COWBOYS VS. EAGLES GAMEPLAN: NFC East rivals clash tonight in Big D for division title | Pregame Scouting Report | Eagles @ Cowboys 2013 2014 regular season finale
Their Nemesis: DeMarcus Ware
In 16 career games against the Philadelphia Eagles, Ware has been a one man wrecking crew. He has accounted for over 90 tackles, 16 sacks, eight tackles for loss, 32 quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. There has been twice in his career where he has had 11 tackles in a game against the Eagles with the last one coming in 2011.
Ware also recorded four sacks in a game and that also came in 2011. Ware has also faced the Eagles in the playoffs, with five tackles, three quarterback pressures, a pair of sacks and a fumble recovery. Ware missed the game the first time that these two teams met earlier this year in Philadelphia, which was the first time that he missed a game.
Without Ware in the lineup that day, the Cowboys had their best defensive performance of the season in a 17-3 victory. But make no mistake about it, this Cowboys defense needs Ware this time around to attempt to slow down this Eagles offensive attack with Nick Foles at quarterback. Ware will get some opportunities to rush from both sides in this matchup.
I do feel like that he can break down Jason Peters, if the secondary can make him hold the ball a second or two longer. Where I really like Ware is on the opposite side in dealing with rookie Lane Johnson who on tape has had his share of troubles in trying to handle those power rushers.
Our Weapon: Orlando Scandrick
What Monte Kiffin and this defensive staff has shown the that they are not afraid to match their best corners on the opponents best threats. The way that DeSean Jackson has been playing this season, the Cowboys will need to match him with a corner that can play with quickness and straight line speed, Scandrick is that guy.
Where the Eagles might work their way around this is try and keep Jackson out of the slot which is where Scandrick does the majority of his work but Kiffin is in much better shape corner wise, then he was the last time these two team met. Morris Claiborne should be back and active but Sterling Moore is also in the mix and that will help. I believe that Jackson is too quick for both Brandon Carr and that presents a big problem when you match him on the outside.
With Jackson, there is that fear that he can score from anywhere on the field and that is why you need to match him with a player that has the ability to function under that pressure. He has been the best player in the secondary for Monte Kiffin and this defense despite having a couple of games against the Bears and Packers where I didn’t feel like he was at his best.
Orlando Scandrick also has faced DeSean Jackson enough in his career to understand how he needs to play him and that is very important when you are trying to match a player with this much talent, because he goes all over the field.
Under Their Radar: Jeff Heath
This will be a critical game on a couple of different fronts for these Cowboys safeties, especially Jeff Heath. Monte Kiffin with Sean Lee out of the lineup, is once again going to have to bring Barry Church down to help in the running game on LeSean McCoy.
That means that we are going to see plenty of single high safety and that is going to fall in the lap of Heath as that deep defender. Where Heath is going to need to be at his best is with all these routes that also go down the field in helping these corners. The Eagles like to get their receivers down the field on the outside and work their tight ends inside.
I expect that Kiffin is going to try and match his secondary on these receivers, so that will mean plenty of man coverage and that is the way he should play them. The more you can be physical with them, the better chance you have the chance to survive. It is going to be important that Heath is able to play with his eyes but also anticipate where the ball is going to be.
In the pocket, Foles will try and move the secondary with ball fakes, so Heath has to really be careful that he doesn’t get thrown off by this. Heath will need to make sure that he is in the proper position in routes but also in the running game because there will be plays that the Eagles break with McCoy or Jackson and a stop needs to be made right there.
Our Nemesis: DeSean Jackson
DeSean Jackson currently leads the Eagles in receptions with 79 and is tied with LeSean McCoy in touchdown with nine. Jackson is a perfect fit in the Chip Kelly offense because how Kelly likes to use his personnel all over the field in different formations either getting the ball on the move or vertically down the field.
There have been some times this season where Kelly lines him up in the backfield and runs him on routes from there. What makes him so difficult to deal with is the speed and quickness in which he plays with. Jackson is one of those players that if you play off coverage on him, he is going to eat up your cushion in a hurry.
