nowhere to go for Randle.
3rd and 1 - 10:16
Hand off left nets a first down: Frederick easily pushes around a blitzing linebacker, who has no chance of doing anything on the play; Leary and Weems drive #69 Onyenekwu down the line, then Leary finds a linebacker and gives him a nice shove as the play ends. Randle ran past the 1-tech who forced Costa into the backfield.
1st and 10 - 9:20
Randle up the middle called back illegal shift by Andre Smith: Frederick chops down DT A.J. Francis; Leary washes the 1 down the line, opening up room for Randle. Andre Smith was still going to a 3-point stance at the snap so a loss instead of a gain.
1st and 15 - 9:01
Hand off right goes nowhere until Randle cuts back and gains 10: Frederick is driven back into Randle's way by #97, but Randle reverses field; Leary pulls right and his cut block barely slows #76 Francis, but over-pursuit by the defense gives Randle daylight that he makes use of.
2nd and 5 - 8:14
Play action pass incomplete: Zone blocking to the left as Tanney rolls right; Frederick chips his man, who peels back after realizing the play is going the opposite direction, Leary and Coughman take their man off screen to the left. Benford can't make the catch with tight coverage at his back.
3rd and 5 - 8:04
Pass incomplete, intended for Benford: Frederick lets DT Robertson get on his outside shoulder, but adjusts and pushes him past the pocket; Leary stands Francis up at the line. Weems allows pressure that forces the incompletion.
Miami gets pinned inside their 10 on the punt, but drives the length of the field. In the redzone the drive stalls and the Dallas defense forces a turnover on downs.
1st and 12 - 2:13
After Costa forgets the snap count Tanney throws incomplete with Frederick out of the game: Leary has no one to engage as Tanney gets rid of the ball quickly. Arkin, now at RG for Frederick does a nice job handling the 3-tech on his own.
2nd and 12 - 2:09
Tanney completes a pass to Benford on a slant for a first down: Again no one engages Leary; Arkin keeps the DT away from his body, and away from Tanney as he throws from the endzone for a nice gain.
1st and 10 - 1:37
Randle up the middle for a first: Leary and Costa create a crease, blocking down on the 3; Arkin chips the 1 and gives a linebacker a shove as Randle passes by.
1st and 10 - 1:03
Run right gains 8: Arkin and Coughman get nice push on the LDE, then Arkin catches a linebacker before he can get by and get to Randle. Leary fires out and locks on to the Mike, driving him back a few yards before forcing him to his knees where Randle happens to be going down.
2nd and 2 - 0:18
Inside handoff gains a yard: Arkin lets #89 Robertson run right by him, but nowhere near where the play is going so it has no effect; Leary again goes straight to the second level and bullies a linebacker, but Randle is stopped by a flowing linebacker.
3rd and 1 - 15:00
Another inside handoff to Randle gets the first down: Leary blocks down on Randall, creating a small crease; Arkin pulls left and helps plant the playside DE into the turf. Randle gets low and gains about 4.
1st and 10 - 14:20
Randle to the right for 3: Arkin and Coughman get nice push on #66 Tristan Okpalaugo; Leary and Weems seal the back side. Randle gets a short gain.
2nd and 7 - 13:36
Tanney throws incomplete off Andre Smith's hands: Leary is pushed back initially by Randall, but re-anchors and holds his ground; Arkin initially helps with the 1, then peels off and blasts the LDE to the ground as Tanney releases the ball. Smith gets a hand on the ball, but can't make the catch with a defender draped around him.
3rd and 7 - 13:30
Tanney complete right to Benford just short of the first: Leary easily catches Dion Jordan coming on a delayed blitz while Arkin holds off the 3-tech on his own. Tanney has a clean pocket and delivers to Benford, but a solid tackle stops him from turning upfield to get the last yard necessary.
After a Miami TD, Dallas takes over at the 20
1st and 10 - 9:26
Tanney throws a nice pass through Eric Rodgers's hands: Leary pushes the 3-tech inside to Costa, then steps back to his left and catches the looping 1; Arkin and Coughman keep the LDE from getting upfield with ease. Rogers had a chance to make the catch for a long gain, but can't quite make the play.
2nd and 10 - 9:20
Tanney goes right back to Rodgers, who makes a catch near the first down marker but can't keep his feet in: Leary chips the 1, passing him to Costa, then aids Costa after finding no one else to block while Arkin found no one to block the whole play. Tanney shows the previous play didn't affect his confidence in Rodgers, who can't quite keep his feet in bounds.
3rd and 10 - 9:16
Cochart catches a dump off for a yard: Leary gives up no ground to #78 Chris Burnette; Arkin and Costa keep the 1 at the LOS. A corner blitz forces Tanney to get rid of the ball quickly.
Miami gets the ball and gains some yards, coming away with a field goal.
1st and 10 - 4:50
Play action, with no one open Tanney rolls right for a nice gain: Arkin pulls right and tries to cut Onyenekwu, slowing him but not getting him on the ground while Leary blocks down, helping Costa keep the 1 at the LOS as Tanney rolls right.
