How Cowboys have built a winner - Field Yates, ESPN
From laughingstock to team-building exemplar in five short weeks; my, how the worm has turned. Since this is an "insider" piece that is behind a paywall, I'll try to offer a thumbnail sketch. Yates writes that Dallas has built along three key principles:
- Investments in the offensive line. Well, yeah.
- Nailing skill player draft picks: Yates notes that, since 2010, the Cowboys in total have drafted nine wide receivers, running backs and tight ends; eight remain on the roster.
- Finding unlikely contributors, such as Rolando McClain and Anthony Hitchens.
Funny, but when you have success, suddenly Joseph Randle and Devin Street look like wise third-day selections. Another funny: when you have success, acquisitions that would otherwise be labeled as "lucky" suddenly become instances of an organization's skill and/ or foresight. Of course, guys like Yates are just catching up to what our own Tom Ryle has been telling you all along...
Start your Jim Mora jokes right now:
Cowboys 10 steps to the playoffs - Mike Fisher, Cowboys HQ
Fisher writes a Cowboys playoff primer, offering the team ten key "do"s and "don't do"s to follow if they want to be a playoff team. The obvious favorite in my clubhouse was "beat the Eagles." Shouldn't be too hard, according to Fish::
Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly gets oodles of credit for "reinventing football’’ but the truth is, these two teams have been neck-and-neck in both his seasons with the Eagles. "Reinventing football’’? In Week 4 of this season, the aged Romo had more rushing yards than Eagles superback LeSean McCoy. Last year, the "worst-in-history’’ Cowboys defense had stats that were essentially mirrored by Philly and the Eagles’ vaunted offense scored 27.6 points per game to Dallas’ 27.4.
Are you reading this, big media knee-jerkers?
A few remaining wrap-ups from the Texans game:
Marinelli Report - Week 5 - Houston - Bob Sturm, Live from Lewisville
The Sturminator's weekly must-read piece on the Cowboys defense focuses on the zone blitzes that Marinelli dialed up in an effort to stymie Texans' QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Here's Sturm:
...the Cowboys are trying creative ways to steal downs and to not resort to blitzing 6 or 7, but still to get near the QB and try to trick him enough to get off the field. They never blitzed more than 5, but brought 5 on 11 occasions out of 26 (which is a high number for Marinelli - and as you will see below, they blitzed a ton until they got the lead). But, in each case, it was a different look with different rushers.
He also has some nice things to say about J.J. Wilcox's game - or at least one terrific play he made...
Tyrone Crawford: I've been a better defensive tackle than defensive end this season - Jon Machota, DMN
Machota notes that no Dallas Cowboy has put more pressure on opposing QBs than Crawford. Although he remains sackless on the season, Crawford's 12 quarterback pressures are the most on the team through five games. And that's why the gents at Pro Football Focus have given Crawford the highest grade among Cowboys defensive players this year.
Also: don't forget about our fearless leader's superb take on Crawford's work inside, complete with awesome video stills!
Often overlooked, Leary shines among high-profiled O-line - Nick Eatman, The Mothership
In a piece that far outstrips its awkward title, Eatman covers one of this week's big stories: Ronald Leary's fine work against J.J. Watt and the rest of the Texans' excellent front seven. Leary deserves the praise; among the may reasons why is the fact that
Cowboys trust in tight ends' blocking - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
Last Sunday, Jason Witten was asked to block Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt 12 times without any help. Archer notes that, on the 10 running plays in which Witten blocked Watt, the Cowboys gained 41 yards. Also, Dwayne Harris’ 18-yard catch also came with Witten matched up on Watt. And its not just Witten; listen to "receiving tight end" James Hanna:
"I’m just not intimidated by people anymore," Hanna said. "I just have confidence that I can do my job and I don’t have to worry about, like I might get beat or something. I’m confident that I’m going to get it done."
Thank you, Mike Pope. Thank you, very much.
Why isn't Dallas Cowboys TE Gavin Escobar not getting more opportunities? - Jon Machota, DMN
"We have a lot of plays and packages for him to get out there," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "Sometimes you get a chance to call those things. Other times you are doing different things to try to win the games. So he’s ready....He’s a good player and he’s getting better, and he is working hard at it. He will get opportunities as we go forward."
