Daily Archives: November 24th, 2012

PLAYING FROM BEHIND: Slow starts hurting Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo warms up before the Cleveland Browns game - The Boys Are Back blog

When you think about why the Cowboys are 5-6 this season, check out the starts to games.

Entering the weekend, the Cowboys have scored just 30 first-quarter points, 29th in the NFL.

They trailed Washington 28-3, Cleveland 13-0, the New York Giants 23-0 and Chicago and Seattle 10-0. Not all in the first quarter mind you, but when you have to rally it brings up misleading stats and makes your offense one-sided, meaning you’re forced to pass all game.

This season, quarterback Tony Romo has attempted 35 or more passes in a game eight times. In games where that happens, the Cowboys are 2-6.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones didn’t believe a slow start was the problem in the Redskins loss because his team was ahead 3-0, but the Cowboys settled for a field goal on their first possession.

Over the next five weeks the Cowboys have to establish themselves early in the game, getting out fast — and getting touchdowns especially — to set the tone.

If not, then this season will be lost by Christmas Day.

PLAYBOOK: How Cole Beasley could change the Dallas Cowboys offense

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Cole Beasley (11) dives for yardage after a catch - The Boys Are Back blog

Miles Austin is a dynamic wide out whose versatility hasn’t been properly recognized over the past few seasons. Even this year, over two-thirds of Austin’s pass snaps have come in the slot. At 6’2’’, 219 pounds, Austin doesn’t have the prototypical build of a slot receiver, but he’s been able to succeed in the middle of the field due to his exceptional combination of size and quickness.

On Thanksgiving, however, a new candidate emerged as the Cowboys’ slot receiver of the future: rookie Cole Beasley. With Austin down, Beasley was targeted 13 times. The rookie made some mistakes; he dropped a pass and appeared to run a poor route on Tony Romo’s second interception. But Beasley also displayed a unique skill set that suggests he could be a long-term solution for the Cowboys in the slot.

Most importantly, Beasley’s emergence has prompted Jason Garrett to, at least temporarily, call different sorts of underneath routes. Specifically, there were more option and crossing routes from the Cowboys on Thursday—something we haven’t seen much over the past few seasons and from which the offense could undoubtedly benefit in the future.

BREAKING IT DOWN …

On a 3rd and 5 early in the second quarter, the Cowboys lined up in Gun Tight End Trips Left with “11” personnel, i.e. three receivers. Beasley was aligned to the field on the Trips side of the formation, about five yards outside of Jason Witten.

Cole Beasley 1 - The Boys Are Back blog

On the snap of the ball, Witten ran a simple hitch route to just about three yards—an uncommon route length for the tight end on third down. We’ve all seen Kevin Ogletree and other receivers run their routes a bit short of the sticks on third down, but that doesn’t typically happen with the veteran tight end.

Cole Beasley 2 - The Boys Are Back blog

The length of Witten’s route suggests it was primarily to allow Beasley to get open on his route. The rookie ran a crossing route right underneath of Witten, giving him the separation he needed to make a big first down grab. Romo’s throw was a bit off the mark, but Beasley hauled it in with one hand to move the chains.

Cole Beasley 3 - The Boys Are Back blog

The combination routes we saw from the Cowboys after they got down against the Redskins are something that will probably stay. If Beasley can continue to grow, he should be able to provide the Cowboys with a tremendous presence on third downs while also allowing Dallas to keep Austin on the outside. And if his skill set encourages Garrett to design more combination routes that allow receivers to work off of one another, it will be an added bonus.

DALLAS COWBOYS ROSTER UPDATE: Andre Holmes released; Free Agent WR likely to Sign

Dallas Cowboys WR Andre Holmes goes after an onside kick by Dan Bailey. The Cowboys recovered - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING, Texas – Wide receiver Andre Holmes was released Saturday, just two days after snagging his second career NFL catch.

Most of Holmes’ work occurred on special teams, and with wide receiver Kevin Ogletree missing Thanksgiving Day with a concussion, the Cowboys may have felt Holmes roster spot could be better utilized with a more established player.

Anthony Armstrong #17 of the Dallas Desperados is tackled by Levy Brown of the New York Dragons - The Boys Are Back blog

Free agent wide receiver Anthony Armstrong worked out with the team this week and is the likely replacement, unless the Cowboys choose to bring in a player who can help at another shorthanded position. He would provide the Cowboys with more speed and NFL experience on the outside.

Armstrong played Arena League Football for the Dallas Desperados before signing with the Redskins’ practice squad in 2009. He emerged as a deep threat, snagging a combined 51 passes for 974 yards in Washington in 2010 and 2011 before bouncing between Miami and Jacksonville this year. 

Who replaces Holmes on the roster is uncertain. The Cowboys most likely will lose inside linebacker Bruce Carter for the season when he undergoes elbow surgery next week, and cornerback Orlando Scandrick had surgery Friday to repair a broken hand. Scandrick’s long-term status hasn’t been determined.

Holmes challenged to be a possible third receiver candidate in the offseason. He towered over the other receiving options with his 6-foot-4 frame, but he only caught two passes for 11 yards this year. Holmes was signed by the Vikings as an undrafted free agent after the 2011 NFL Draft and waived before the preseason, allowing the Cowboys to sign him to their practice squad last year.

Wide receivers Cole Beasley and Dwayne Harris played more prominent roles in the passing game this year. While Holmes caught one pass for four yards against the Redskins, Beasley finished with seven catches for 68 yards and Harris had four receptions for 71 yards.

OFF THE FIELD BLUNDER: Cleveland Browns wave off white-flag giveaway

Cleveland Browns white flag - The Boys Are Back blog

CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cleveland Browns have waved off their white-flag giveaway.

Following days of criticism, the Browns have decided to cancel a promotion to hand out white flags to fans before Sunday’s game against the rival Pittsburgh Steelers. Because white flags symbolize surrender, the giveaway seemed to imply the Browns were giving up against the Steelers, who have won 16 of the past 17 games between the AFC North foes.

Browns spokesman Neal Gulkis said in a statement on Saturday that the team scrapped the idea "in the best interests of everyone. It is something that was intended to be fun for our fans and that they could rally around, and we regret that some didn’t perceive it that way."

The flag giveaway was poorly received by many Browns fans and even some players.

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