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Mailbag: O-Line vs. Philly; Deeper Issues In Run Game Than Lee’s Absence?
WINDSOR, ONTARIO, CANADA
No doubt Sean Lee impacts the run defense, but there is far more to the issue than his impact alone. If you look at the Cowboys’ 4 losses (including Denver when Sean Lee was in the lineup) they have allowed an average of 160 rush yards. They simply can't stop the run when they fall behind. I attribute this more to the DT position, where the Cowboys are loaded with guys suited to the 3-technique such as Maliek Collins, David Irving, Lewis Neal and even Tyrone Crawford but they lack a really effective nose tackle. Thoughts?
Bryan: I believe you’re taking too simple of an approach here. When Dallas has been bad in the running game it’s usually due to their ability to get run fits. Defensive line blocked, linebackers cut off and safeties missing tackles. The Kansas City game was a great example of how run fits work within this scheme. Kareem Hunt generally had no where to run when the front works together and you get help from the secondary. I agree having a big nose is a good thing but not the most important factor. The Eagles have a smaller nose and they’re doing just fine.
Rob: In this scheme, where the defensive linemen are asked to penetrate and get up the field, it’s so important for the linebackers to play sound and in their gaps. The Cowboys were much better at this in the first half, but as the game wore on and the deficit got greater, you saw linebackers maybe trying too hard to make a play and getting out of their gap.
There's never a good time to lose Tyron, but do you see this being a week where the O-Line can still work at a high level since Philly's strength is on the interior?
Bryan: Let’s see what happens with Smith today at practice. To your point you shouldn’t sleep on Vinny Curry or Brandon Graham on the outside. Graham has always given Smith trouble in previous matchups. As a whole the Eagles have a really nice front seven and that’s what makes them so difficult to face.
Rob: Agree with you, Landon, but that also means Fletcher Cox is a major challenge for Jonathan Cooper and Zack Martin inside. That matchup can’t be overlooked. Timmy Jernigan can also be disruptive in the middle. Yes, the Cowboys absolutely must protect Dak’s blind side better, but the offensive linemen will tell you they didn’t play well enough as a group against the Falcons. Read