This is the second part of my evaluation of the Seattle game focused on the game in the trenches, which isn't adequately conveyed by boxscores. Again, I re-watched every play in slow-motion to make this evaluation. This report concentrates on the defensive line and outside linebackers, with some odds and ends about other players tacked on at the end. The offensive line evaluation can be found here.
RDE - Chris Canty: Solid is the word to describe Canty's work. As with most of the first team, Canty held his position on almost every run play, getting in on a few tackles himself. On one play he stood up the blocker, worked off the block to the outside and made the tackle. Textbook stuff in a 3-4 defense. He wasn't quite as active in the pass rush as he's been in training camp, but his number one responsibility to is to hold up against the run blocks and allow the LB's to flow to the ball, and he did exactly that.
NT - Jason Ferguson: I reported from camp that I was a little under-whelmed by Ferguson's camp so far, but he played well against Seattle. He constantly demanded the double-team from Seattle's centers and guards, and stood up well to their attack, rarely giving ground. Only on one play did Seattle blow a hole in the middle of the line when Ferguson was in, and that lead to a 5-yard gain. On another play he penetrated the line of scrimmage on an Alexander run, forcing him to change direction and into Kenyon Coleman's arms.
LDE - Kenyon Coleman: For a guy on the bubble and being showcased for a trade, Coleman turned in a solid effort. He made a couple of tackles and stood up his men at the point of attack, allowing others to flow to the ball carrier. Like Canty, he wasn't particularly active in the pass rush, but his efforts allowed Ellis and Ware to face 1-on-1 blocks which they turned to their advantage.
ROLB - DeMarcus Ware: There were some rumblings that Ware didn't do much in the game, but after reviewing the tape he had an OK game, considering the expectations. In a play on the first series, Canty took on the main blocks allowing Ware to do his job, flow to the ball carrier and make the tackle. On a play shortly after that, the Cowboys turned loose both OLB's for a 5-man rush, and Ware was within a half-second of making the sack. In the same series, Ware made a quick diagnosis of a pass play and got into coverage on the TE, forcing Hasselbeck to throw deep for an incomplete. The only negative play I saw from Ware was failing to drop into coverage quickly enough, allowing a pass to be completed for a good gain.
LOLB - Greg Ellis: Much has been said about Ellis' contributions in this game, but here are a few things that might have gone unnoticed. Besides his sack (which came on a 4-down alignment with Ellis putting his hand down) and the tackle out in space on a WR, he was stiff against the run to his side, getting in on a few tackles and holding up his blockers on others. He also got a some pressure on the QB on two other plays. In a really good sign of his maturation at OLB, Seattle ran a play-action bootleg to Ellis' side, instead of biting on the run, or leaving his area and scrambling after the QB, he picked up the TE who was the main target on the play, and blanketed him in coverage. Hasselbeck was forced to throw long and incomplete on a 3rd down.
These players only played in the first quarter (except Coleman and Canty for a series), so they didn't get a chance to build up any stats. But they did get a sack, provided a few QB pressures and looking at Seattle's run statistics, totally shut down Alexander. That's a good effort.
RDE - Jason Hatcher: Hatcher made the stat sheet with a couple of tackles and by recovering a fumble. Where he didn't make the stat sheet but showed a lot of promise was in his pass rush. I have him marked down for four pass rushes where he got great penetration and was within arm length of the QB. The bonus was that he was doing this using a bull-rush, two of them against LT Walter Jones. On one of them he forced a scramble that Burnett cleaned up.
NT - Thomas `Pepper' Johnson: Johnson had a pretty good game, seeking to quell fears about the backup NT position. We all saw the sack, but before you get too happy about it, know that it came on a screen pass. The lineman turned Pepper loose to get out on the screen, so he didn't exactly `beat' his man, but you've got to credit him for the speed on the rush, surprising the QB for a big loss. Johnson also helped fill with Abram Elam on a short yardage play for no gain, got a good push on another run to disrupt the flow, and just missed a tackle in the backfield on another running play.
LDE - Jay Ratliff: Considering he was going against the backups, I would've expected more out of Ratliff, given his work in training camp, but he had a solid game. He got a great push on a rush where the QB made a dump-off pass, and followed that up with another good push but couldn't get to the QB. He managed to bust through the line for a tackle in the backfield, and also held stout on a middle run to help with the tackle. Along with John Saldi, he disrupted the pocket forcing the QB to scramble, leading to an Ayodele sack after the QB fell down.
ROLB - Kevin Burnett: Burnett doesn't show up in the stats sheet, but he was very active in his time on the field. On an outside run, he did a great job of fighting off a block and staying in pursuit, unfortunately Jacques Reeves didn't keep contain on the outside to turn the runner into Burnett, leading to a big gain. On three other plays Burnett rushed the passer and got good penetration; one time forcing a dump-off, another time a step behind Singleton in getting a sack, the third time just a second slow on getting a sack. He also pursued Seneca Wallace to the sidelines on a scramble, keeping him from picking up yardage. Burnett had one negative play where they blitzed Aaron Glenn, and Burnett couldn't keep coverage on a crossing WR, who end up with a nice gain. A tough assignment for sure, but Burnett took a bad angle on the play.
LOLB - Junior Glymph: Everyone knows that Junior had a great game. He got in the backfield on a busted play and tackled the QB, but the QB had just pitched the a ball to the RB. He held his ground on a run to the right side, forcing the RB inside where John Saldi closed the gap and made the tackle. He beat the RT on a speed rush to get the sack and force a fumble, then got a fast jump on the snap to meet the FB in the backfield, push him into the RB just as he was getting the handoff to force another fumble that the Cowboys recovered. He finished his night with an unblocked path to the QB for a sack. His one negative play was getting caught inside on an outside run that went for a good gain.
LOLB - Al Singleton: Singleton spent much of the game alternating with Glymph but put together a good game, too. He got a sack after beating the FB's block, and also jumped the gap to make a tackle in the backfield on a running play. He ended the night with handful of tackles and showed his veteran experience.
Odd and Ends:
TE Anthony Fasano struggled in the blocking game, mainly with holding his blocks or showing enough power to move the defensive player. He needs a lot of work in this area.
He also dropped a pass early in the game.
The RB's all struggled as the offensive line couldn't open the holes, but MB3 and Tyson Thompson both missed the opportunity to cut-back on a run for big yardage. But MB3 made the mistake of bouncing a middle run outside on the 3-yd line leading to a 2-yd loss, something he should've never done. On the positive side, all of the RB's did great work in blocking pass rushers in the pass protection schemes. This helped to keep Romo upright all night.
SS Abram Elam had a bunch of tackles and played tough against the run, especially on a short-yardage play, and returned a kickoff. With Jusitn Beriault retiring, Elam is pushing for a roster spot.
FS Pat Watkins showed some great instincts on special teams, continuing what we saw him do at FSU.
OLB John Saldi had a nice game, making a few tackles and blocking a pass in the backfield. CB Lenny Williams had a couple of hard tackles at the end of the game and CB Nate Jones had two pass break-ups.