He is on you right now and if he is on you, he is by you. There have been days though where Jackson has been his own worst enemy with drops. As many times as I have seen him catch the ball on the move, there have been times where he has appeared to hear footsteps and drop ball of two that he should have made a play on.
I would not say that he has the most consistent hands and there are times where they have let him down. Jackson still is an unique talent that has rare ability. I expect Monte Kiffin’s answer to dealing with him in this game will be to walk Orlando Scandrick up on him and let him carry him all over the field.
Their Weapon: LeSean McCoy
Nervous as this Cowboys defense is about playing against DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy presents an even more difficult problem. This Chip Kelly offense is perfectly tailored to his running style. McCoy is one of those backs that can take simple plays and make them into huge gains. Did doesn’t matter if it is a hand off out of the read option or a screen pass in the flat, he is going to be hard to handle. He has the unique ability to make the first man miss, then get in the open field and make others miss.
He is an explosive runner that when he can turn his shoulders and go downhill, he can be tough to bring down. The best way to slow him down, is get him going sideways and not allow him to turned up the field.
Makes some violent cuts in the way he runs the ball. Can plant his foot in the ground and explode off it. Will take the ball off the read option, allowing the line to get into their blocks, then hitting it to the back side as the defense over runs the play.
Unique talent that has that ability to make you miss. Plays with outstanding hands, rare to see him drop a pass. Has a feel for how to work himself open, secure the catch and head up the field. Hard player to completely shut down.
Cowboys did a really nice job of getting off blocks the last time these two teams played and were able to get to McCoy before he was able to get going.
Under The Radar: Mychal Kendricks
The Eagles have several good, young players on their defensive roster, but one guy that really caught my eye was linebacker Mychal Kendricks. He was a 2nd round selection by the Eagles in 2012 and right now, he looks like a quality pick. The first thing you notice about him is how quick he plays. He is very active and is a difficult guy to block when he is on the move.
Looks like a nice scheme fit for this 3 – 4 defense because he can get away from blocks. Is physical short, but does play with some pop at the point of attack. Will be used on blitzes to attack the pocket. Can be a relentless guy when it comes to rushing the passer.
Does a really nice job of chasing the ball. Strong enough to play off blocks. Can be physical when he needs to be. Is a very good tackler in space. Hard guy to get away from when he has the ball carrier wrapped up. Can really close when he sees the ball, has a burst and some explosive traits.
Showed the ability to carry the back out of the backfield. Moves with ease and it able to stay in position while playing the route. Is one of those defensive players you have to be aware of and make sure you get a hat on him at all times.
KEY GAMEDAY MATCHUPS: Cowboys have to pressure Foles | Rookies in trenches
Cowboys C Travis Frederick vs. Eagles NT Bennie Logan
This will be an interesting matchup between two rookies that are both helping their teams with a high level of play.
Travis Frederick has been rock solid in the middle for the Cowboys since he was put in the lineup as a Day 1 starter. He has not always been perfect, but for a young guy to handle all the things that have been thrown his way speaks volumes for the type of player that he is.
He will be battling one of my favorite players from the 2013 NFL Draft in Bennie Logan. There have been plenty of questions about the lack of drafting defensive linemen on this team, and I have to admit I was surprised that Logan didn’t get more consideration from this scouting and coaching staff. LSU has put several defensive linemen in this league with some with mixed success, but in my view, Logan was different.
Where Frederick has improved over the season has been against the 3-4 nose men that play with power. Logan will be a strong test in this area for Frederick because he does play with power and can be difficult to handle on the move. Where Frederick is going to have to be at his best is when the ball is stretched to the edge, that he maintains his position throughout the block and not allow Logan to penetrate and be disruptive to the play.
Frederick must find ways to finish his blocks both run and pass.
Cowboys Defensive Line vs. Eagles Offensive Line
The last time these two clubs met in Philadelphia, I thought the game was won up front for the Cowboys with the amount of pressure that they were able to apply — not only in the passing game but how they were able to handle things in the running game.
For this squad to get a victory Sunday night, they are going to need that same kind of effort, and they’ll need to find ways to play on the Eagles’ side of the line of scrimmage. As bad as Nick Foles was in that game last time, it was the defensive line that caused him the issues.
