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Spotlight On: Tyron Smith And The Offense

An illustrated breakdown of Tyron Smith's game against the Giants; interesting offensive plays.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Tyron Smith did not have a bad day, regardless of how PFF graded him. That's not to say that he had a good day, because he didn't. But for 63 plays he was generally put on an island against one of the most athletic man in the NFL in Jason Pierre Paul. And for the majority of those plays he held #90 in check.

That being said, Smith was clearly not the Tyronosaurus Cowboy's fans are used to. Let's look at the All-22 video and see what was going on. Please note that I'm labeling these as Play 1, Play 2, etc. However those are not the actual play numbers. I'll try and make sure I note when the play is happening in the context of the game.

Play 1: On the first drive of the game Smith was spot on. In the running game he generally went head up against JPP, and stonewalled him. When Romo was sacked Tyron was the only offensive lineman to hold his block. So the first interesting thing we really see regarding Tyron comes on the first play of the 2nd drive, a straight power run, with double teams on both the defensive tackles, (circled).

drive 2 play 1 (1)

Now this isn't so much a bad play by Tyron as it is a highlighting of two things: first, the Giant's Johnathan Hankins (95), is a mountain of a man. As highlighted by the arrow you can see he has just anchored down against the double team. Pay special attention to where his feet are compared to the line marker highlighted in yellow.

The second thing I want to highlight is that this is straight up power blocking, just move the man in front of you back. The Cowboys don't do a lot of this. They like to get their linemen, (and the defense), moving side to side and use momentum to move the defense backwards, something we'll see later.

Anyway, as you can see in the next picture, the double team isn't working. Hankins hasn't moved at all, as illustrated by the line marker highlighted in red. The other double team, (yellow circle), has moved their man down the field, but Tyron and Leary could get no push on Hankins who makes the play.

2nd drive 1st play (3)

Play 2: This is the first long pass to Terrance Williams, and it's a good example of why Smith is as good a tackle as he is. The play starts with a normal formation, and JPP lined up outside of Smith.

TW long ball (1)

It looks to me like Smith is in trouble right out of his stance. I'm not an O-line expert, so I could be reading the stance wrong, but he already seems off balance. This is where his ankle is a problem; it's not enough to keep him from playing, but it is enough to throw his game off.

Terrance Williams long ball (2)

Smith gets a good initial punch on JPP, but JPP beats it with some nifty hand-fighting, knocking Smith's arms down. Again though, the footwork is the big problem, Smith is off balance, and actually on just one leg when JPP makes his counter-move past him.

terrance williams long ball (3)

But this is why Smith is such an amazing tackle. He got beat, and beat bad, but he's athletic enough to recover and regain his block.

Terrance Williams long ball (4)

This is actually pretty funny; after Smith regains his block, JPP tries some kind of funky spin move. Not only is Smith not fooled, JPP ends up falling backwards completely off balance.

Terrance Williams long ball (5)

Play 3: This play comes a little later in the first quarter. Dallas comes out in a 13 package, with three TE's and DeMarco Murray alone in the backfield.

good run blocking

Earlier I mentioned that Dallas's run blocking is much better going sideways as opposed to trying to blow people straight back. This play is a perfect example of that. Instead of taking 93 on straight up, Smith begins to block him at an angle, allowing the DT to flow towards the run while moving him backwards. Look at where the blocks are compared to the line marker, (highlighted in yellow).

good run blocking 2

See how low Smith, (yellow circle), is in this picture? And look at the DT's legs; he has no base now and can easily be moved downfield.

good run blocking (3)

So here Smith has exploded up into his bloc and moved #93 (Mike Patterson), two yards downfield. Patterson is attempting to regain leverage, but his body is turned sideways, putting him off-balance.

good run blocking 4

This is what you like to see in a run block. Tyron has his man a good four yards downfield, with his arms fully extended, (meaning he's still in control of the block). And remember, this isn't a defensive end Tyron is blocking, this is a 300lb defensive tackle.

Play 3: This is the first really bad play I saw by Tyron. It was the first deep ball to Dez; Romo gets hit as he throws, Dez has to slow down to catch it, and the CB knocks it out of Dez's hands. I'm almost positive if Romo can step into this throw and lead Dez, it's a long touchdown. So what happened?