Dallas Cowboys should be encouraged after Sunday's rare win when losing turnover battle; just how rare was it? - Brandon George, DMN
In my Monday "by the numbers" post, I noted that last time the Cowboys won with a turnover differential of negative two was in 2009, in the overtime thriller at Kansas City, and added a factoid from the inimitable O.C.C.: Prior to Sunday's win, the Cowboys' record since 2000 in such games was 3-21. Here, George extends and expands this discussion:
According to STATS, the Cowboys are now 30-166-3 all-time when they’ve had at least a minus-2 turnover differential in a game.
A scattering of news from yesterday's practice:
Dallas Cowboys practice report Wednesday: Three linebackers, Tony Romo sit out; Jason Garrett emphasized ball security - Brandon George, DMN
The Cowboys’ skill position players were holding footballs as they went through their pre-practice stretching in an effort for Dallas to emphasize ball security. Coach Jason Garrett went over to the individual running back drills and grabbed a football to show them how he wants them to hold the ball.
Fish's Wednesday Cowboys practice report - Mike Fisher, Cowboys HQ
In a transcription of his Wednesday call-in report, Fish adds some good cheese to his usual practice report - including this chunk of ripe Camembert on the Bills new signal caller:
On the Orton Fallout: "Ed Werder, our colleague from ESPN, who reported that part of the issue with Kyle Orton to part Dallas was a conflict with Tony Romo -- there's some truth in there, it turns out. And that's why Ed's as good as he is. There's also truth in what I've been told that two of them had a social relationship, but, at some point, the social relationship wasn't strong enough to carry Kyle Orton through his distaste for the environment. And that's Romo-related. So, both stories are true. On one hand, there absolutely was Kyle Orton saying, 'I've had enough of this organization maybe being Romo-friendly,' and at the same time, the two of them had a social relationship. So, I think a lot of this is about competitive football players. I think Kyle Orton wanted to be in a competitive situation. Now, he's got his money and he's such a competitive situation in Buffalo that he won the job within a month.''
Amobi Okoye decision coming as soon as Monday - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
Although Okoye is eligible to come off the non-football injury list after the Seattle game, the Cowboys do not have to activate him until Nov. 3. Whenever he is activated, it will open up a three-week window in which he can practice but not play. After that window closes, Okoye will have to be added to the 53-man roster, remain on NFI for the rest of the season or be cut.
As might be expected, scribes are jumping ahead to talk about the World Champs as early in the week as they can...
Jeremy Mincey looks for different result from Seahawks - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
Mincey had the good fortune to play in last year's Super Bowl - and the bad fortune to be a member of the Broncos, who were on the receiving end of a 43-8 spanking:
"We didn't match the intensity in the Super Bowl, and that's what happened," Mincey said. "You got to match this team's intensity. You got to come out there just as fired up as they are. They play well at home, obviously. And we've been pretty good on the road. We just got to keep doing what we're doing and focus on what we do best."
Cowboys know Seahawks QB dynamic runner and passer - Nick Eatman, The Mothership
Eatman reminds us of the last time the Cowboys faced Russell Wilson and his Seattle compadres: he was a young rookie quarterback making his second career start - and had, you may remember struggled in start number one. But, as he has done many times since, Wilson had a mistake-free, 150-yard passing day, helping Seattle to dominate and win going away, 27-7.
Scout's Eye: Seattle DT Mebane can control the run - Bryan Broaddus, The Mothership
In this week's look at the opposition, The Broad One looks at three 'Hawks: Russell Wilson (the "weapon"): Percy Harvin (the "nemesis"); and Brandon Mebane (the "under the rader" guy). Here's what he has to say about the titular Mebane:
There are several outstanding players on this Seahawks defense, but Mebane was the one that jumped out at me. His ability to control that middle in the running game makes it difficult to advance the ball. Mebane is a hard man to move physically off the ball due to his upper body strength and the base he plays with.