Monte Kiffin and this defense need to attack this Eagles offensive line and make them have to scramble to sustain their blocks. To this point in time this season, that was the best game that they’ve played as a group when it came to getting off blocks and being where they needed to be with their responsibilities.
They are going to need that same kind of effort again on Sunday night. For the Eagles, it is real simple: they have to do a better job of not allowing this Cowboys defensive front control the game like they did last time out. The Eagles have some talented players on their offensive line and it is going to be a battle up front.
Jason Kelce, Evan Mathis, Jason Peters are quality players, with rookie Lane Johnson improving. Keep an eye on how this matchup progresses throughout the night because I believe this is where the game is going to be won or lost once again.
IRVING, Texas – Two of the NFL’s top 10 receivers this season both reside on the upcoming opponent of the Dallas Cowboys.
The Cowboys have faced some of the toughest receivers in the league this season, from Calvin Johnson to Victor Cruz to the plethora of options at Peyton Manning’s disposal, but Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall could be the best duo they see all year.
“They’re real strong,” said cornerback Orlando Scandrick. “They both go up and catch the ball and highpoint well. We have faced good guys that go up, but I don’t know if we’ve faced two guys that go up and get the ball like these guys and are having seasons like these guys.”
Both Marshall and Jeffery are two of the bigger receivers in the game, each standing at least 6-3 and more than 215 pounds. They’ve totaled more than 2,000 combined receiving yards already this season and each ranks in the top five receiving in the NFC.
“There’s no question they’re awfully good outside,” said head coach Jason Garrett. “They have big, strong receivers who can go and get the football. Both Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery are guys who can make plays out there when they’re contested. I think their quarterbacks do a great job of giving them a chances to do it.”
The 6-foot-4 Marshall’s got an inch on Jeffery, and the Dallas Cowboys saw just how dominant and difficult to cover Marshall can be. When the teams met last year in Dallas, Marshall hauled in seven catches for 138 yards.
That was before Jeffery came on as an elite threat. Now that he has, teams are put in a bind trying to figure out which player to focus on.
“Teams now have to play fair,” Marshall said. “He’s starting to put on tape and show the NFL that the Chicago Bears have two wide receivers that can dominate. If you want to double me or roll coverage, Alshon is going to be on the other side licking his chops and taking advantage of each opportunity.”
Jeffery only had three catches against the Dallas Cowboys last year, but he’s a completely different receiver from the player he was last year.
After finishing with 24 catches for 367 yards last year, Jeffery’s already beyond the 1,000-yard receiving mark this year with 70 catches for 1,109 yards and five touchdowns.
“They’re big,” Garrett said. “All of their weapons, the guys who make a lot of plays on the ball, are big, strong guys who are long. They have good ball skills and they make those contested catches. You just have to compete, you have to do a good job at the line of scrimmage and certainly at the point of the catch.”
Jeffery’s developed a rapport in recent weeks with backup quarterback Josh McCown, who’s the likely starter for the Bears on Monday, and is coming off a 249-yard, two-touchdown receiving day.
Scandrick said what makes Jeffery special apart from his big frame is his body control.
“He doesn’t spend a lot of time at the line of scrimmage,” Scandrick said. “He just takes his release, uses his body to shield you and goes and gets the ball.”
Despite all that, Scandrick believes the Cowboys have a good game plan to try to restrict what the Bears can do. In addition, the frigid Chicago temperature could also have an effect on the passing game for both teams.
Then again, Scandrick’s not preparing for the weather to halt the Bears’ plan too drastically.
He said it doesn’t take much to throw up a jump ball to those two guys, in which case the corners can’t get distracted with the receivers’ height. Both Scandrick (5-10) and the 6-foot-tall Brandon Carr will surrender at least three inches to the Bears’ top receivers.
“You just play the ball,” Scandrick said. “You don’t want to get caught up into thinking how tall he is. You play the ball and hopefully you come down with it.”
Scandrick and DeMarcus Ware believe the key for the defense eliminating the big plays that have bit the Cowboys’ defense in the past. Scandrick said there were too many times last week when the Raiders’ receivers got on top of the defense, but he thinks the game-plan this week should help the Cowboys out more.
