IRVING, Texas - Here are some observations of the Cowboys' offense from the film room at Valley Ranch following Dallas' 31-16 win over Washington.
No Free Pass
In my pre game work of the Washington Redskins on defense, I thought that Ryan Kerrigan was their biggest threat in the front seven to cause problems for this Cowboys offense. Kerrigan has always been a relentless in the way he plays the game down-after-down, run or pass and his ability to break down an offensive tackle is evident when you watch him on tape. As much as Doug Free has improved over the last several months, it still was going to be a match up that was going to test Free for 60 minutes.
From the opening drive, Kerrigan tried to put pressure on Free in every way possible. Free dealt with a quick inside rush, then hard to the outside. He dealt with the speed rush to his outside shoulder. He dealt with Kerrigan swatting at his hands away trying to work the edge, but Free was able to maintain his position and not be thrown off balance by him. [embedded_ad]
What was solid about the way that Free played against Kerrigan, he never looked uncomfortable or panic by what he was facing. His pass sets were smooth and technique wise, he was sharp. Free never allowed Kerrigan to break him down like others that I had observed this season. The key to playing Kerrigan, was to handle him with patience and precision, which Free was able to execute throughout the game.
Where Kerrigan tends to beat blockers the most, is with his effort. If the quarterback was to hold the ball that extra count, he is there to take advantage of the situation. Free knew going into this game that, he could not allow Kerrigan to outwork him and he had to fight to finish every play which he was able to do.
This Cowboys offense did not get many snaps but the ones where Doug Free had to battle Ryan Kerrigan, was a win on their end. Free has continued to improve to that level which we had seen him play two seasons ago and that is why you see the production you do upfront.
If you watch these games long enough, you are going to witness days where your club's star player is not going to be at their best. Sunday was that day for Dez Bryant. I really didn't like the matchup with Dez Bryant having to face DeAngelo Hall and it wasn't because Hall was some shutdown corner, but it was more about the way that Hall plays the game from physical and mental stand point.
Hall is a veteran that through the years, that has seen all the moves and that gives him a huge advantage. He was not going to be afraid of Dez Bryant. There still is quickness in his game, but more than that, there are a great deal of smarts. Bryant did his best to try and get away from Hall, but he just would not allow it. What Bryant also had to deal with were several plays with safety help over the top and or a safety that was down in the box, buzzing under his routes. Jim Haslett was smart, he was not going to allow Bryant to make those dynamic plays that we had grown accustom to the first five weeks of the season. He was going to make Bryant have to fight to get open all night.
I have always believed this about Dez Bryant's game, the earlier you got him feeling good about himself, the more productive, he was going to be, as the game wore on. Hall was really up to the challenge very early in the game and there were some of those throws, where Hall made it difficult for him to get a clean catch. Even the catches, that Bryant made, Hall was right there in position to quickly get him to the ground. Hall did not allow Bryant the freedom, to separate and find space. He challenged every throw to Bryant which is exactly what a top flight corner will do.
As the game wore on, it was clear that Haslett's plan and the play of Hall, was going to make this a difficult day for Romo throwing the ball to his most explosive target. To Bryant's credit, there would have been a time where he would have lost his mind and struggled to finish the game, but this was not the case at all. Bryant still ran his routes to try and work himself open to give his quarterback the best shot at a throw, and he also gave effort as a blocker to try and help his offense in the running game.
It wasn't the best night for Dez Bryant from what we have seen from him before, but he has to give a tip of the cap, to the way that DeAngelo Hall played him in this matchup. It was clear on tape, that Hall respects Bryant by helping him up off the ground after a play, where a couple of years ago, I don't believe that would have been the case. DeAngelo Hall might have outplayed Dez Bryant this night but the most important thing was Bryant got the victory and that is all that really matters.