Although there is not much, I do have at least one thing in common with Jerry Jones. When writing about the Dallas Cowboys, I convey what I think as honestly and openly as I can. This week, the articles coming from this laptop have been rather negative. This was rather inevitable, given that they all focused on what went wrong in a game where the Cowboys went from running up a healthy lead on their opponent to being outplayed and outcoached in just about every facet of the game. It was so bad that I heard from a few readers about how I was really worrying them.
But like the owner, I do not let a foolish consistency become a Spiderman villain, or something like that. For the past three days, there has been a ton of analysis of all the things that went wrong. After all that is digested and collated, a way forward for Dallas has emerged. There is a way to get this thing back on track for the very important game against the New Orleans Saints.
The offensive line has to get its mojo back.
Of all the things that went wrong last Sunday, the multiple breakdowns by the best part of the team were the most disappointing. This also includes some breakdowns by the tight ends as well. In addition to missed assignments, they have been accumulating penalties at an alarming rate, killing drives. It created a domino effect that contributed to all the other problems. In the second half, the running backs, especially Joseph Randle, were no longer able to get positive yards. Falcons defenders were slashing though the blocking like hot knives through a tub of soft spread. That forced the team to try and get yards through the air on second and third down with long yards to go, especially when, as DannyPhantom observed, the play-calling became very predictable after halftime. Brandon Weeden can be very effective with his short passing game on second or third and short, but not so much when he needs ten or more yards. This in turn led to having to punt the ball away after very brief possessions, forcing a short-handed defense to spend far too much time on the field, wearing them out. This especially led to problems for the defensive line. Aggravating this was the fact that the best rushman on the field, Tyrone Crawford, was banged up during the game and was noticeably less effective when he got back in action. Opening up the holes and getting yards on the ground, along with improved protection for Weeden, will extend drives, increase scoring, and keep those defenders off the field. That is largely the formula that was used last season. It needs to be resurrected for the Cowboys to win some games while Dez Bryant and Tony Romo are on the mend.
It is also the one thing that is most doable for Dallas. Although the fan base is already agitating for Matt Cassel to take over from Weeden, he is not going to be close to ready until at least after the bye week, and it is highly questionable that he will be more capable of running the offense even then. He was brought in as insurance since Weeden had a concussion in preseason. The staff does not want to use that insurance policy unless it absolutely has to. Weeden is capable of moving the ball if he has those favorable down and distance situations. And Weeden himself stated that he was looking for the short completions against the Falcons for a reason.
Brandon Weeden: You guys are beating a dead horse talking about throwing the ball underneath. That was our game plan— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) September 30, 2015
And Cassel himself doesn't expect to take over any time soon.
Matt Cassel doesnt know if he'll be active this week...When signed, he was told Weeden's the starter & has full support of the organization.— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) September 30, 2015
Cassel is competing with Kellen Moore, not Weeden.
Likewise, Christine Michael is no magic bullet. He may be an upgrade over Darren McFadden in a zone blocking scheme, but that does not mean he would suddenly heal all ills in the running game. It will hinge on the blocking.
Defensively, there is not much that can be done to improve things Jeremy Mincey may make it back (although he was reported as "did not participate" on Wednesday), but Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain are still a week away, and Randy Gregory is looking more and more like a post-bye return. David Irving is an unknown quantity and may well need another week or two to be able to contribute.
But the offensive line just needs to play the way they proved the could last year. One of the theories for the malaise they seem to be suffering through is that they had almost no time together prior to the regular season, and the injury to Ronald Leary hindered things further. He is back at practice. Even if he is not able to go this week, La'el Collins handled his duties well for a rookie, and another week would hopefully improve things. And even with all the issues, there are still some positives for the line to build on.
Most importantly, the offensive linemen know they have not been living up to their potential. Martin, Leary, and Travis Frederick are known for bringing some nasty attitude to the field. They are probably more than a little angry at themselves, and will be looking to vent some of that on the Saints.
If the big guys up front can get their act together, those dominoes will now fall in Dallas' favor. The running game will be able to function throughout the game. Weeden will not need to get ten or twenty yards with his arm to move the chains. The defense will be fresher and hopefully able to both stop the run and pressure the quarterback, whether it is Drew Brees or Luke McCown. That will help the secondary to limit the damage done by the wide receivers.
Of course, if the line doesn't get things together this week, things could go very badly. But based on history, including something of a slow start last season, they should rise to the occasion. If they do, the Cowboys should be able to win against the Saints. It is perhaps not quite that simple - but it is close.
|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.|