Dez almost TD 1 (1)

The Giants aren't doing anything to crazy here. The only noticeable thing pre-snap is how wide the DE's have lined up, (and to be honest the LDE has lined up much wider than JPP).

almost Dez TD 1 (2)

Again, something looks off to me in Tyron's initial stance. See how much weight he is putting on his inside leg? It's true that Parnell has a similar stance, but the LDE on that side has also crashed in hard, and JPP so far has not.

Dez almost TD 1 (3)

And right here Tyron is beat. Look at his legs; it looks like he's doing a lunge. JPP has cleared Tyron's inside hand, and Smith is off balance, giving JPP an easy path to the edge.

Dez almost TD 1 (4)

Again though, Smith is just so darn athletic! As you can see in the picture, Smith has regained his balance and looks like he's about to re-engage JPP. But if you look at Tyron's arms you cans see he's not actually engaged yet.

Dez almost TD (5)

Which allows JPP to beat him to the edge. Romo sees this, but he also sees that Dez has a step on the CB.

Dez almost TD (6)

And this just illustrates how much football really is a game of inches. Yes Tyron got beat. But JPP still had to make a great play to get to Romo. If Romo hadn't already been in his throwing motion, he had room to step up in the pocket. If he had started his throw a second earlier, JPP doesn't touch him and this is a TD. The margins in football really are that slim.

Play 4: Another bad play in pass protection for Smith. This occurs just a few plays after the long pass to Dez.

39:29 (1)

Nothing unusual from the Giants. But check out JPP's stance, I don't think I've ever seen a defensive lineman line up like that. It's clear he's teeing up on Romo though, and playing pass the whole way.

39:29 (2)

Which is fine, because Tyron looks to have good protection. He's got a decent stance, his hands are engaged. It looks like JPP has a little better leverage, but he only has one hand in Tyron's chest, so that's not a huge problem. All in all it looks like a stalemate.

39:29 (3)

I have gone back and watched this play numerous times, and I'm still not sure how what exactly JPP does here to get around Smith. It was like magic; it just happened. It boggles my mind, but I suppose sometimes the pass rusher just wins.

39:29 (4)

Which is unfortunate, because Romo has a wide open receiver ten yards down the field. There is no giant anywhere near the area, this could have been a big, big gain. The hidden yardage Bill Parcell's used to always talk about? Here's a big chunk of it.

Play 5: We're going to close this study out with three bad run blocking plays from Smith, all on the final few drives as the Boys are trying to close the game out.

bad reach block (1)

Here we can see that all the linemen immediately start moving to their right at the snap. None of the defense has even started moving yet, but all five of our OL have taken their initial step. Again notice that this is a basic principle of our running game; we generally don't blow out straight ahead, we get the defense moving horizontally.

bad reach block 2

This is the play that has me convinced that something is wrong with Tyron physically. You'll notice that every one of our linemen have gotten their helmets to the right side of the defensive player they are blocking. Every lineman but Smith. The defensive tackle has beaten Smith to the spot. That just shouldn't happen. Tyron had the jump off the snap, and knew where the play was going; there should be no way he get's beaten to his spot unless hes' not 100% physically.

bad reach block 3

And because he get's beat he has to hold.

Play 6: The next play is even worse.

bad lunge block

It starts out simple enough. Again the Giants aren't doing anything exotic, just a basic 4-3 with a safety in the box.

lunge block 2

I don't know what to call this block. It's a travesty, especially coming from a player as good as Tyron. His arms aren't extended, (at all!). Look how far forward his body is from his feet. It literally looks like he is just leaning forward and is about to fall on his face. What makes the whole thing even worse is the ball is coming right behind him.

lunge block 3

Did I say it looks like Smith is about to fall on his face? That's funny, because that' actually exactly what happens. He was just attempting to lean on the DE, but the DE moves and Smith falls. It makes me angry looking at this, because it's setting up as a beautiful play. Murray has two lead blockers in front of him, (red circles), with only one giant player unaccounted for, (blue circle). If Smith makes his block this is a huge play for Murray.

lunge block 4

Instead it turns into a huge mess. Witten has to peel off the lead block and pick up a defensive player breaking through the line, (red circle). There is no way Zach Martin can effectively block the DE, who has gotten to much penetration, but even if he does, Tyron is still off balance and can't make a block on the LB.