He is not one of those slug defensive tackles that just sits down and takes up space. His movement skills allow him to work down the line square, which doesn’t provide a gap or crease for the running back to attack. His ability to flatten out the blocker along the line also makes the back have to carry the ball wide, stretching out the play and allowing his teammates to rally to the ball.
Travis Frederick will once again have his hands full...
Cowboys want a rotation like Seattle's DL - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
The comparisons to Seattle's defense begin with Archer's peek at the Seahawks' D-line. He catalogs the suspects and finishes with a crucial point:
The Seahawks have three defensive linemen who have played more than 40 snaps in a game this season: Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and O'Brien Schofield. Bennett and Avril are the only defensive linemen to play at least 40 snaps in every game for Seattle....Seattle mixes in Jordan Hill, Kevin Williams, Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel for anywhere from 11-25 snaps a game. As a result, the Seahawks wear teams down.
A system that allows your guys to stay fresh and wears down the opposition's guys? Sign me up!
Scout's notebook: grading Seattle's safeties, DEs and WRs - Bryan Broaddus, The Mothership
Broaddus steps out of the film cave long enough to share some good stuff gleaned from studying the tape. As the title suggests, he looks at three positions in particular. Here's his take on the 'Hawks receivers not named Percy Harvin:
Unless you are a Seahawks fan, you probably are not familiar with the work of Doug Baldwin, Ricardo Lockette and Jermaine Kearse -- but you need to learn who they are...
There are snaps where Wilson is not as accurate as he needs to be, and this is where these receivers bail him out by making adjusting catches. There is a nice degree of toughness within the group and you can tell by their play they take pride in their work. It’s an interchangeable group that is not restricted where they have to line up and that is what makes them work so well in this scheme for the Seahawks.
Jeremy Mincey: Seahawks put their pants on just like us, but we'll need discipline to beat them - Jon Machota, DMN
After that headline, there's not much to add. I'll let Mincey speak:
"It goes back to discipline," Mincey said. "If you watch film on [Seattle], guys are getting out of their gaps and over pursuing. You can’t blame them. They’re just trying to make a play. With this team you’ve got to be focused and disciplined and swarm the ball and have a bunch of hats on Marshawn and just be aware of Russell’s feet.
Big picture: Seattle is best test yet for Dallas' new identity - David Helman, The Mothership
Here's what gives me hope, via Tiny Jim:
All of that said, the Seahawks haven’t proven unstoppable so far this season. Rivers completed 75 percent of his passes for three touchdowns, and he led San Diego to a 30-21 win against the defending champs in Week 2. It took overtime for Seattle to win its Super Bowl rematch with Manning and the Broncos, and self-inflicted penalties kept them from putting away the Redskins in Week 5.
And I'll close with this one, which is an absolute must-read:
The run that birthed Dallas' dynasty - Steve Wulf, ESPN
As the 25th anniversary of the Herschel Walker trade approaches (its October 12), we're seeing a lot of retrospective accounts of what turned out to be a heist. Here, Wulf pens a lengthy recap of the events and personalities surrounding the team and the trade. A couple of interesting citations from a story packed with excellent quotes:
"I'll tell you how much he meant to the franchise," Kevin O'Neill says. "The security code at the facility was 3412 -- 34 for Herschel, 12 for Roger Staubach."
"The advantage we had was that we had seen the players we were drafting. We had relationships with other assistant coaches, so we knew who to call to get an honest assessment. Why do you think Pete Carroll and Chip Kelly have been so successful in the pros? Yes, they know how to teach and motivate, but they also know how to get the information they need to find talent."
Here's the 30 for 30 documentary on the Walker trade. Its must-see hist-o-ree...
Ah, quaffing Glory Days Ale...a potent, heady brew, but one that never makes me the least bit full.
Don't forget to submit your picks for the BTB Pick 256 Challenge
Pick 256 is a season-long contest in which BTB members and readers get to pick the straight-up winners for all games each week. If you haven't yet submitted your picks, now would be a good time, here's the link to the entry form.
If the link above doesn't work for whatever reason, use the following alternative, which does not autofill your BTB user name into the entry form.
Alternative Pick 256 Entry Form
Through the early hours of the morning, we've logged about 240 entries, of which only 55% have picked the Cowboys for the win over the Seahawks on Sunday.