Let's begin with what is the obvious top story, the adjustments made to the quarterback depth chart at Valley Ranch...
Apparently, Brandon Weeden is the Cowboys' version of Schleprock:
Weeden has lost 11 consecutive games and is 5-19 overall as a starter in the NFL. He completed 20-of-21 passes for 237 yards with no sacks and led the Cowboys to 35 points in his first four quarters replacing Romo. The last 10 quarters: Weeden completed 51-of-77 passes for 502 yards with eight sacks and led the Cowboys to only 26 points. He didn't help himself after the loss to the Patriots by relating he was frustrated and adding that former Cowboys offensive coordinator Norv Turner told him in Cleveland that he had, "the worst luck of any player I've been around.''
Before the news was leaked, hints were dropped:
Speaking on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday morning, Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said it would be "logical" to say the determination of reps at next week’s walk-through after the team returns from the bye or at the Oct. 21 practice will demonstrate whether Brandon Weeden or Matt Cassel would start against the Giants.
As the speculation mounted about a Cassel-for-Weeden swaperoonie, Archer reminded us of what Garret told reporters about the decision-making process:
"You look at what we’re asking him to do and how he handles that and then how he executes those plays on a consistent basis, week in and week out and you look at the overall production of the quarterback," Garrett said. "The quarterback is one of those positions where you don’t isolate him. His impact on the offense is important. His impact on the football team is important. You put all of those factors together and you try to make your best judgment."
Here's the plan for the bye week, per the head coach:
"Oftentimes you work on kind of going back to the basics; you focus on technique and spend a little more time on that and spend more time on letting the younger players who don’t get as many reps, you give them an opportunity to get some work," Garrett said. "You heal some of the other guys up. But we’ll sit down and have some discussions about how we want to structure those practices here in the next day or so."
Oh, and replace your starting quarterback...
Werder, the Cowboys designated trial balloon floater, gets the scoop for being a good boy:
Brandon Weeden, who has been the starter during Dallas' three-game losing streak, was informed by Cowboys coaches that Cassel will start in Week 7 against the New York Giants, according to the source.
The Estimable Ryle writes exactly what I was thinking when I heard about the switcheroo for the first time on Tuesday: that the target date was the bye week all along:
What is interesting is the question of whether the Cowboys suspected that this was coming all along...Weeden's role as a backup was to fill in for a game or two if Romo was hurt, not to carry the load for nearly half the season. Cassel has proven he can handle a longer stretch, although the situation he faced with the Patriots as the stand-in for Tom Brady is not exactly comparable. However, the Cowboys are looking to him to find a couple of wins in the four games (at least) before Romo can resume his position. There is no guarantee that Cassel can do so, but he looks like a far better candidate to do so than Weeden. And he may have been that from the moment the Cowboys brought him in for his try-out.
The looming question: will the QB swap make a difference?
The Goose opines on the Weeden-Cassel switcheroo, and reasonably:
Was Weeden the blame for the collapse of the Cowboys without Romo? Hardly. He's one of only six starting quarterbacks in the NFL completing 70 percent of his passes this season. But the Cowboys needed more than just completions from Weeden. They needed plays -- scoring plays -- and those weren't forthcoming.
Hill with his weekly double-handful of post-game observations. Since this is the obvious topic du jour, I'll go ahead and share this one:
6. Matt Cassel won’t be a savior at quarterback, but he is more experienced and more accurate than Weeden so that’s a start. He should be a better decision-maker. But until Dez Bryant comes back, it will be rough no matter who is at quarterback because the Cowboys have no firepower on offense. Cole Beasely and Jason Witten are good options over the middle, but there is no one in the lineup at receiver that scares opponents. Terrance Williams has playmaking ability outside, but has been inconsistent. The Cowboys are getting nothing so far from Devin Street and Lucky Whitehead.
Archer reminds us why swapping out one backup quarterback for another won't mean much unless the rest of the team picks up their game:
Weeden is paying for the sins of the entire offense. He hasn't had Dez Bryant. He hasn't had a strong running game. He hasn't had receivers winning enough on the outside. He hasn't had a defense that was able to sustain a 28-17 halftime lead or give him a chance to beat the Saints in overtime with New Orleans scoring on the second play of the extra session.
Of course, getting Dez Bryant back will be a big, big step in the right direction.
Does promoting Cassel mean the end of the "play it safe" offensive philosophy we've seen of late?
