Some final thoughts from the Scout’s Notebook:
Running Back Concern
As much as everyone is worrying about these Chicago Bears receivers and potentially the problems that they create for this Cowboys defense on Monday night, the players that I have been talking to all week, are more worried about Matt Forte. You could hear it in Jason Garrett’s voice and others in that locker room. Where Monte Kiffin has helped his defense in the running game here lately is by walking Barry Church down in the box like a linebacker and bringing J.J. Wilcox on the field playing a dime package. With Sean Lee back in the lineup, I do expect that you will still see Church down but not in the dime look. Church will be asked to handle Martellus Bennett in coverage but also to deal with the potential of Forte running the ball where he is extremely dangerous on those sprint draws and screen that the Bears like to run. One of my keys to the game was not so much about stopping these receivers which is clearly important but not allowing Matt Forte to control this game on his end.
In this game Monday night in Chicago, there are going to be some battles on both side of the ball. The biggest question will be how does Monte Kiffin plan to play his secondary against Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Both of the receivers line up all over the formation so to try and get a gauge on them or a pattern, is difficult. We have seen this before in that Kiffin likes to put his bigger corner on the taller of the receivers. With that being said, I expect Brandon Carr to draw Marshall and Orlando Scandrick to be on Jeffery. When the Bears go with three receivers, then B.W. Webb will be on Earl Bennett and that is an interesting matchup to keep your eye on because that is one that the Cowboys cannot afford to lose. What we have seen from Webb the last several weeks is his ability to play both inside and out. I also believe that Carr and Scandrick will also have some plays where they just play these Bears receivers straight up and run the normal scheme. What I have seen from Josh McCown at quarterback is that they tend to throw the ball underneath on slants and “Ins” so they also have to be careful in jumping routes and allowing double moves to happen behind them. It’s going to be a huge task to have to cover these receivers but these corners could also get a break with the cold.
“I” Back Attack?
The Cowboys front office made a move for the coaching staff this week adding fullback Tyler Clutts to the 53 man roster. I believe that Clutts will have a role in this offense but I am not convinced that you will see a dramatic change in how the Cowboys want to run the ball. I am one of those people that believes that Murray is more comfortable when he doesn’t have a fullback in front of him. We can all look back to his rookie season when they did operate in this way but unless you have a decisive player blocking in front of him, it just slows him down. Murray is not explosive, nor is he Lance Dunbar quick, so when you make him have to stop-then-start, you are going to lose time getting him to and through the hole. To ask Murray and Clutts to develop an understanding in just a couple of practices is unrealistic and as important as these games are down the stretch, this offensive staff doesn’t need to be messing with Murray who without a fullback has averaged 5.8 yards a carry since the Minnesota game. Tyler Clutts should have a role in this offense but it shouldn’t be at the expense of DeMarco Murray.
Came From No Where
Kyle Wilber will once again get the opportunity to start this week against the Bears despite the fact that Justin Durant is completely healthy and ready to roll. What has been amazing about the Wilber rise, how natural he has looked playing the position. He has shown awareness and surprising power at the point of attack. I feel like what has made the difference for Wilber in this move to Sam linebacker is that the coaches have really simplified his assignments. He plays through the tight end, he sees the ball and he goes and gets the ball. By standing him up, he sees the play better and he is able to react on what he sees. There are still areas in pass coverage that he is going to have to improve on but that’s going to come with experience. When you talk to guys on the coaching staff, they have really been happy with his play but are also grateful that they have Durant back to help if things get messy for Wilber down the stretch.