As always, he looks forward to the challenge of playing two of the best receivers in the game.
“I’m so competitive,” Scandrick said. “I love these moments, and I feel like we’ve got a bunch of competitive guys on this team. We’re all up for the challenge.”
Their Nemesis: DeMarcus Ware
When you have been in this league as long as guys like Tony Romo and Jason Witten, you are going to get the opportunity to be in a lot of games. DeMarcus Ware is in that same category and like Romo and Witten, he has only faced the Oakland Raiders twice in his career. In those two games, Ware has recorded a sack in each of those meetings. For Ware and his teammates, it might not be so much about rushing Matt McGloin but having to slow down Rashad Jennings and this Raiders running game. The Raiders will do their best to try and protect McGloin, the best way they can and that will be trying to run the ball. It’s a physical rushing attack and Ware will be the key at the point of attack but also on the backside when that ball goes away. What would help Ware in this game, is if the Cowboys offense can put pressure on the Raiders to have to score right along with them, thus allowing Ware more chances to rush the passer. In this matchup, Ware could be facing Jared Veldheer who will be making his first start since the last time these two teams met in the preseason. Veldheer is coming off a triceps injury and in his place, Khalif Barnes has done a nice job and will draw the assignment of handling Ware.
Our Weapon: Tony Romo
Turn back the calendar to Thanksgiving Day 2009, when Tony Romo made his only career start against the Oakland Raiders at AT&T Stadium. For Romo, it was an efficient day throwing the ball going 18 – 29 for 309 yards and two touchdowns. For Jason Garrett and this offensive staff, they would take that exact same day from Romo when the Cowboys and Raiders again meet this Thursday. My film study leading up to the game, tells me that the Cowboys are going to have trouble running the ball and it will fall on Romo and these skilled players to have to make plays to move the ball and score points. I believe the key to this game is going to be how well the Cowboys can execute plays like they did last week against the Giants on that final drive. This offense is hard to deal with when that is the case. I believe the Raiders will come after Romo and not allow him to feel comfortable in the pocket with linebacker and secondary blitzes. Dennis Allen and Jason Tarver know that if Romo does have time and the rush does not get home, that their secondary would be under attack. The best way for Tony Romo to help his defense is to keep the pressure on this Raiders offense to have to score points. By doing this, Romo can make the Raiders one dimensional and put the pressure on Matt McGloin to have to come up with plays in the game.
Under Their Radar: Kyle Wilber
I keep talking about the Raiders and their desire to run the ball against the Cowboys on Thursday. Kyle Wilber will be making his second start at Sam linebacker, after really doing a nice job against the Giants last week. Wilber was up to the challenge on several plays when the ball came in his direction. For the Cowboys to have any success of slowing Rashad Jennings down, Wilber is going to once again have that same type of effort. For these Cowboys linebackers, it’s going to be about taking on blocks and getting to the ball. The Raiders are a physical team when it comes to running the ball and with the size of their backs plus how well their fullbacks attack the line, its going to be an all day chore. Like the Giants tight ends last week, I am not that impressed with what I have seen from these on the Raiders. Jeron Mastrud, Mychal Rivera and Nick Kasa are not great point of attack blockers and I expect Wilber to be able to control them and work to the ball. Where Wilber had his troubles when he was a defensive end was taking on offensive tackles and having to deal with that mass and power, against these tight ends, they are more of his size and it is easier for him to have to deal with them.
The Nemesis: Charles Woodson
When it comes to all time great players to line up and play in this league, there are none better than Charles Woodson and what he has done throughout his long NFL career. Woodson has faced the Cowboys on five different occasions with a 4 – 1 record. In those meetings, Woodson has recorded 15 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions. Woodson has returned the Raiders where he began his career after seven seasons in Green Bay. Woodson has made the transition from shut down corner to safety without any issues. He might not have the speed or quickness that he once had, in his early days with the Raiders and later with the Packers but he is still around the ball and has that ability to turn a mistake by the quarterback, into a turnover or pick up a fumble and score. Next to Rhonde Barber, he was one of the best slot blitzers that I had ever scouted. Woodson had a knack for not tipping off that he was rushing, then explode off the edge for a sack. Even at his age, he is still a physical tackler and can bring a ball carrier down in space. Where teams have had some success attacking the Raiders has been in the middle of the field but it appears that it is more about the other safeties than really his play.