The Sturminator's weekly look at the Cowboys offense examines the cornucopia of reasons why the Cowboys' offense is struggling, then concludes with a jab at the offensive coaches:
why are Garrett and Linehan still coaching this thing like they are the favorite? They aren't. And sometimes underdogs need to roll the dice and take a chance. Sometimes you need to be bold and riskier, because close to the vest is not working. Again, they will be underdogs moving forward, but for Pete's sake, cross up tendencies and try to ambush your opponent. You need to steal a TD or two to win these games and instead they are running on almost every 1st down until they are down double-digits and they are kicking a Field Goal on 4th and 2.
If "Fortune favors the bold", it is time the coaches stop "Laying up at the Masters." I am not suggesting it is one trick play after another, but the only thing more conservative than the QB play in the last 3 weeks might be the play-calling behind it. I am sure crossing up tendencies is a risky proposition if you are trying to cut down on the 3-and-outs, but these 3 games have taught us that the talent on hand cannot win a fair fight.
"Matches" Machota draws from Jerry Jones's interview on 105.3, wherein the elder Jones agrees with Sturm that playing it close to the vest is a losing formula:
"I think that you can make a case that you just need to have some things that help you win the game, the equivalent of turnovers on the defensive side of the ball," Jones said. "Those are usually, for the offense, 20-yard-or-more plays. And, so, I think you have to have some of those on a drive, in my mind, to hold the clock and to basically have some success. You've got to have some bigger plays in drives to be trite, and that's what I would hope that we could get from the quarterback is throwing some big plays.
"If you really look at it, we've done a good job on the turnover aspect of it. We had the last two in the second half the other day. But apart from that, we've done a good job [taking care of the football]. I think the other thing that it shows you is, you know, this business of playing it in here pretty close in this league, in this day and time, doesn't necessarily get the win."
With three consecutive losses in the books and some tough match-ups on the horizon, Cowboys Nation is beginning to wonder if the season will be over before the missing offensive stars return...
Gosselin's turn at a Tuesday Q&A. Here, he responds to a question about the Cowboys being handicapped by an average GM and an average coach:
"The Cowboys are as good as a franchise quarterback can make them. Without Tony Romo on the field, Jerry Jones looks overmatched as a GM, Jason Garrett looks overmatched as a head coach, Scott Linehan looks overmatched as a play-caller, this OL looks overmatched, this running game looks overmatched. With Romo, they all do their jobs better. Quarterback is the key component at every level of football. I've longed believe it's 90 percent of a championship equation in high school, 80 percent in college and 70 percent in the NFL. Without a franchise quarterback, you don't have a chance. Brandon Weeden is not a franchise quarterback."
In his weekly chat, Moore fields a lot of questions about the Cowboys playoff chances and whether or not Romo will have to run the table when he returns to make them happen. Here's one of several similar responses:
I think it's unrealistic to believe that Tony Romo will go undefeated upon his return, especially when you consider the Cowboys play Carolina at home on Thanksgiving afternoon and have road games in Green Bay and Buffalo in December. I also believe they are getting dangerously close to the point where they will have to run the table when Romo gets back to have a shot at the playoffs.
More from Jerry's radio spot. Here, he admits that the real killer in their three-game losing streak was the Saints game, since Atlanta is playing so well and the Patriots would have been tough to beat at full strength. But the Saints? That's the one they needed. Because they lost that one, it's an open question whether they can do enough to position themselves for meaningful games once Romo and Dez return:
"I don't know that nine wins can get you in the tournament,' Jones said in the Cowboys' locker room Sunday evening. "However you want to count them, you have to ask: How realistic is it for Romo and Bryant to come back and then we win all of them? It's not. We really do need to be playing better than we are playing. If we don't do that, then it might be too late."
Archer points out that the vibe in the Cowboys' locker room remains upbeat, despite three straight losses:
"Plenty of confidence," defensive end Jeremy Mincey said. "Plenty of confidence. We’re not that type of group to give in or give up. We’re going to have confidence."
Want something to chew on during the bye week? Here are some stats! Go ahead; they're like taffy!
