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Scouts Notebook: Final Word On Injuries; Saints Defense
Some final observations as the Cowboys get ready to face the Saints:
No Backup Plan:
Make no mistake about it, Dez Bryant wasn’t completely healthy on Wednesday and Thursday for practice but Friday was a different story. Bryant was able to take his full work load on Friday. There were reports about Bryant dealing with some disc issues in his back but whatever seemed to be the problem and cleared up and he should be ready to be in the starting lineup on Sunday night. For Bryant it should be an interesting matchup facing the team that he torched for a career high 224 yards last season.
Under Rob Ryan, the Saints play a great deal of press man coverage with the corners on an island the majority of the time. This season, Bryant has had a great deal of success playing against teams that have tried to play him this way without the safety help. In the past, Ryan has put his best cornerback on the opponents best receiver and just played “Star Coverage”. If Ryan does go this route, I believe that he would put Keenan Lewis on him over Jabari Greer, who in my view, is a better cover man.
Tough Problems to Tackle:
Going into this game against the Saints, this Cowboys defensive line at tackle, has been a scramble mode all week. Jason Hatcher and Nick Hayden have not received the normal work that they would get during a game week. Hatcher is just now getting strength back in his shoulder, while Hayden is dealing with pain in his ribs that could require him to take an injection in the exact area to handle the pain which would allow him to play. With the current group of players, there are several different combinations that these coaches can use to make up for the loss.
My best guess, without Hatcher and Hayden in the lineup, they would start Jarius Wynn and Drake Nevis at the tackles, with George Selvie and DeMarcus Ware at the ends. In the nickel, which I feel is their best pass rushing rotation, that Selvie and Ware stay at the ends, with Wynn at tackle but Everette Brown comes in the game for Nevis and this would give them in my opinion, the best way to attack Drew Brees. If Hatcher is able to play, then he could take Wynn’s spot and pair him with Brown. Regardless of how they play this, I like these defensive line combinations against this Saints line that has struggled with lines that have played on the edge. For the Cowboys, it is going to be all about the pressure that they create in this game.
Both Doug Free and Tyron Smith have had their share of rushers that they have had to deal with the first ten weeks of the season. This game against the Saints will be no different, with Junior Galette and Cameron Jordan. In this Rob Ryan 3-4 scheme, you are going to get pressure coming from all angles and all sides. Galette and Jordan are relentless when it comes to getting after the quarterback and if the Cowboys want to have any success throwing the ball, Free and Smith are going to have to be at their best.
Last week against the Vikings, it was the first time where we had seen from struggles with Free when he was dealing with Brian Robinson who was able to get him with a spin move that resulted in two sacks but Free was able tosettle down and when Romo needed him the most, he was able to get the job done. Smith was outstanding against Jared Allen, completely holding him in check and keeping him out of the sack department. As much as I respect Allen’s game over the years, I feel like that Galette and Jordan can create just as many problems to have to deal with.
There are a couple of different ways for the Cowboys to handle these two rushers is in their “12” personnel by keeping James Hanna in to help with blocking or they can use this grouping to hit Ryan with a quick game to get the ball out of Romo’s hand before the rush is able to get home. The one advantage that the Cowboys do have, is that Ryan does know that Romo can hurt him if he blitzes, so it might keep him from doing it the majority of the snaps but even if Ryan doesn’t blitz, he is still going to send these two rushers after Romo and it will be up to Doug Free and Tyron Smith to keep him clean in the pocket.