It's the time of week where our collective Cowboys-lovin' gaze turns to the future, and to St. Louis. Appropriately, we start with a healthy compendium of Cowboys-Rams preview pieces...
As he does every week in season, Archer gets together with a scribe who covers the opposing team to concoct a detailed overview of the upcoming contest. It's always a great read; here's Wagoner on Rams DE Robert Quinn:
Quinn doesn't have any sacks yet but that single stat is really a disservice to the work he has done. Tampa Bay and Minnesota made it a point to get rid of the ball quick and both teams used screens, slants and other short routes as a way to help negate Quinn and the Rams' pass rush as a whole. Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel had the fewest air yards per attempt of any quarterback in the league in Week 1 and the Rams had no sacks.
But Quinn is still wrecking offensive lines and creating pressure despite the lack of sacks. Teams are throwing multiple blockers at him on every play and linemen are desperately clutching and grabbing him to keep him from getting to quarterbacks. He's not always getting the calls but the attention going to him should open things up for others. Of course, he also hasn't seen a tackle as good as Smith in the first two weeks, either.
And here's Archer on the Cowboys defense:
I still have my doubts. It has been better than I or many thought. But I need more visual evidence. Maybe it's just not wanting to be fooled so much. In Week 1, I believe San Francisco really shut it down in the second half and just wanted to avoid the big mistakes with a 28-3 lead. Last week at Tennessee, Jake Locker was terrible. Now some of that was the Cowboys' making. They got a good rush on him at times and the coverage was solid, but he also missed some throws. If they have another good game this week against Davis (or Hill), I'm still not sure I would get carried away. But it would give the Cowboys confidence and that's more important than anything I would say.
In a seeming follow-up to his back-n-forth with Wagoner, Archer drops some stats-based knowledge, via the gents at ESPN Stats and Info. This week's interesting factoid:
The Cowboys' final series included 11 straight runs. The last time the Cowboys ran the ball 11 or more consecutive times on the same drive was Dec. 2, 2001 at Washington. They ran it 14 consecutive times in a drive which spanned the first and second quarters.
For the first time this season, the Cowboys will not be facing a 3-4 defensive scheme. Center Travis Frederick doesn’t believe there will be much of an adjustment, however:
"It’s really just a personnel type because both of the 3-4 teams (San Francisco, Tennessee) we played also played a little bit of a 4-3 fronts, even though it was 3-4 personnel," Frederick said. "It’s really just a matter of recognizing where they are and what they’re doing and applying our rules to that … Tennessee kind of bridged the gap from San Francisco to St. Louis, so it kind has been growing each week."
Can I just say how much I love Fredbeard's intelligence?
In the first two games, the Cowboys have seen tight ends Vernon Davis of the San Francisco 49ers and Delanie Walker of the Tennessee Titans score three touchdowns on their defense. According to Barry Church, it's all about the zone:
"In man-to-man coverage I feel like they’re not affecting us like that," Church said. "In zone, they get lost in the zones and are able to find holes and make big plays."
The Broad One looks at a couple of key tete-a-tetes in Sunday's game: Brandon Carr against Rams WR Brian Quick and the titular match-up, with first rounders Zack Martin and Aaron Donald locking horns. Here he is on the WR-CB matchup:
Across the line from Quick will be Brandon Carr, who is coming off an outstanding game coverage-wise in dealing with Nate Washington. In that contest Carr, technique-wise, was flawless. His jam, turn and adjust reminded me of his days when he played for the Kansas City Chiefs....When facing Quick, he is going to need to repeat that exact blueprint in order for this defense to have the same success they did in shutting down the Titans.
Rams coach Jeff DFisher on the pro readiness of the one that got away:
"It’s the use of his hands," Fisher said. "He’s been taught very, very well even to the point where our defensive line coach said he didn’t want to mess him up. He’s just going to let him play and learn from it. He’s that kind of guy. He’s short in stature and so he’s got great leverage so he can get underneath pads. He’s got great quickness and feet. He can get around big bodied offensive linemen pretty quickly."
I just found out recently that the Rams tried to trade back into round one (with the Ravens) to draft Martin. So it's not only Cowboys fans who will forever link these two players...
Two inter-office memos from the Tony Romo department...
Besides praising the Cowboys for looking good against the Titans, White shares some insight about Romo's physical reality:
It's very difficult to recover, to go through a rehab in an offseason like Tony's gone through with his back, and still prepare yourself physically to play the game of football. And that's not just throwing. You've got to build up and maintain your strength, especially your upper-body strength, to play the game. I don't know how you can rehab your back and still do all the things you have to do to get ready to play a football season. This is not a criticism of anybody, it's just that I think that Tony looks like he's not been able to do all the weightlifting. You can't do a clean and jerk when you're rehabbing your back, you can't do a dead lift, you can't do a bench press when you're rehabbing your back. I'm sure that Tony's suffering from probably too much rehab and not enough weight training.
"I think we want to run the ball a lot. I think if you can run the ball like we’ve been able to do, I think it’s a huge bonus," Romo said. "You see the teams, the Niners and the Seahawks, two of the better teams over the last 3-4 years in the NFC, they’re running the football and they play great defense. That’s what the NFL has been about for a long time. You have your quarterback make plays when they’re needed and that’s the way to win year in and year out, so we’re trying to do that."
Next up: a collocation of pieces on DeMarco Murray...
Murray edged out Houston’s Arian Foster and New England’s Steven Ridley to gain FedEx Ground laurels. Good on ya, son!
"The physical nature, he brings a lot of identity to our team the way he plays because our guys are doing the same thing up front," Linehan said. "The tight end, the receivers are playing with that same kind of physical nature. To be good at the run game, your back has to have that style to be the guy that’s packing it most of the time."
Murray’s fumbles this season came when he held the ball with his left hand, so he's going back to the way he did it in his first three seasons in the league: holding it primarily in his right hand. Makes sense to me: if it's broke, go back to the way it was when it wasn't broke.
A video recap of Murray's big runs in the 2011 contest against the Rams, wherein he established himself as a force to be reckoned with by setting the Cowboys rushing record with 25 carries for 253 yards (and, of course, he went 26 for 175 last year against St. Louis). Always fun to watch complete dominance on the ground.
The next course: Sturm.
Sturm's week of unadulterated awesome comes to an end with his Thursday Xs and Os post. This week's edition focuses on three big plays: Delanie Walker's 61-yard touchdown catch-and-run; a creative pitch left to DeMarco Murray that gained 12 yards; and a 13-yard Romo to Witten pass for a first down. As always with Sturm, this is a required read.
And we end with a bit of news good enough to merit today's headline - doubly so, given the off-field NFL news of late...
Since 2000, the Cowboys have the third fewest players included in the recently-published USA Today player arrest database. They have a total of 14, behind only the Texans (with 11 - but the Texans didn't exist until 2002), Cardinals and Rams (both with 12) and light years ahead of the Vikings (45), Bengals (43) and Broncos (40). I guess having head coaches who prioritize RKGs does pay off, eh?