This is my first return to the FanPost section since my departure from the front page. As most of you know by now, I had to leave my gig as a front page writer because of a promotion at work and I realized it would be difficult for me to find time writing quality articles and still have a personal life. I leave the front page on good terms and Dave has left open an invitation for me to come back down the road. Eventually, that will be my goal, but until then I return to the place that put me on the map.
Let's get into it and hand out some game balls!
Entering the season, the defensive and offensive line were some of the biggest concerns that I had with this football team. After three games, both lines look much improved from their 2012 versions. Starting with the defensive line, the work Rod Marinelli and Monte Kiffin have done with the unit has been tremendous.
They opted not to add a defensive lineman in the draft (a move that still could come back to haunt them down the road in the depth department), but as of right now the rotation of DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher, Nick Hayden and George Selvie are second in the league in sacks (13) and look like one of the best defensive lines in football.
The entire line brought it against the Rams and they kept attacking. They never let up and the pressure was there all game long.
Ware now has four sacks on the season and looks younger, faster and stronger. He's going to succeed in any defense, but the new role in the 4-3 has energized him. Hatcher shouldn't come as a surprise, he was a beast the past few seasons as a five-tech, but that role held him back from his natural talent of disrupting into the backfield and getting after the quarterback. Perhaps the biggest surprise has been Selvie, who had one heck of a game against his former team. This guy didn't have a team a few months ago, now he may have found his NFL home for years to come.
Against the run, the Dallas line has stuffed opposing running attacks and is the second best defense (66 yards per game) in the league at doing so. Even when St. Louis attempted to run the ball, our boys clogged up every lane and swarmed to the running back.
Moving to a four man front has changed this defense for the better and I suggested Dallas to make this move years ago. Having four lineman who can get after the offense without bringing extra men on the blitz opens up your defense and allows you to do more. Then when you actually start bringing extra guys, it can get real ugly for the offensive line and quarterback.
It's more of a straight up style, no gimmicks and trickery designed to "confuse" the offense. The 3-4 wore out its welcome as our base defense in Dallas, it was time for a change and imagine if these changes were installed earlier?
A week earlier against Kansas City, Murray wasn't the same runner. Now the offensive line can take some of the blame, but the running backs vision was very poor. Instead of seeing where to make the cutback and planting his foot in the ground to get up the field quickly, DeMarco "danced" and hesitated. That type of running will not work in our offensive system.
If you are going to be successful in a zone blocking system, make the decision quickly and get up the field.
Another area Murry struggled with was instead of seeing the open hole and making a move for that daylight, he wanted to get physical and opted to run into oncoming defenders. He is constantly looking to dish out punishment on defenders, but again that isn't the best course of action early in the play or even late in the play. There will be times when you have to lower your head and run someone over, but until that moment comes use your vision to find the running lanes.
Against the Rams, Murray went back to some of the things that made him successful earlier in his career. The blocking did improve, but DeMarco saw the whole field and made almost every correct decision. Not only was his vision fantastic, his patience was important in his 175 yards gained on the ground.
If our running game can sustain positive yardage, then the Cowboys will be very hard to beat. DeMarco was fantastic against the Rams and I hope he builds off that game and continues to play the game the same way for the rest of his career because he has all the tools to be a great running back.
My last game ball may not be exactly a popular choice. Morris Claiborne had one of the best games of his young career and graded out favorably by PFF, but I opted to go with Scandrick for a reason. Over the years, we've ragged on Orlando. We've seen him not get his head up and get toasted on a regular basis, but the past two years he's elevated his game and this year in a new defensive system we are seeing the best football of his career.
Scandrick was key in taking Tavon Austin out of the game, but he also played a big role on special teams again when the Rams were running a fake punt and sniffed that out right away. His coverage and physical play in the secondary have been exactly the type of play that Dallas needs from their cornerbacks. Scandrick had a sack and that was a huge play, but his vicious hit on Sam Bradford also showed us what he can do coming off the edge as a rusher.
Orlando has always been physical, seeing him blitz against the Rams was somewhat reminiscent of Ronde Barber. Obviously he isn't the same caliber of player Barber was, but his game tape from the last two games is something to build on.
Prior to this season, we may not have dubbed him a "smart player', but Scandrick is starting to really take off in his knowledge and understanding of the game.