Final Thoughts: Cowboys' Margin For Error Is Razor Thin Against Cardinals

IRVING, Texas – Simply put, the Cowboys didn't do enough to offset Washington's pressure last time out. Even when the Cowboys did block the blitz, they couldn't execute the looks they had available to them.

Going against the NFC's hottest team, it looks like two starting offensive linemen and potentially the starting quarterback could be sitting out. My guess is that means Arizona has every intention of employing an aggressive defense, and it means the Cowboys will have a slimmer margin for error in their execution.

That's the chief concern in my final thoughts for Week 9:

  • This Arizona defense is aggressive in the way they flow to the ball. When you study them the one thing that really stands out is how quickly they want to get downhill and attack the ball in the running game. With the style they play with, look for this Cowboys' offense to take advantage of that aggressiveness -- especially if Brandon Weeden is the starter. Some of his best throws during his work in the preseason were those boots and waggles when he had a receiver low and high in the route. If they can hit on some of those misdirection runs or throws it could go a long way toward getting Arizona out of that aggressive mentality.
  • Back when the Cowboys faced the Seattle Seahawks several weeks ago, it was nice to see that Scott Linehan and these offensive coaches were not afraid to attack Richard Sherman with Dez Bryant. In studying the Cardinals defensively, this should be the same game plan when facing Patrick Peterson. There is no question that Peterson is one of the top cornerbacks in this league, but there have been some snaps where receivers with far less talent than Bryant have managed to make plays on him -- whether in the field of play or down in the red zone. By his own standards Dez Bryant would be the first to tell you that he didn't play his best football game against the Redskins on Monday night. Having seen Bryant play his entire career, it has been in his makeup that, when coming off those types of games, he is usually at his best the following week. What fuels Bryant in these types of matchups is when he can lineup against the best and have success. There is no doubt in my mind that he will be a handful for Patrick Peterson to deal with, and that will give Linehan the confidence to continue to call his number.        

[embeddedad0] * Defensively, this Cowboys secondary has to worry about the ball going down the field to one of these Cardinals receivers in the vertical passing game. Bruce Arians is a big believer in matchups and getting his best players on yours that struggle. When this defense has given up big plays, it has been with the deep ball. They have struggled with speedy receivers that take off on those vertical routes. The challenge for these Cowboys cornerbacks and safeties is to not allow Carson Palmer to get out of a deep hole with a 50-yard pass down the field to Michael Floyd or John Brown, who have shown more than one or two times this season that they are capable of those types of plays. With Bruce Arians, it's not a matter of if but more when.

  • Jermey Parnell will make another start at right tackle for Doug Free and most likely we will see Mackenzy Bernadeau starting for Ronald Leary at the left guard. Where there should be some concern at guard is not about the ability of Bernadeau to fill the responsibility, but him working with Tyron Smith on passing twist stunts. The Cardinals like to try and get pressure with four rushers if they can, but there is also a great deal of movement out of that four-man game trying to get guys home. When I talk about movement I am referring to twists and stunts with those rushers. You will also see them do it when they are bringing blitzes, as well. Where the Cowboys have been strong along that offensive line is off that left side with Smith and Leary – we all remember the job they did against J.J. Watt and that Texans bunch passing stunts. There is a certain feel that offensive linemen develop when working with one another so keep an eye on how the game unfolds on that left side.
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