As the Cowboys get ready for Sunday's game with the Falcons, here's a final look with various thoughts from the inside linebacker position, to wide receiver injuries to an improved play on special teams.
Chance For Sims?
I would not be one bit surprised if Ernie Sims gets the start at inside linebacker next to Bruce Carter this week when the Cowboys travel to Atlanta.
It wasn't that Orie Lemon played poorly once Dan Connor had to leave the game with a neck stinger. It was that Sims showed the other day against the Giants that he can still get off blocks and make tackles. He did it on special teams and it carried over to his work on the nickel.
When he was signed I really did believe that he could help this defense in passing situations but now that he has a full week to learn the game plan, he can do more than just play in sub packages. Rob Ryan will do things scheme wise to handle keeping Sims free so he can run to get to the ball.
Young WRs Getting Chance
With Dez Bryant and Kevin Ogletree missing some practice time this week with injury, it gave Dwayne Harris, Cole Beasley and Andre Holmes the opportunity to get some work with Tony Romo and this first team offense. Harris is probably the most comfortable playing both inside at the slot but outside as well.
Beasley would be the best slot player of the two but that's not to say that he can learn to play outside. When the plays on the scout team he might be running opponent's plays but he is still getting work on the outside against Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr which is a positive thing. Beasley dressed last week against the Giants and helped in the punt return game.
I don't expect Bryant to miss the Falcons game and Ogletree's status will likely dictate whether Holmes doesn't dress again but Harris and Beasley have at least got more work with Tony Romo and will be more prepared if their number is called.
Ryan Tough At Home
Throughout his career, Matt Ryan has been incredible at the Georgia Dome and a lot of that has to do with the fact that the Falcons are a much more talented football team but it also says that Ryan has developed as a top level quarterback.
There is no question of his leadership or skill. He is smart, mobile and accurate but what I noticed about Ryan is when he sits in the pocket as he is reading down the field, he tends to get a little jumpy. If you have ever seen or studied Peyton Manning's feet, he tends to bounce on his toes in the pocket and watching Ryan, he has that trait as well. It's not as pronounced as Manning but you do notice it.
What this allows Ryan to do is work out of trouble and buy himself a second chance down the field. Even with this technique, Ryan is able to make accurate throws with less than perfect footwork. I don't see Ryan is a quarterback that can beat you with his feet but if he does have to scramble, he can cause the defensive scheme problems.
Coverage Units Turning Corner
Just a final thought from the film room, as many problems as the Cowboys special teams have had this season, it looks like they hit on a couple of players that have made a difference on the coverage teams. Eric Frampton was a core player they got off the street from the Vikings and Lance Dunbar really didn't have a great history of special teams play in college to draw from but he is proven his worth since being called up from the practice squad.
Both Frampton and Dunbar have been productive as the gunners on the punt coverage team at beating blocks and making tackles in space but where they will really will play a key role is their work against the Falcons Jacquizz Rodgers who is averaging over 27 yards on kickoff returns.
The last thing that the Cowboys kickoff coverage unit needs to have happen is this Atlanta offense getting opportunities at good field position with Rodgers bringing the ball back up field. The special teams units have been playing better overall and a large part is from work of players that were not in the mix when this season started.