Thoughts leading up to the Dallas Cowboys vs. San Diego Chargers game …
Edgar Jones on the verge
With the loss of Anthony Spencer for the season, there are a couple of ways the Dallas Cowboys can make up for his loss along the defensive line. There is no question George Selvie will continue to start at left end but who backs him up might be in question.
Caesar Rayford might be that guy, but keep an eye on Edgar Jones at that spot. Jones has impressed several coaches with his ability to get off on the ball and attack up the field. He has shown some quality pass rush moves, and he has the size and length like Selvie to hold up on the edge in the running game. His overall game appears to be tailored to this 4-3 scheme.
Shadows of the Hatcher-Hayden punch
The pattern of these defensive coaches has been telling. When they get a new player, they work him in practice, then they sit him in the game. There is a chance that process might change with the addition of Drake Nevis this week, as he has been getting reps with the second defense. It’s more likely that we will see David Carter, who has been with the club a week longer, play as the backup defensive tackle. Jason Hatcher and Nick Hayden are the starters and last week Jerome Long and Caesar Rayford were the backups. Jerome Long was waived to make room for Nevis, so Rayford could fill in along with Carter – but Nevis could see action as well. The big question here for Nevis is how much of the defense has he learned this week, and are the coaches comfortable playing him?
The James Hanna factor
A lot has been said about the early development of Gavin Escobar and what has been seen from his game. It’s easy to like what this “12 personnel” package could bring to the game, especially with James Hanna in the mix. Jason Garrett and Bill Callahan will look to create matchup problems with the 32nd ranked Chargers pass defense, and Hanna should be able to do just that. Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano might be forced to bring pressure with his linebackers in order to provide a consistent pass rush, which means Jason Witten, Hanna and Escobar will be required to run shorter routes to help Romo get the ball off. Hanna has yet to have one of those games that, before the season, we all felt he was capable of. It could happen Sunday afternoon.
DeMarco Murray’s third-dimension
When scouting running backs in the NFL, you want them not only to run and catch but you want them to be able to help in pass protection. With the Chargers 3-4 defensive alignment, Tony Romo is going to need not only his five offensive linemen doing their jobs, but DeMarco Murray as well. As important as it is for Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick to know who to block, Murray has to be just as good. The Chargers will bring several different looks out of their nickel package and the majority of the reading will fall on the shoulders of Murray. If he misses an assignment or slides the wrong way on the protection, there is a pretty good chance that Romo will be sacked. All week long while the team has worked on blitz pickup, Murray has been right there sorting out blitzes while the offensive line makes its adjustments. In watching Murray play in this area, he is usually technique-sound and assignment sure. He did have a bust in the preseason game against Cincinnati that resulted in a sack, but since then there have been no issues. People tend to judge backs just on how they carry the football in a game, but if you look closely, the big plays are usually a result of a back making a blitz pickup. DeMarco Murray will have that chance against the Chargers on Sunday.