Their Weapon: Rashad Jennings
This Dallas Cowboys defense has seen it share of outstanding running backs this season and this week is no different with Rashad Jennings. When you sit down and really study Jennings, you cannot come away not impressed with how he runs the ball. There is a violence in his running style that leaves you shaking your head in his ability to punish defenders. He is a load and whether they hand him the ball straight down hill or toss it on the edge, he is running until he feels contact, then he is going to give you a lot more. There is no secret in what you are going to get from him whether there is a hole or not. He is going to put his head down and carry bodies with him until they get him on the ground. He plays with really strong leg drive. For a big man, has a really nice burst. Doesn’t have great timed speed but when you watch him play, he is plenty fast. Has soft hands and looks very comfortable catching in them. Can take simple passes and make them large gains in the open field because of his running style. If he has a weakness, for someone his size, he is a poor pass blocker. He tends to try and cut instead of staying on his feet and taking on his man sqaure. If this game is close on Thursday, it will not favor the Cowboys because the Raiders will pound them with him. Need to get bodies to him quickly.
Under The Radar: Sio Moore
If you asked me the strength of this Oakland defense, I would say that it is their linebackers. I know that Lamarr Houston can be a problem off the edge but these linebackers can make some plays. Rookie Sio Moore, plays as the Sam linebacker in this scheme and he really is a good football player. He is not the tallest guy but he plays with outstanding quickness and lateral range. He can get to full speed very quickly and when he sees the ball, he is going to make a play. Can be an explosive guy when it comes to taking on blocks and shedding them. For such a young guy, he plays with really nice instincts and awareness. It was rare to see him get fooled on a play. He showed the ability to drop or handle his man in coverage. His best trait might be his ability to blitz. In 10 games this season, he has 3.5 sacks and that is because of his quickness. Was surprised at the power he was able to show when taking on blockers. Does a really nice job with his hands and plays with really good leverage. As mentioned, plays with a solid group of guys in Nick Roach and Kevin Burnett. Has a chance to really develop and become something special for the Raiders. Cannot leave him unaccounted for or unblocked because he will make the play. Should have been higher on his college grade in my report last spring.
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Jim Schwartz – Monte Kiffin will make life tough for us
Calvin Johnson – Dez Bryant is pretty good, besides route running
The Dallas Cowboys look to get back to .500 this week with the Washington Redskins coming to town tonight.
Keys To The Game
Redskins Win If:
Like the Cowboys, the Redskins have had their share of issues, not specifically run or pass, but playing complete team defense. As much as Kyle Shanahan needs to help this defense with his game plan, it is going to be up the Jim Haslett and his troops to apply pressure on Tony Romo and Bill Callahan.
When I study their scheme the one area where I feel like the Redskins should have an advantage is with their pass rush. If Callahan becomes one dimensional and decides he just wants to put the ball in the air, this could present a problem for him.
I understand the numbers say that the Redskins struggle badly against the pass, but they do have players along their front that, if not handled well, will find ways to get to Romo and get their defense off the field. It starts with Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan off the edge. There have been times this season where Haslett has brought them both off the same side to try and create problems with the opponent’s blocking scheme. How well Tyron Smith and Doug Free play in this game will be critical because there will be plenty of times where they are just matched up one-on-one with these rushers because of some of the games that Haslett plays inside with his tackles and linebackers.
Last season, where Haslett hurt this Cowboys scheme was with his twist stunts and then later in the season with the linebackers through the “A” gap. Disruptive pressure gives them a chance in this game.
Cowboys Win If:
For the last two weeks, Monte Kiffin and his defense have heard nothing but negative talk about how poorly they have played. This week against the Redskins, it gets no easier.
For the Cowboys to win this game on Sunday, it’s not going to be about their offense scoring 48 points but about how they respond defensively to what the Redskins are doing on offense. Playing against this read-option attack requires discipline and focus, which has not been a consistent trait for this Cowboys defense.
