It was quite a surprise when the Cowboys offense took the field on Thanksgiving, and #75 was lined up at left tackle. After three limited practices prior to the Redskins game, everyone had a good feeling left tackle Tyron Smith would be ready for the game against the Redskins. Even up until kickoff, there were no real worries that Smith would be inactive, or unavailable. That all changed once we saw Smith on the sideline with a huge brace on his elbow, and no helmet in sight. He was inactive.
In steps Cameron Fleming, a veteran offensive tackle who has spent his entire career with the Patriots before the Cowboys signed him to a one-year deal this past free agency. Fleming has started 56 games in his five-year career, and has been a pretty solid swing tackle throughout his career. He stepped in and played pretty well on short notice in the Cowboys 31-23 win over the division rival Redskins. Let’s take a look at the tape and see how he fared against a talented Redskins pass rush.
This was on the first series of the game against Redskins pass rusher Preston Smith. Smith is known for his speed and explosiveness off the edge, and has been a successful pass rusher since being drafted in 2015. Here, Fleming is able to control Smith with a soft set on the rush. Smith tries to long arm Fleming, but is unable to gain leverage due to his hand placement being to high. Not only did Fleming keep Smith away from Dak Prescott, but the refs also missed an illegal hands to the face penalty here as well. A good first series from Fleming had a lot to do with the the Cowboys touchdown drive.
Here Fleming handles another speed rusher well. Cassanova McKinzy is another guy who wins using his speed, and Fleming counter it perfectly here riding McKinzy up the pocket and out of the play. Fleming again does a nice job of being patient and keeping control of the inside in case of an up-and-under move to the middle. He then allows McKinzy to rush up field without getting off balance and or over extending to reach the pass rusher. He finishes by guiding the defender behind Dak Prescott.
On Amari Cooper’s 90-yard touchdown, Fleming does an excellent job of controlling Preston Smith using his upper and lower body strength. Fleming does a nice job keeping his hands in tight and weight distributed evenly throughout his body. By keeping his elbows close to his numbers, he’s able to reset and control Smith’s counter moves by not over extending and allowing Smith to get close to his breastplate. This route needed a bit of time to develop, and Fleming does an excellent job of holding up and allowing Prescott time to scan the field and find Amari Cooper.
At times on Thursday, Fleming struggled with balance and distributing his weight properly. On this sack of Dak Prescott, Fleming gets to tall out of his stance, and leans back, which causes him to miss high with his initial punch. Once Smith gets control of Fleming’s armpit he’s able to throw him off balance and close the pocket. If Fleming doesn’t get as high out of his stance, he likely lands his initial punch which would allow him to better control Smith’s upper body when he begins to counter.
Again, here Fleming plays right into Jonathan Allen’s strengths. Allen is a powerful human being, and if for one second you get just a little bit off balance, it’s game over. Fleming gets his weight to far out over his toes, and extends his arms too far, which allows Allen to use a push-pull move to throw Fleming behind him. Allen does not get credit for a tackle on this play, but he blows it up before it could ever get started.
In this play, Fleming does a poor job of resetting and re-firing. Preston Smith is able to win the edge with speed, then uses a perfectly executed hand-swipe to get around Cameron Fleming for the sack. This isn’t an awful play from Fleming, and more so of a good rep from Preston Smith, but Fleming could have done a better job of battling Smith’s hands at the edge and drive Smith up the field instead of allowing him to capture, and win the edge.
This one wasn’t pretty but sometimes you need a mix of luck in with your play. Preston Smith actually beats Fleming badly to the gap, but Smith receives a last-second push from Xavier Su’a-Filo that forces Smith right back into Fleming. Then Fleming is able to slow Smith up and gently guide him upfield, all without being flagged for holding or an illegal block in the back. He does just enough so that Elliott is able to see the hole open and burst through it for an easy, untouched, 16-yard touchdown. That’s the difference between a touchdown or not. Fleming was beaten, but with some luck and crafty play to avoid a penalty, the play ends up being a huge success.
For the most part it wasn’t a bad showing from Cameron Fleming. With it being on short notice, and the quality rushers he was up against, Fleming held his own in his first start for the Cowboys. After the debacle that we all witnessed last year with Chaz Green and Byron Bell, it’s a positive sign that this offense was able to put up 404 total yards, 31 points, and gave up just four sacks against a tough Washington defense. Hopefully, Tyron Smith can get back into the starting lineup against the New Orleans Saints, but if not, Fleming showed signs of being capable of handling the workload.