And the good news keeps on comin'. The Cowboys have sunk to 21st overall in the Aikman Efficiency ratings, and are the lowest-ranked NFC East team:
Barnwell looks at several key statistical measuring sticks to gauge which teams are performing well. One of those is performance on first-and-ten, where you may be surprised to find your Beloved 'Boys among the top handful:
Who is actually getting the most out of those first-down plays, though? Here’s the first-down performance on these plays as ranked by ESPN’s version of success rate, which measures the frequency with which a team exceeds the historical expected points for a down-and-distance situation. These teams are the best and worst on offense on first-and-10 when the game is within 14 points:
Football Outsiders' Schatz with FO's 5-week rankings. Oh, how the once-mighty have fallen:
2015's most surprising decline: Dallas Cowboys
How much did the Cowboys' offensive line make DeMarco Murray look good last year, and how much did Murray make the line look good? Adjusted line yards stats suggest that it actually might be more of the latter. Thought to be the best run-blocking line in the league, the Cowboys have dropped from first in adjusted line yards in 2014 to 15th this year. However, Dallas runners have been stuffed at the line at about the same rate: 18.2 percent last year (11th) and 18.6 percent this year (12th). The Cowboys also are down to 20th in adjusted sack rate, but that's mostly not their fault; Brandon Weeden just gets sacked more often than Tony Romo.
Here's the chart that accompanied the article on the FO site...
Some personnel matters, both short- and long-term:
The Cowboys, Phillips reports, are expected to hold scheduled workouts with a few free agent players during the bye week, including running backs LaMichael James and Isiah Pead and defensive tackle Da’Quan Bowers. They also have an open roster spot after waiving WR Vince Mayle, who they promoted from the practice squad to fill in for injured Brice Butler during the Patriots game.
In this week's episode of "Five "Wonders," Archer looks ahead to the 2016 draft:
I do wonder if they will look heavily at running back and wide receiver after what has happened this season. They didn’t feel the running back spot fell the right way for them last spring and didn’t take one despite it being considered a strong class for backs. Receiver Terrance Williams will be in the final year of his contract in 2016. The Cowboys haven’t gotten anything from Devin Street. I’m not sure they can count on Brice Butler. I wondered this back in the summer about the Cowboys needing protection if something happened to Dez Bryant or Williams because of injuries. So far they don’t have an answer. They need an answer next spring at both positions.
Garafalo's sprawling piece on Hardy's afternoon versus the Patriots contains this excellent, and informative, sequence. It's so good that I went ahead and quoted it in full:
By the latter part of the second quarter, the Patriots' offensive coaches seemed to have an idea that Hardy was going to have a much bigger impact than perhaps they expected. So on the first four plays of their fifth possession, the Pats ran quick throws to Hardy's side of the field while Solder threw cut blocks at Hardy's legs. Those plays were designed to neutralize him and perhaps chip away at his stamina.
Of course, as soon as New England went away from the quick stuff, Hardy beat Solder on a speed rush off the edge to get a hit on Brady. The next two plays were a screen and a run away from Hardy's side.
The strategy to make Hardy less effective worked well. The Pats scored their first touchdown on that drive to take a lead they wouldn't give back.
"New England didn't have an offensive tackle on the roster who could match him one-on-one in pass protection," former NFL personnel assistant and current director of the scout-training service The Scouting Academy Dan Hatman told FOX Sports after reviewing tape of Hardy's performance. "He showed a versatile pass-rush plan, leveraging his pure speed, his hand-to-hand combat and a conversion to power to keep the tackles off-balance."
Hatman noticed Hardy seemed to slow down early in the third quarter. That's not surprising for a player who isn't yet in football shape. Breaking for halftime and then gearing up again is taxing on the body, even for players who have seen regular playing time recently.
But Hardy rebounded in the fourth quarter to make three impact plays: a late pressure on Brady two plays into the quarter, a hit that definitely stung Brady on his 59-yard touchdown pass to Julian Edelman (Brady was wincing and jogging slowly to the end zone to celebrate the score) and a hustle play to stop Dion Lewis for no gain on a pitch play away from him late in the game.
"Teams will need to have a protection plan in place against Hardy in order to keep their quarterback upright," Hatman said.
Want something to hang your hat on in the next few Romo-less weeks? This is probably your best option.
|Don’t forget to resister for our Blogging the Boys meet-up!
Oct 24-25, 2015
Cowboys-Giants in the beautiful Poconos
|Three awesome Cowboys-centric events!|
|Saturday, October 24
(8:00-10:00 PM): Dinner the night before the game
|Sunday, October 25
(9:00 AM - 1:00 PM): Pre-game brunch
|Sunday, October 25
(4:30-8:30 PM) Cowboys-Giants game, with free buffet
|Click Here to RSVP||Click here for more information on pricing, lodging, etc.|