There has been a lot of chatter about how the OL is responsible for Murray's big season so far. This play is the counter-argument. Murray sees the nonsense in front of him and is able to cut back against the play, hit the other edge, and pick up three yards.

Play 7: This play occurred on the final field goal drive. For those with weak hearts be forewarned, it's going to remind you of a certain drive against Detroit when we were trying to run out the clock.

final drive

Again, the Giants aren't doing anything funny, just a basic 4-3 defense.

final drive

Tyron gets beat badly inside. Notice also that he's a good yard behind the rest of the offensive linemen, (besides Parnell who is in the process of getting driven back).

final drive

And to put the cherry on the poop sundae, take a look at Smith's right arm! There's a hold, bigger than Dallas. Good times.

What's It Mean?

I think this gives a lot of credence to those who said that Tyron was playing with a bad ankle. He didn't get overpowered on any of these plays; he either got beat to his spot, or was playing with bad form. Tyron is too good of an athlete to get beat to his spot, and I don't think he's forgotten his technique, which is generally top notch. I think he's playing with a bad ankle, and it's having an effect on his movement.

Bonus Stuff!!! For those who aren't tired of reading yet, here is an odd assortment of plays from our offense that stood out to me as I was breaking down the film. Some good, some bad, but all provide some interesting insight into how our offense works.

Gavin Escobar's First Catch: This was a big play for a couple of reasons; one it was just a big play, picking up 15 yards. Also it was the precursor to the big day that Escobar would end up having. But the truth is, there was a bigger play available.

Escobar's first catch 1

You can see Romo (yellow arrow) pointing to the running back in an attempt to draw the linebacker, (red arrow), away from Escobar, (red circle). But look up at the top of the screen and you see Terrance Williams all alone with no receiver nearby.

Escobars first catch 2

Romo's baiting worked, drawing both linebackers, (red circles) toward the running back, leaving Escobar in one on one coverage. But again, look at the top of the screen and the wide open Terrance Williams!

Fear the Hobbit Part 1: Fairly late in the 3rd quarter Dallas was facing a third and medium, (five or six yards). Earlier in a similar situation Romo completed a slant to Dez Bryant for the first, and lined up in a similar formation on this attempt, with Dez wide and Bease in the slot.

Bease doubled (1)

What's interesting here is that the Giant's don't elect to double Dez, (yellow circle). They don't even roll the linebacker, (red circle), over to help in coverage.

Bease doubled 2

beaze doubled 3

Instead the linebacker immediately starts heading towards towards Cole Beasley, first down machine.

Bease doubled 4

And, because it's a Giant's player, the linebacker immediately lays the cheap shot on the Bease. You can see two things happening at the same time; in the Yellow Circle Dez Bryant is catching the ball, in the Red Circle, a linebacker is delivering a hit on Cole Beasley. You stay classy New York!

Fear the Hobbit, Part 2: This was the first big Dez Bryant catch down the sideline, where he broke a tackle and tacked on an extra 15 or so yards. The actual play was all Dez Bryant, but the formation is interesting:

Dez in slot 1

Something we talked about a lot in the offseason was finding new roles for Cole Beasley. Well here we see the Bease lined up outside, with Dez in the slot. And a Giant's player, (yellow arrow),who has no idea what is going on.

Dez in slot 2

Just for giggles, Linehan sends Beasley in motion, coming in to create a tight formation with Dez. You can't tell but it really shakes up the Giant's who take about three seconds to try and readjust their coverage. Good times.

Tight Ends Getting it Done: Late in the 2nd quarter Murray took a run to the outside, and appeared headed for a big gain before pulling up lame with a twisted ankle. It was a good run by Murray, set up by great blocking from the TE position.

TE blocking

Here we can see that the Gavin Escobar and Jason Witten are tasked with setting the edge of the run. Escobar has engaged with the DE, and Witten is heading to the 2nd level.

