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Colts @ Cowboys (preseason) film review: Offense

The first film review of the new season. You guys know the drill from last year; I watch the game again in slow-motion TIVO-time and tell you what I saw. Sometimes it seems like I get overly-critical of players during these reviews, but you really shouldn’t take it that way. Just because I ding a guy for some bad blocks or bad decisions, doesn’t mean I think they aren’t good players. In a game, everybody makes mistakes – everybody - I just try to highlight players who made more than they should. But I also try to call out guys who had good games and ones that might not show up in the stats or highlights.

Anyway, here’s the first part dealing with the offense. The defense will be later today.

Tony Romo looked sharp; I really liked his accuracy and his quick release in this game. He spread the ball around to multiple receivers, and used his TE’s very effectively. He also tucked the ball and ran on one play (it was wiped out by a penalty on the Colts) and he pulled it down and took a sack on another (also wiped out by a penalty). While throwing the ball away is better than a sack, he showed maturity on both plays of recognizing when to take a chance and when to live for another play. There were a couple of plays where he made the wrong choice of receiver, once when Witten had a one-on-one with a safety, and another time Fasano was open near the goal line. But overall he was excellent.

Brad Johnson had a few problems, including two high snaps in the shotgun from Cory Procter. He actually started out OK, even after a penalty wiped out a nice gain by Marion Barber on a swing pass. But an under-thrown pass to Fasano and a fumble without being hit made his day look much worse. Not a good debut, but let’s wait to sound the panic horn. Matt Moore had an impressive first series, connecting with Tony Curtis three times. But that needs perspective, too. Curtis was wide-open every time and Moore had time to find him, but you have to give him credit for taking advantage of the situation. Nice start.

Julius Jones had a nice night, for as long as it lasted. He had a very nice run-after-catch on a short pass, and picked up some good yards on his runs. He almost broke one open big on a cutback run, but suffered from his major flaw, when he gets contact he usually goes down. If he could’ve kept his balance, he would’ve had a huge run. But he didn’t. Still, he looked fine for the first preseason game. Marion Barber was slow to start. He spent a little too much time going east-west instead of north-south. Some of it was bad run blocking, which was spotty, but he can usually make a few yards just running straight ahead, instead of bouncing them outside and losing yards. Later though, he started to have good runs getting north-south and he also made some good catch-and-runs out of the backfield. Finally, he made some great chip blocks on the DE’s and he picked up a blitz to save Romo’s bacon.

Tyson Thompson looked good. He was running well and made a catch-and-run out of the backfield. He picked up a 4th and 1 on pure effort because the blocking wasn’t there, and he rolled over a defender for his TD. Jackie Battle was OK, but didn’t get a lot of opportunity to show his skills behind a 3rd/4th string line.

The wide receivers were very quiet in this game. T.O. caught the first pass of the game for 8-yards, but that was it for his night. Sam Hurd had a nice block on a running play, and Patrick Crayton and Miles Austin had a couple of catches, but the TE’s stole the glory in the passing game. Jamel Richardson didn’t have a great game; he wiped out a nice TT run with a holding penalty and couldn’t come up with another catch. I’m not talking about the one where Matt Moore led him too much and almost got him killed, that one was on Moore. Jerheme Urban caught a pass that was high, but didn’t show much on punt returns, and didn’t have much opportunity.

Jason Witten caught one pass early in the game before calling it a night, on a bootleg pass that the Cowboys ran repeatedly in camp. Romo picked out Anthony Fasano on three different occasions for good yards. In camp Fasano was running good routes and showing nice hands and it has continued into the preseason. He did have a couple of poor blocks, one at the end of the line and one from the lead-blocker position, something he still needs to work on. Tony Curtis racked up the stats on three passes from Moore, but the truth is on two of them the Colts linebacker bit on the run even though we didn’t do a play-action pass. So all Curtis had to do was run the route and catch it. He did that, so he gets some love for making plays. He might jump ahead of Adam Bergen, who only had one catch.

Oliver Hoyte looked like he did last year. When he hits the defender in the hole with a block, it usually opens up space. No different here, he had a couple of crunching blocks and he picked up the blitz nicely on another play. He didn’t do much else, but he did block well. Lou Polite had a couple of blocks too, while Deon Anderson, who got in at FB late in the game, needs work on his lead blocking. He threw a whiff block on one, and he blocked the wrong guy on another. Just a rookie, he needs to learn, and probably will.

Doug Free had a nice debut for the Cowboys until he sprained his knee. He looked good in pass protection and threw a couple of nice run blocks. He did get occasional help from Kyle Kosier and some chip blocks from the backs, but he did OK on his own, too. Kosier had an uneventful night, which is good, meaning he didn’t blow any blocks that led to negative plays. I didn’t think Andre Gurode had his best game. He got beat on a spin move that led to Romo hurrying a throw, then he and Kosier had a miscommunication where they let a guy slip between them to stop a run. He was late on a pull and interfered with MB3, but I’m not worried, he looked great in camp.

Leonard Davis was a mixed-bag. Like we observed at training camp, when Davis uses good footwork and body position and can hit his man squarely, he punishes them. But he sometimes gets caught leaning forward out over his toes and the defender can get around him; that occurred a couple of times in the game. One caused Romo to throw quickly on a blitz. He can pull well, for a big man he’s surprisingly athletic and had a couple of good blocks on the move. Pat McQuistan also had a so-so game. He didn’t have any major errors that got anybody killed, but some of his blocks weren’t very good. He missed a block on a toss sweep, he didn’t close down quick enough on a DT when the guard pulled on another play, and got pushed back on a couple of bull-rushes.

Of the backups, Cory Procter had some trouble with his shotgun snaps and got blown off the line a couple of times. James Marten struggled with his blocking, just like in camp. He looks to have a ways to go before he’s ready. Matt Tarullo and Joe Berger blew a stunt pick-up that led to Moore being sacked.

Mat McBriar is still the man.

Martin Gramatica hit two, including a 47-yarder, and Nick Folk hit his one. All the kicks were well done.

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