IRVING, Texas – The workload stays the same regardless of whether the Cowboys are winning or losing, but it's certainly much tougher to put together a scouting report during a six-game losing streak.
To that end, I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to read and preview the game this weekend. I appreciate your patience and your enthusiasm. It's a lot more fun to go through game prep after a win, so maybe this team can give us one after a 54-day wait.
Here are my final notes heading in to Week 10 against Tampa Bay:
- I will be interested to see if the Cowboys decide to play Byron Jones in the slot like they did last week against the Eagles. Jones will likely start the game at safety with Barry Church on the opposite side. Jones has been carrying the opponent's tight end these past few weeks, but they might choose to use him against the Buccaneers Adam Humphries -- who is a Cole Beasley clone.
- I expect we will see the Buccaneers try and work the ball on the edges against this Dallas front seven. When I mean the edges, I am talking the toss sweeps. Opponents have had some success getting the ball to the outside going all the way back to the Atlanta game. Demarcus Lawrence, Greg Hardy and Jeremy Mincey must do a better job of playing point-of-attack football and not allowing that to happen. Doug Martin is a shifty, quick runner that can cause some issues if he is allowed to take that route.
- I'm thinking it's another big game for Cole Beasley. I expect him to be moved around in the formation to create some opportunities where he gets some free access in routes. The previous games it has been Lucky Whitehead that has been featured in that role, but with Dez Bryant back in the lineup it makes more sense to pair Beasley with him, working off the coverage that Bryant draws. Matt Cassel will find ways to get Beasley the ball in this game.
- If there is an offensive lineman that struggles with quickness for the Buccaneers, it is center Joe Hawley. Greg Hardy is the best rusher when it comes to beating a blocker with quickness one-on-one. Hardy had success against the Giants inside working against Geoff Schwartz, who also struggled with quickness. My gut tells me that we will see Hardy inside attacking that snapping hand of Hawley.
- Gerald McCoy is the best Buccaneers defensive lineman. There is no doubt that he will be doubled as much as possible. Whatever side he is on, that will put a great deal of pressure for the offensive tackles to handle their men one-on-one. William Gholston and George Johnson are the ends that Tyron Smith and Doug Free are going to have to deal with. Both have the ability to capture the edge with speed and some occasional power. If Smith and Free struggle here, the scheme will have to adjust by keeping Jason Witten or James Hanna in to protect, rather than sending them downfield. That would be a blow to the offense.
- There were several packages last week where Rod Smith was used in the game as a running back, full back and wide receiver – which left Christine Michael on the sideline. I expect that we will see all three of the running backs get opportunities in this game on Sunday, given how the snaps were split up during practice this week.
- Look for David Irving to get more opportunities in the rotation at the three-technique or under- tackle. He will be paired with Nick Hayden in some packages, but Rod Marinelli could also work Tyrone Crawford in as the nose, as well. I don't see any situations where Irving plays as the nose – the talk is that they want to get him as a three.
- Rolando McClain is nicked up with various injuries. If he struggles to play in the game or gets hurt, look for Andrew Gachkar to take his spot. Look for McClain to start against the Buccaneers with Kyle Wilber on the strong side and Anthony Hitchens on the weak side, as well. I thought that if something did happen to McClain, they might have put Hitchens inside at middle linebacker, but he should stay on the outside. Behind the starters will be Damien Wilson at Will and Mark Nzeocha at the Sam -- just in case they need to go that direction.[embeddedad0]
- J.J. Wilcox opened the game as the kickoff returner last week against the Eagles, and I get the feeling that he will remain the same this week. Lucky Whitehead will be on call for two spots if needed (kickoff and punt return) as a backup. With the amount of snaps that both Wilcox and Cole Beasley receive during the game, it is likely that we will once again see Whitehead sooner than later.
- Just a couple of things that I heard from practice: Tony Romo threw the ball well while working with the scout team and was his old competitive self, trying to complete every pass. It sounds like he is on target for action next week against the Dolphins. Chaz Green got his first work since rookie OTAs, working at both tackle spots and a little bit at guard. The club has two weeks before they have to make a decision on whether to activate him off the Physically Unable to Perform list – so how he looks in these practices will go a long way toward making that call.