Here are a few thoughts after watching the film of the Cowboys-Chargers game Saturday night.
While sitting in the broadcast booth Saturday night with Brad Sham, my radio partner offered a thought of the aggressive nature in which Jason Garrett was calling this game against the Chargers with his first offense on the field. Garrett took the opportunity to give his offense a little confidence on a 4th and 1 play from the San Diego 40 yard line and Tony Romo and Dez Bryant delivered on a clutch play. Garrett sends "11" personnel on the field (3 WR, 1 HB, 1TE) to spread the Chargers out. Putting Romo in the gun, he could have run the ball inside or try to take a shot one on one with the receivers. Garrett sent Kevin Ogletree wide left, Cole Beasley slot left, with John Phillips on the line to the right. Wide outside of Phillips was Bryant matched up against Chargers cornerback Quentin Jammer. At the snap of the ball, Bryant drives hard to the outside of Jammer getting him off balance, then seeing this drives hard back to the inside where Jammer is scrambling to try and adjust. Romo looking down the field sees safety Atari Bigby in the middle of the field deep. Phillips breaks across the formation running from his right to left which clears the area of the linebacker. On the left of Romo is Felix Jones who is able to pick up the blitzing safety Eric Weddle from the blind side. Romo with the three step drop, has a clean pocket and throws a strike to Bryant on the slant that is run at the perfect depth and going away from Jammer. Bryant catches the ball on the move and is able not only gain the first down but bring the ball deeper in Chargers territory before Bigby is able to bring him down for the tackle. It was perfect execution and an outstanding, aggressive play call by Jason Garrett to show the trust not only in his quarterback but Dez Bryant as well.
Cornerback Brandon Carr was brought into this secondary to make plays and on Saturday night, he didn't fail to deliver intercepting two of Philip Rivers passes in his one half of work. Carr's first interception came on a 2nd and 18 play from the Chargers 41 yard line. Carr is lined up at the left corner against the speedy Robert Meachem. Rivers takes the snap from the gun and looks down the middle of the field where he sees Gerald Sensabaugh and Barry Church lined up in a two deep look. In his pedal, Carr turns his body to play an inside technique and carries Meachem down the field till he gets to Church who has stepped forward. Church passes on Meachem and drives forward to help on inside coverage on tight end Antonio Gates, leaving Carr to handle Meachem by himself. Carr is beaten to the inside. Back in the pocket, Rivers starts to feel pressure from his left in Tyrone Crawford who has worked up the field against tackle Michael Harris. Rivers now slides to his right and delivers the ball down the field. Carr is trying to catch up and track the ball at the same time and is able to do both. Meachem sees the ball is underthrown and tries to stop but Carr is in the air grabbing the ball at its highest point for the interception and the first turnover of the game.
Later in the 2nd quarter, Carr gets his second interception of the game by being in the right place at the right time. Carr again is lined up on the left side this time across from Vincent Brown in press coverage. At the snap, Carr backs up instead of jamming Brown at the line allowing him free access in the route and an inside release. Carr again has to rally to cover Brown who is up the field. Carr does make up ground as Brown goes inside but there still is a little separation. Brown goes into the air to try and make the catch of the Rivers pass but the ball hits off his hands and bounces in the air. Carr is in a trail position sees the ball go off Brown's hands and is in position to make the play after tipping the ball to himself several different times. It was great concentration on his part to make the interception but he was also very fortunate that the ball went off Brown's hands and into his.
For those of you that listen to me on Talkin' Cowboys or read my work on DallasCowboys.com, you know how critical I have been of the play of receiver Kevin Ogletree but on Saturday night, I have to give him credit where credit is due. Ogletree played like a receiver that those in the front office and coaching staff believed that he could always be. He route running was outstanding, he worked back the ball and he showed toughness to go get a football down the middle in traffic and take a hard hit. In the 2nd quarter with Kyle Orton at quarterback, Ogletree lines up wide right against Quentin Jammer. At the snap of the ball, Ogletree starts vertical with a burst, against Jammer who is playing inside technique. Orton reads no safety help to his side of the field and lets the ball fly as Ogletree is making his cut inside off the "8" route. Ogletree sees the ball and leaps to get it, Jammer is in great position but Ogletree has used his body to keep Jammer from the ball. Safety Eric Weddle reads the play and tries to react from the right hash and delivers a solid blow to Ogletree trying to jar the ball loose but he is unable to. Ogletree comes down with the ball on a beautiful throw by Orton to put the team in scoring range. It was an outstanding night for Ogletree in his bid to become not only a slot player on this team but the third outside guy as well.
There were several young players on this squad that I really thought helped themselves against the Chargers for a spot on the 53 man roster but one I would like to point out is cornerback / safety Mario Butler. I have to say seeing Butler live than later on tape, I was really impressed with his effort and intensity during the game. When you talk to front office guys about Butler they rave about his ability to show some position flexibility playing both corner and safety but the knock I hear is that he might not be fast enough. I have never had a problem with a defensive back's speed as long as I knew he was instinctive and tough. To me Butler has always been that kind of guy but Saturday night, he showed me some toughness as well. Butler might be 6' foot and 185 pounds but at corner and later as a down safety in the box, I thought he played like Barry Church. There were several plays where the ball spilled outside and Butler was there with a sure tackle on the edge. He also made a nice play on a 3rd and 5 play from the Chargers 46 to get the defense off the field. Rob Ryan sends his nickel package on the field to match the Chargers receivers. Roscoe Parrish is lined up tight to the formation inside of the flexed the flexed tight end, Dante Rosario. At the snap of the ball, Parrish explodes off the ball and Butler meets him five yards up the field. Parrish slams into Butler trying to push him off but Butler is not going anywhere. Parrish then tries to sprint to the outside with Butler on his hip. Whitehurst tries to get the ball to the outside of Parrish but Butler now shows a burst and is able to drive on the ball with his off hand and knock it away. If Parrish is able to catch that pass it's a first down and maybe more but Mario Butler with outstanding technique is able to make the play. When you are putting your roster together later in this camp, be aware of Mario Butler and the many roles that he plays because the front office is.