You can talk about ways to slow down this offense but if you are not playing the defensive call correctly, there are going to be problems. I believe Washington offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is going to attempt to strive for balance in this matchup, and if that is the case, DeMarcus Ware, George Selvie, Sean Lee and Bruce Carter had better be in position to handle the situation when the ball is handed to Alfred Morris or when Robert Griffin III takes it out of his belly and circles around the end.
The numbers say that both Morris and Griffin have not been as productive carrying the ball, but with the shape the Redskins defense is in, Shanahan does not want to get in a shoot-out with Tony Romo. This Cowboys defense cannot allow Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris to control this game on the ground and keep their offense off the field. Discipline and focus are absolute musts.
Cowboys OT Doug Free vs. Redskins LB Ryan Kerrigan
In this matchup between the Cowboys and Redskins, there are several ones along the offensive and defensive lines that can shift the direction of this game either way. DeMarcus Ware vs. Trent Williams and Tyron Smith vs. Brian Orakpo are all worthy of our thoughts, but the one that has my attention, deals with Doug Free vs. Ryan Kerrigan.
As much as I have seen Orakpo play, I believe that Kerrigan is just as dangerous. He plays both the run and pass with equal effort and skill. Kerrigan is one of those players that keep coming after you. There is no give-up or quit in his game. Just when you think you have him blocked, he gets you with that burst of extra effort and gets a sack or a tackle for loss. Where Free has to be careful, is not allowing him to finish plays, because that’s his best trait. Kerrigan has good football strength and he will use it to his advantage. Free has been playing at a high level this season and he will need to continue to do so if he is going to be able to counter from what I have seen in Kerrigan.
Free’s technique has improved to the point, where it has allowed him to just play with ease and there has been far less struggle in his game than what we had seen the past two seasons. This is one matchup where Doug Free cannot have an off day or there will be trouble for this Cowboys offense.
Cowboys LB Sean Lee vs. Redskins RB Alfred Morris
Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has been 58 percent pass to 42 percent run through four game this season. As talented as Robert Griffin III is throwing the ball, I believe that is the balance that Shanahan doesn’t want. The Redskins have struggled on defense this season and have been behind in the majority of their games and have to throw to get back in them. If Shanahan can play with a lead or be equal in a game, I can see him trying to use Alfred Morris in a way to control the game like he was able to do against the Cowboys last year.
There is no secret that Monte Kiffin and his defense has struggled with the pass but he needs to worry about Morris running the ball downhill at him. Morris is one of those backs that can wear you down as the game moves along. When you play a read option, you need to have defenders in place to handle all the options. If you don’t, there will be problems. What I have noticed on tape is that you still see the “Pistol” or “Ace” formations, so the threat is still there to run the ball but it hasn’t been on the legs of Griffin III or even Morris that much.
If Shanahan does strive for that balance, look for Morris to get plenty of opportunities and this is where Sean Lee needs to be at his best to stop Morris before he has a chance to get going. There will be some serious collisions between these two tonight.
Players to Watch
Their Nemesis: Jason Witten
In 20 games played against the Washington Redskins, Jason Witten has caught 94 passes for 1,060 yards and six touchdowns. Throughout his long career, Witten has always been a thorn in the side of the Redskins, who have found it very difficult to match his ability to get up the field. In this game on Sunday, Witten should once again get those opportunities to find space in this secondary who will most likely have to use their safeties to help in coverage on Dez Bryant and Miles Austin.
With Jason Garrett and Bill Callahan coming up with schemes that get multiple receivers on the field, as we saw in the Broncos game, it stretches the defense horizontally and it creates space for Witten to work underneath and up the field. It will be interesting to see if the Redskins treat Witten like a receiver and match him that way or does Brandon Merriweather and Bacarri Rambo draw that assignment. I believe that Rambo would be more physical in coverage than Merriweather but because he has more experience than the rookie in these situations that he will most likely get that call. Regardless, I expect a big game, once again from Witten.
