After a couple of days of absorbing all that went wrong for the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday against Jacksonville, I'm here to give you my prescription for curing what ails the patient - besides the number one thing; stop with all the stupid penalties.
On Monday morning, after careful review of the game tape, I came out and said that Marc Colombo and Marco Rivera - and Flozell Adams - all play sub-standard games, with Colombo being the worst offender. Later that day, Bill Parcells in his press conference said that the line played OK - relative to the strength of Jacksonville's front four - and that Colombo specifically played OK. At that point I began to wonder about my own analysis; had my eyes deceived me? Fortunately, a few other Cowboys fans who reviewed the game tape confirmed what I saw. (Interestingly, no mainstream Cowboys writer ever reviews the game tape). I now believe that Parcells was trying to protect his offensive line by not blasting them publicly - although within the confines of Valley Ranch I'm sure they're getting an earful - with special care given to Marc Colombo's fragile psych, since he hasn't played in a while and is working to recover from a devastating knee injury.
Parcells needs to consider the possibility of playing Jason Fabini. He might give Colombo the start again, but if Colombo starts to struggle early, Parcells needs to have a quick trigger in calling on Fabini to step into the breach. As for Marco Rivera, I'm not ready to suggest that Cory Procter be given the job, but we need to adjust our blocking schemes to help Rivera out temporarily. An emphasis should be made in allowing Andre Gurode to help Rivera with some double-teams, allowing the more competent guard - Kyle Kosier - to handle some one-on-one blocking. As for Flozell, we just need to wait and see if he can return to form, Pat McQuistan is not the answer yet.
So much has been written about this already, but I might as well and go ahead and claim a position. I'm sticking with Bledsoe. I'm not ready to turn the season over to Tony Romo, who I believe is talented and shows great promise for the future, but is inexperienced in terms of actual playing during an NFL regulation game. Instead, I would recommend that Dallas use a lot of three-man patterns and keep Anthony Fasano and Julius Jones/Marion Barber in to give Bledsoe 7 blockers on the line. Terrell Owens, Terry Glenn and Jason Witten are talented enough receivers to get open against zones and double-teams, and would provide enough firepower to keep the defense honest. I would do this until the offensive line shows they can handle giving Bledsoe a clean pocket.
What we thought was going to be a strong point going into the year turned out to be a weakness in the Jacksonville game. Anthony Henry was toasted in coverage, but more surprising - and this needs to be said - Terence Newman was also beat regularly in last Sunday's game. I have confidence that Newman will bounce back, but Henry might need some help. Dallas did a good job of containing the run with its front seven; I would go with that plan again this week. Even though Roy Williams is a much better player in the box, Dallas should leave him in coverage and roll a safety to Henry's side this week, at least until Washington can prove that we can't stop the run with 7 in the box.
We got very little out of the pass rush in the Jacksonville game, and a review of the game tape gives us a clue. Dallas played it very basic in terms of the pass rush, normally sending 4 men, with either Greg Ellis or DeMarcus Ware joining the front three. Occasionally, we sent all five, but even that didn't prove to be effective. So without resorting to bringing the house to get pressure, Dallas should start varying their pass rush packages. We rarely used any line stunts on Sunday; it was generally straight ahead rushing lanes. Let's see some crossing stunts from the front line, and mix in an occasional blitz from the safeties or corners. Dallas blitzed some on Sunday, but for the most part it was straight ahead from the inside linebackers. Mike Zimmer needs to get more creative with his personnel and cause some confusion for the opposing offense's blocking schemes.
DeMarcus Ware seems to have fallen in love with the bull-rush. He used it a lot on Sunday, with the results being occasional pressure, but no sacks. Ware needs to very his arsenal of moves. Parcells should start rotating his personnel a little more, giving Jason Hatcher and Jay Ratliff more opportunities to put pressure on the QB. On Sunday, those two combined for the only sack Dallas got. Hatcher has shown in the preseason that he has the ability to get to the QB, let's see what he can do in a regulation game.
The running game was actually effective for most of the last game. Just as they did on Sunday, I would continue to run behind Andre Gurode and Kyle Kosier, and attack the middle of the defensive line.
Next, get the ball to Terrell Owens. I'm not just talking about chucking it deep to him, but hit him on the slants, crossing patterns and hitches. The guy is strong and can get yards after the catch. Utilize him to draw the corners and safeties closer to the line, then go over the top to Terry Glenn.
There you go, that's how I would approach the next game. Anybody else have ideas?