Good TE blocking 2

Escobar is struggling some, (the DE has gotten his hands inside and his arms extended), but is holding his ground, and it appears that Witten is about to kick out the linebacker.

good TE blocking 3

Escobar has sustained his block successfully, but it appears as if Witten has whiffed on his. Or has he?

good TE blocking 4

Instead of trying to kick out the linebacker, Witten has effectively set a pick like in basketball. This is a pretty crafty move for a few reasons. If he had tried to kick out the linebacker the LB could have gotten off the block and made a play; here as soon as Murray clears Witten the LB is effectively out of the picture. Secondly it helps out the RB by giving him a set target to run towards, he's heading towards Witten's butt, knowing if he clears that spot he's past the 2nd level.

DeMarco Murray Getting It Done: One of the biggest plays in the game was a long throw to Dez, who appeared to leap into the end zone for a score. It was a great play, but wouldn't have happened without some dirty work by DeMarco Murray:

Murray pass block 1

The Giant's are showing blitz, with two linebackers lined up in the "A" gaps on either side of the center.

murray pass block 2

The Giant's then run a twist with those linebackers, crossing in front of Travis Frederick. Murray is watching and getting ready to move in that direction.

murray pass block 3

Frederick completely removes one of the linebackers from the picture, leaving Murray one on one with a linebacker coming in with a full head of steam. If you want to know why we aren't using Dunbar more in the passing game, this is it; would you want just Lance in between a blitzing LB and Tony Romo?

Murray pass protection 4

Of course Murray picks the blitz up as neat as can be, leaving Romo with one of the cleanest pockets you will ever see.

Gavin's Big Day: One of the stories of the game was Gavin Escobar's big day. He made a number of great catches, none better than his second touchdown, which was set up by play action.

Play action TD

Here we see the Giant's in their normal 4-3 look, with Gavin Escobar going into motion.

play action TD 2

You can see that all three linebackers bite on the play action, while Escobar leaks out behind them.

play action TD 3

By the time the middle linebacker, (who I'm assuming had middle zone coverage), notices what's going on Escobar isn't even in the picture. Let's see what the coverage looks like from another angle!

playaction TD

This is a pretty tough throw, over the top of the linebacker, and in between two safeties, but you can imagine it would be even tougher if the linebacker wasn't seven yards back because he bit on the playaction fake.

The Greatness of DeMarco Murray: Earlier I talked about Murray in pass protection, now let's see him as a runner. This play occurs late in the fourth quarter, with Dallas trying to milk the clock.

great run 1

There are some interesting takeaways from this picture. First, we're running into an eight man front, and we're doing it with only seven blockers, (five linemen, a TE, and a FB). Second, notice again that all the OL are moving more horizontally than they are vertically.

big run 2

Unfortunately the play blows up. The Giant's DT, (red arrow), gets too much penetration, and has now effectively taken on both Tyron Smith and Tyler Clutts, leaving us with five blockers for seven defenders. Look at Murray's head, (yellow circle), he's already scanning the field looking for a cutback lane.

big run 3

After cutting so hard he almost fell down Murray reverses field. It's now a footrace to the outside.

great run 4

This is one of my favorite pictures, I love how excited Dez gets when he sees the run coming his way. Murray wins the footrace, and seems to be taking a good angle cutting right along Dez's block.

Big run 5

I feel bad even thinking this, but I don't understand what Murray is doing here. Instead of continuing on his angle, and running right along Dez's outer hip, (yellow line), he cut's upfield, towards the defense, (red line). The only thing I can think is he didn't trust Dez to hold the block. Or years of being told to hit the veer lane, overrode what he was actually seeing.

big run 6

This however, I absolutely agree with. Murray doesn't wait for contact, he just slides, like a QB. He's taking a lot of hits this season, in this situation it was the smart play to just go down and save himself from contact.

Well there it is guys!  Hope you liked this little glimpse into the Dallas offense, and a few plays or events that might have been missed. It was a pretty dominating performance, and as we continue to get healthier, the only thing to say is, "How Bout Them Cowboys!"