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Scout’s Notebook: Overcoming LB Issues; Getting Dez Open

Posted Nov 22, 2013


IRVING, Texas – Here are some thoughts from the practice field at Valley Ranch Friday in the final practice before the team leaves for the Meadowlands to face the Giants. 

Creative Scheme

Not that coaches in this league are not creative in how they play their schemes, there are just sometimes where it is taken to a whole new level. With all the injuries to Sean Lee, Justin Durant and DeVonte Holloman, it reminded me of a time where in my first season in the league with the Packers, Fritz Shurmur of the Cardinals had the same situation and came up with a scheme they called the “Big Nickel”.

Shurmur was down two linebackers that week and played the game with five defensive backs, with one of those safeties playing as a linebacker. In just looking at the bodies that Monte Kiffin has, there is a way that he could play his own version of this defense by using Barry Church as that linebacker, with Jeff Heath and J.J. Wilcox as the safeties. Morris Claiborne, Orlando Scandrick and Brandon Carr can matchup up with the receivers and Church would be in position to handle the run but also play the pass underneath with Ernie Sims or Bruce Carter.

It appears that Kyle Wilber will get the start at Sam in the base but if the coaches are nervous about using him too much, this could be an adjustment they might make. I am not hear trying to play coach but when Holloman went out of the lineup, it just got me thinking of how to get your best players on the field and this was a creative way that Shurmur was able to do it, maybe Monte Kiffin would agree.

 

Buying Space

Despite what your feelings might be about Miles Austin and what he can or cannot do for this offense, you only need to remember one thing, he is capable of making plays. What opponents have figured out the last several weeks is that you can double Dez Bryant and Jason Witten and make these other receivers have to beat you.

As well as Terrance Williams has played this season, there are still times where he doesn’t get off the press and he will struggle to get open in routes. If he was making play after play for this team, you would have never seen teams staying in double coverage as much as they have. Cole Beasley and Dwayne Harris are really nice players but right now, you need more than nice players to get things going on offense.

I am not saying that all of the offensive struggles should be blamed on these receivers because they have been able to get open and Romo has struggled to get them the ball and he would even admit that. I fully expect two things to happen in this game against the Giants with Austin back on the field. Garrett and Callahan will move him all over the formation because he is more comfortable in handling those jobs because he has done it before and with some success. This will also help Romo because it gives him another player on the field that can create a mismatch that has the experience in route running and where he needs to be in the scheme.

I believe you will also see Bryant moving around in the formations instead of just seeing him playing at the “X” where teams can double him. If you play him in ”Bunch” or out of the “Slot” defenses will have a harder time trying to handle him. The more that you give Bryant options, the better chance you have to get him open and the return of Miles Austin will help with that.  

 

Disruptive Player

If there is one player on this New York Giants defense that has been consistent all season despite their 4 – 6 record, it has been tackle, Cullen Jenkins. The more you study him, the more you see that player that played at a high level in Green Bay because his years in Philadelphia were some of the worse years of his career.

Where Jenkins has been at his best for the Giants is how he has lined up to play against the run. Along with Linval Joseph and Jon Beason in the middle, they have been hard to run the ball on these last four weeks. If you look at the backs they have shut down, Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy and Eddie Lacy have found it difficult to run the ball on them.

With Jenkins, you get a strong point of attack player, that can quickly shed blocks and is athletic enough to move down the line to get in on the play. He can be difficult to handle because of quick that he gets off the ball and up the field. When he reads the scheme and sees the play, he is off like a rocket. Where the inside three for the Cowboys have to be careful is when he works on a twist stunt inside off a blitz because if he gets a free run from the inside on Tony Romo, there will be issues.

The last time these two teams met, they did a solid job of keeping the front of the pocket clean and that allowed Romo to make the throws necessary to win the game. We talk about dealing with Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck but how they handle Cullen Jenkins both run and pass is an absolute must.

Perfect Day

There will be a great deal made about the weather conditions for the game on Sunday afternoon and rightfully so. Teams that cannot handle cold and wind, usually are not the teams that are standing in the end. With warm temperatures in the Irving area this week, the Football Gods changed all that and sent Jason Garrett a perfect day to practice in on Friday afternoon.

With temperatures in the 30’s and gusty winds, Garrett was able to have his players work in conditions that will most likely greet his team in East Rutherford on Sunday. It was good for Tony Romo to have to have to operate the game plan in these conditions.

Over the years, Romo understands that playing in these conditions, you have to be able to drive the ball through the wind, in order to have any success. It was good for Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and these receivers to run their routes on a slick field, make a cut, then catch a ball with their hands that were struggling to have some feeling in them because of the cold.

It was good for DeMarcus Ware to come off the ball on a speed rush and test that quad in these conditions. Morris Claiborne to pedal, open and run carrying a receiver down the field while he feet were a little cold.

You couldn’t have asked for a better day to have Dan Bailey and Chris Jones get work in kicking a ball that was far from perfect. For Jason Garrett and this staff it was a perfect day to get plays on film, to go back and study to see if they are good for the game plan or not. For the players, it might have been a miserable day to be on the field, but Sunday is not going to be any bargain either but to get a little taste of that will help them in their mental preparation.     

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