Our Weapon: Dan Bailey
It would have been real easy for me to talk about Dez Bryant, DeMarcus Ware or Tony Romo for the weapon here but if you take a closer look at the numbers in the last 10 meetings between the Cowboys and Redskins, five of those games were decided by three points of less and this is where Dan Bailey comes it. Bailey has attempted 12 field goals in his career against the Redskins and he has yet to miss. In 2011, Bailey was even a perfect six-for-six, which accounted for all the points in a victory over the Redskins 18 – 16.
Where Bailey has been automatic, his work as a kickoff man, has been flawless. In 30 kick off opportunities, opponents have only been able to return the ball eight times for an average starting field position of 20.5. Bailey’s kick offs last week against the Broncos was one of the deciding factors that held the dangerous Trindon Holliday in check only allowing him 24 yards a return. Despite what we have seen from both the Cowboys and Redskins through five games, I believe that this will be another tight game and will most likely come down to three points which I would happily put on the toe of Dan Bailey.
Under The Radar: Orlando Scandrick
The Washington Redskins are going to throw the ball 58% of the time on first down. How this Cowboys secondary plays on those downs, will be vital to their success on Sunday night. There has been less running by Robert Griffin III and more of him making throws from the pocket. The last two weeks, pressure from this Cowboys defensive line has struggled to get home and something needs to be done about it.
The most consistent player on this defense has been Orlando Scandrick whether he has played outside in the base or out of the nickel. Where Scandrick can help this defense the most is not only in his coverage but as a slot blitzer to create some problems for Griffin III in the pocket. Monte Kiffin has used Scandrick in that role that he once had for Ronde Barber and he has had some success. Of Scandrick’s 6.5 career sacks, two of them have come against the Redskins. Scandrick has a really nice feel for how to attack the pocket and do it in a way not to draw a penalty on his blitz. I would not be one bit surprised to see Kiffin take advantage of bringing Orlando Scandrick off the edge.
Our Nemesis: Robert Griffin III
There are very few quarterbacks in the National Football League that can say they have never lost to the Dallas Cowboys, but Robert Griffin III is one of those. Though his sample size is only two games, his play against them in my view, was the difference in those games. What is different about Griffin III from what I have seen from last season to this, is more of a willingness to make throws from the pocket. I am not saying that, Griffin III is Peyton Manning back there, because you will see him move and buy a second or two more to get the ball down the field.
The Redskins will still line up in “Ace” formation and go through all the play action reads, which is a strength of Griffin III. For a young quarterback, he is one of the best that I have seen handling the ball on the move. He is extremely smart and it is rare that you see him make a poor or bad read, when running the read option. When throwing the ball, he is going to look down the field first. He looks more comfortable throwing the ball in the middle of the field than anywhere else, which is where the Cowboys have had their troubles.
Their Weapon: Pierre Garcon
If I were on the Cowboys defensive coaching staff, I would be very concerned about how we were planning on how to deal with Pierre Garcon in this game. Offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan has done a really nice job of creating plays to get the ball in Garcon’s hands and allowing him to do the rest. There has become a really nice bond between Garcon and Griffin III, to the point where Griffin III will just throw the ball in the general direction of Garcon with the understanding that he is going to make the play regardless where the ball is.
What has been impressive about Garcon is how much power that he plays with when they get him the ball. You will see him catch a quick screen and he explodes up the field, leaving tacklers in his wake. Garcon likes to also work the middle of the field and not just on simple routes, but those deep crossing routes between the linebackers and the safeties. He is not afraid to catch the ball in traffic and will compete, if he has too. When you play Garcon, you have to be physical with him because if you don’t, he will try and beat you up. Tough matchup.
Under The Radar: Jordan Reed
The Redskins like to use their tight ends on game day and all of them play a role. There was a time where Fred Davis was the lead dog in the sled for the Redskins offense, but Logan Paulsen has taken a lot of his responsibilities when it comes to being the only tight end on the field. Matter of fact, the Redskins most successful passing formation is when Paulson is on the field, with three other wide receivers.
But keep an eye on rookie Jordan Reed, who has had two weeks to recover from a deep thigh bruise that he suffered in the Lions game. What I have seen from Reed is a player that is more of a route runner than he is a blocker. Very good on his run after catch and with 4.71 speed, can be a matchup problem for linebackers and safeties to have to deal with. Has made 13 catches in three games with one touchdown.
