The Cowboys wasted no time getting into the public relations activities that the NFL is so intent on as they try to expand the reach of the game internationally. It was probably inevitable that the two different kinds of football would be involved.
The children were all smiles during the drills. But when Tottenham Hotspur players tried to throw a football and Cowboys players tried to kick a soccer ball, the results weren't peachy keen.
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and receiver Dez Bryant laughed from a distance as they watched Tottenham players attempt passes to each other. The soccer players threw the football more like someone pitching in cricket. Their over-the-top, windmill windups didn't produce any spirals.
While the meet and greet was entertaining for all involved, the team has not forgotten the business at hand.
"We're going to come here, have fun but at the same time we're going to handle our business," Bryant said. "Coach Garrett made that very clear to us after the game. We here for business. Having this little time to enjoy with the kids that's also special. I don't think it'll be a distraction. I don't think that that's going to take away any of our focus. We know what we're here for."
Romo, the team, and everyone who is a Cowboys fan hope he can play this week. He is optimistic, in a Jason Garrett approved kind of way.
"It's progressing," Romo said of his back. "Each day it gets a little bit of improvement, and I think that you just keep trying to figure out what you're able to do each day and then you go on to the next day. We'll figure out if we're able to improve enough to be ready to go."
In a word, no. But he and the Senator got top shelf treatment anyway.
Romo, by the way, did end up with a seat in first class along with tight end Jason Witten. But he didn't bump Gene Jones to coach.
Romo is not the only player trying to overcome injury, of course.
Like Romo, right tackle Doug Free and left guard Ronald Leary took part in the brief walk-through after landing in London on Tuesday.
Defensively, Tyrone Crawford does not look likely for the game, but Rolando McClain may have a chance to play.
Bryan Broaddus runs down the injured players and comes up with similar conclusions. He holds out hope for Romo, doesn't feel good about Crawford, and leaves R. McClain until he can get more info.
After missing three games with an ankle injury, Doug Free will practice on Wednesday and most likely return to his starting spot at tackle. Ronald Leary missed the Cardinals game while nursing a groin issue and will also return to practice. Like Free, he should be back in the starting lineup.
Bryce Petty may just be in college, but he has been through much the same thing Romo is enduring.
"Everybody deals with it different," Petty added. "What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger. He'll be fine, like I am. As far as a back injury to have, this is the one to have. It kind of heals itself. He has all the good people up there to help him out, just like I had the people down here to help [me] out."
There are still some things to dissect from the last game.
Bob Sturm dives into what went wrong with the offense with his usual clarity and insight. He shows clearly where Brandon Weeden did not see or ignored fairly easy throws to Cole Beasley that would have kept drives alive, and talks about how the running and passing games are interdependent.
But, what stats have never done for us is show with great accuracy the effects of how one part of the offense feeds another. For instance, if you have a good QB, how much more unlikely is it that Arizona stacks the box and forces you to stop running? This is the long-running fight I have with people that don't value running the ball. Good running makes passing so much easier. And, good passing also makes running easier. It is a symphony of football where you are trying to make the defense unsure of what you are doing and therefore they can not deploy the adequate number of troops to stop everything you want to do. If they sense you can only do one thing, then that will not function as well - even though it is not the fault of that specific portion of your attack.
That is why, this week, people will complain about the running game and the offensive line and say, what happened to them? Well, in my opinion (and I will try to show this later in the week), the running game suffered because the passing game was gone. Arizona deployed troops to gang up on the offensive line and there was no way to chase them off that idea unless your QB could make them pay. So, complaining about the running game not performing is somewhat misguided because they are running against 8 defenders rather than 6 or 7 as they have when they were impressing you so much earlier in the season.
And he also has a chart of every pass Weeden threw. Click on that and it will jump out at you just how badly Weeden was running the offense.
While everyone is ready to ride Weeden out of town on a rail (except for the fact that there isn't anyone else hanging around to take his place), David Moore brings up the fact that the problems started at least a week earlier under Romo.
But the Cowboys began to show signs of offensive erosion before Weeden took over for injured Tony Romo. An offense that averaged 29.8 points during its six-game winning streak has averaged 17 points during this two-game losing streak.
"Two tough losses,'' tight end Jason Witten said before the team boarded a flight to London on Monday evening. "That's what happens in this league.
It wasn't a tremendous start for DeMarcus Lawrence as he played in the first game since he injured himself in preseason. But he did look to have been there to clean up if Henry Melton had missed the first sack of Carson Palmer, and his performance does hold promise for the future.
"Seem like he did a good job, he was active in the game," coach Jason Garrett said of Lawrence, who might get more playing time this week. "He showed up a little bit, around the football [and it] did not seem too big to him at all. He was physical, obviously, technically he has to improve, and he'll [learn] a lot from the snaps that he played. But there were a lot of positive things with DeMarcus."
This article caught my eye. It looks at how the linemen coming out of college now are for the most part very poorly prepared for the NFL game. It makes the job Dallas has done drafting immediate starters in Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin all the more remarkable.
The proliferation of the spread and option-based offenses has significantly harmed the development of offensive linemen going into the NFL. The spread and option-based schemes ask their offensive linemen to perform tasks that don't exactly translate into most NFL offenses. Simple things like the center not snapping the ball to a quarterback under center and big things like wide splits, almost exclusive play in a two-point stance and lack of man-blocking. In a spread offense, an offensive lineman is almost exclusively in a two-point stance, while in the NFL, linemen are in a hybrid of two- and three-point stance.
Add in the difficulty in having enough time to coach the linemen up under the limitations the CBA places on teams, and you get an idea of just how good a job Will McClay, Tom Ciskowski, and company did on the three first round linemen.
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.
By early this morning, we've logged about 160 entries, waaaay up from last week's 90 entries. Predictably, 99% of those entries are picking the Cowboys. The closest game is Carolina at Philly, where the Eagles have a minimal edge, with 51% of the votes in their favor.