2nd and 4 - 4:43
Kendial Lawrence gets his first carry, heading right for 3 yards: Arkin and Costa fire out, pushing the 1-tech back, Arkin then peels off and walls off a linebacker; Leary blocks right, keeping Burnette out of the play. Andre Smith can't hold his block and his man makes the tackle.
3rd and 1 - 4:04
Lawrence up the middle for a short gain, but not enough for the first: Leary drives Burnette, clearing a hole that is shut when Weems can't secure his man; Arkin does a nice job getting in front of and turning #99 away from the play.
Miami fails to convert on fourth down, giving Dallas the ball in their territory.
1st and 10 - 2:20
Run up the middle picks up 3: Arkin leads Lawrence through the hole but has no target in his path; Leary takes on the 1 and forces him away from the hole, showing nice strength and pad level. Weems allows his man to clog the running lane and Lawrence gains short yardage.
2nd and 7 - 2:14
On a zone play Lawrence goes right for a pick up of 1: Leary slides right, keeping his head in front of Burnette, but slips to the ground; Arkin and the rest of the right side do a nice job sealing off defenders, but an ublocked linebacker keeps contain on Lawrence who would've otherwise had room to run on the outside.
3rd and 6 - 2:09
Tanney shows off his accuracy on a beautiful long throw to Jared Green along the sideline: Arkin again looks good in pass protection, allowing no penetration; Leary is unoccupied at first, but aids Costa who is slowly getting pushed back by the DT. Tanney drops a bomb right between two defenders into Green's waiting hands.
1st and Goal - 2:02
Kendial Lawrence sprints left for a TD, nearly untouched: Leary lets the 3-tech get inside him, then uses his momentum to push him right past Lawrence, who is heading toward Leary's outside; Arkin goes low on the 1, slowing him enough to make him a non-factor. Andre Smith and Eric Rodgers do a nice job allowing Lawrence to get into the endzone clean.
Miami dinks and dunks down the field, before scoring a TD off a fluke tipped passed on fourth and goal. Anthony Armstrong shows off his volleyball skills on the ensuing onside kick, unknowingly causing an illegal bat penalty, but then recovers the re-kick.
1st and 10 - 0:16
After viewing 60+ plays focusing in on these players, trends begin to emerge. Their individual strengths and weaknesses are made clearer. Here's what each did and didn't do well:
Frederick is very stout, rarely going backwards, and did better than expected getting to the second level. He was quick to help with a double team, then seek out another target to block, allowing running room. In the passing game Frederick was very solid, but did give up pressure to a quicker lineman, who started inside on him before quickly crossing Frederick's face the other way into the backfield mostly unscathed. He also seemingly missed his man on a screen play that was blown up. Handling quickness and playing in space will be tough for him, though he did a nice job versus Miami overall. Stunts were not an issue on the evening, as Frederick and the others communicated, passed off, and stymied them when they occurred. His intelligence was evident, as he made the line calls and protection was really solid aside from on the edges, where the tackles were mostly overwhelmed. For his first live action against another team, Frederick was very impressive, and much more so at center where he should start for the next 10+ years.
Arkin demonstrated what the team hoped they would eventually get out of the Missouri State product when they selected him in the 4th round. Technique and strength were the main areas he needed to focus his development, and progress was visible against Miami. Though he was pushed back by the defense at times, it never seemed to be a detriment to the play. Arkin did a nice job of getting enough of defenders to keep his teammates clean, showing adequate strength to become a regular contributor. Where he excelled was making second level blocks. Arkin is the most athletic of the three, and used that athleticism to make many blocks on linebackers that allowed the backs to get more yards than they would otherwise. In concert with Frederick, stunts were ineffective against Arkin, as passing off and picking up the correct defender looked natural.
Leary was perhaps the most impressive of the three, and played every offensive snap. His strength was on display, as he had defenders going backwards often during the game. He looked comfortable handling bigger linemen on his own, and did a nice job of helping teammates on double teams. As was the case with Frederick and Arkin, Leary got to the second level often and handled stunts well. Leary could improve on his cut blocks, as they were hit or miss on the day at taking defenders out of the play. Overall a very solid performance, Leary showed why he is referred to as 2012's "8th draft pick," and looked worth the large signing bonus that brought him to Dallas.
That is a lot of information to digest - I didn't expect to type 4800(!) words. However, after watching every snap of who I hope will be our starters come week one, I have high hopes for this season. I count a lot more positives than negatives for these players. Many will agree that OL was/is the biggest question mark on this team, and the performances of Arkin, Frederick, and Leary are reasons for optimism. They did a solid job, showing awareness on stunts and rarely getting pushed back. I know it's only pre-season and only one game, but the yuglies have got me sippin' that Cowboy-blue Kool-Aid. Here's hoping this is the start of something special and not just false glimmer of hope.