The Redskins like to move their tight ends around the formation and line them up in different spots and this is to take advantage of players like Reed to get him in space off play action fakes. Reed can be a mismatch player for a defense that has struggled in coverage with the tight end position the last two weeks.
Dallas Cowboys preparations and scouting report for the Denver Broncos. From Bryan Broaddus, Football Analyst and former scout for the Dallas Cowboys:
No position on this squad has struggled more with injuries than the defensive ends. George Selvie, who has been the starter since training camp, has yet to pass the protocol test that will allow him to even practice after his concussion. Each missed practice makes him doubtful for the game against the Broncos. If that is the case, Kyle Wilber will make the start on the left side with Edgar Jones and Caesar Rayford as the backups. I have always believed that Wilber is better suited to play on the right side, but there really isn’t much of a choice because of the injury situation. An interesting prospect that I am hearing of potentially getting a call up from the practice squad is Jason Vega. If you remember last season, Ronald Leary and James Hanna were stars on the scout teams, and now are playing meaningful snaps. There have been a lot of positive thoughts about Vega and the type of juice that he shows off the edge. The longer Selvie takes, the more likely we could see a call up at week’s end.
Down The Field
Much has been said over the past several weeks about the conservative game plan in regard to throwing the ball down the field. I am clearly in the minority here, but I am not for throwing the ball down the field just for the sake of doing it. I have always believed that you run plays that give your offense the best chance to succeed. The “4” or in route to Dez Bryant is an outstanding call. The deep slant that he scored on against the Chargers was another good play. Jason Witten running the post corner over the years has been money. Given time, those are throws that Tony Romo can make all day, but there is also a time and situation for those calls. The Broncos have a very aggressive safety in Duke Ihenacho who will come forward on play action fakes. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the past has had his issues carrying receivers down the field, and Chris Harris on the other side is not the best athlete, so when the ball goes behind him, there have been some struggles. With all that being said, there will be opportunities for Romo and this offense to potentially have some good looks down the field on Sunday — for the right reasons.
The cornerback currently playing at the highest level on this Dallas Cowboys squad is Orlando Scandrick. Where Scandrick helps you in this game is his ability to not only play well on the outside, but he gives you a chance to deny the ball to Wes Welker out of the slot. Where Scandrick will have an advantage in this game is that he has faced Welker before when the Cowboys plays New England. For the majority of that day, he pitched a shutout. There is something to be said for understanding how a player like Welker is going to try and work you off the line. You have heard me say this many times before: playing slot corner is no bargain because of the two-way go the receiver can use against you. Orlando Scandrick has always been a player that played with mental sharpness, even though there have been times where he wasn’t as sharp as he needed to be with his technique. But he has put that behind him. Scandrick will have studied Welker to the point where he will have his own game plan for how to handle him, so now it’s about making that game plan work.
If this Cowboys offense is going to indeed make some attempts to throw the ball down the field, the front of the pocket is going to have to be clean for Romo to step forward and make those throws. The responsibility for that clean pocket is going to fall on the shoulders of Ronald Leary, Travis Frederick and Brian Waters. Where the Broncos are going to counter is with Kevin Vickerson and Terrance Knighton — two massive defensive tackles who are more than just two dump trucks sitting inside and taking up space. Vickerson and Knighton will do more than just push the front of the pocket, they are active and there are snaps where Jack Del Rio will put them on the move allowing them to show some quickness getting up the field. Where the Cowboys match up well here is that both Leary and Waters tend to play with their own power when it comes to taking on rushers that play with strength. Where Leary tends to get in trouble is with the quicker, smaller guys and that is the last things these two tackles are. During his time with the Cowboys, Waters has shown the ability to sit down on rushers and hold them in place. Where Frederick has also been good is helping across the pocket with his awareness when he has been uncovered. If Tony Romo and the offense are going to have success throwing the ball, keep an eye on how well their inside three play against these Broncos defensive tackles who can be a load to handle inside. It should be a good matchup.
Bryan Broaddus breaks down film on Peyton Manning.