IRVING, Texas - Here are some observations from the film room at Valley Ranch after watching Sunday's win over the Eagles:
Rookie On A Roll
With the Cowboys clinging to a 10-3 lead with 9:56 in the 4th quarter and the ball on the Eagles 9, Tony Romo brought his offense to the line, with three receivers and two tight ends on the field. To his left, he sent Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Gavin Escobar to the left in a bunch formation. Cole Beasley was in the slot to the right, with Terrance Williams outside of him. Romo was in the gun and at the pre snap, his attention is looking in the direction of Beasley and Williams on that right side.
The Eagles defensively try and match, Beasley with nickel corner Brandon Boykin, while Bradley Fletcher takes Williams on the outside. Romo and Beasley exchange some hand signals and appear to have a plan how they want to attack this coverage. As Romo takes the snap, he sees that the Eagles have no safety help in the middle of the field because they are trying to match the bunch formation on the other side of the field.
Romo's eyes never leave from the direction of Beasley and Williams as he drops back with the ball. Beasley takes two steps up the field, then explodes to the outside. Williams takes three steps up the field and as he is running his route, he gets Fletcher to go from square to opening his hips to the sidelines. On his fifth step, Williams is already starting his break inside, while Fletcher tries to flip his hips to adjust to Williams as he starts inside.
In front of Romo in the pocket, the Eagles try to run a stunt, which Doug Free and Brian Waters did a nice job of handling. Travis Frederick picks up the blitzing Mychal Kendricks which allows Romo the line of sight he needs to get the ball to Williams, who has broken inside of Fletcher and now has separation on the three yard line. Williams is too quick for Fletcher and Romo makes him pay for allowing him to get inside. Romo throws a strike to Williams, who catches the ball between the 8 and 3 to put the Cowboys up 17 – 3 and putting the Eagles in a difficult spot to try and rally.
There was a time that I believed that the learning curve for Terrance Williams was going to be large, but that has not been the case at all. You can see with each reception, that Tony Romo is developing complete confidence in his ability and despite his lack of experience, that if you can consistently make plays, the quarterback will always find ways to get him the ball.
Jason Garrett in his Monday afternoon press conference made it very clear that there were some issues with the offensive line during the game against the Eagles that needed to be cleaned up. In studying the tape, he was absolutely correct that there were times where the blocking scheme, wasn't as clean as it needed to be. There were some unnecessary pressures, sacks and penalties that this line had not had in previous games.
Despite what Garrett said needed to be addressed, I felt like that Tyron Smith and Brian Waters distinguished themselves from the other members of the offensive line with their play. Smith had a difficult assignment in that, the Eagles two best rushers were Connor Barwin and Trent Cole which he had to face down after down. Both of these defenders are relentless, attack up the field types of players. When Smith had to be careful is not to overextend and play out of balance which is the way these two guys can make you play off the edge.
Smith looked comfortable when he kicked to the outside and he was able to put himself in position to make both Barwin and Cole have to run through him to get to Romo. I thought his foot work and punch was solid all day and it was only when that he had to work with Ronald Leary and Phillip Tanner that it appeared that he wasn't at his very best. There was some confusion on 2nd sack of Romo, where they did not do a very good job of sorting things out. Trent Cole rushed hard inside and Smith allowed him to get on Leary, who already had a handful of Vinny Curry. Smith and Tanner work to the outside, as Leary tries to adjust inside to pick up Cole but that allows Curry to have a straight run at Romo, which resulted in the sack. It was an unfortunate play for Smith for otherwise, was an outstanding day for him.
I have to admit, that the way that Brian Waters has played since he was put in the starting lineup several weeks ago, has even surprised me. Waters has been as steady as they have come and he has been more that outstanding in the way that he has helped Travis Frederick along in his development this season. Waters has been a rock in the middle and has been difficult for defenders to get any type of push on him. Waters best trait, might be how smart he is. When you think about offensive line play, the first thing that tends to come to mind is brute strength. With Waters, you not only have that strength but those smarts as well.
Waters plays the game with a great awareness and understanding of not only his assignment but the assignments of those around him. He has not only made Frederick a better player but Doug Free as well. In this game where there was trouble on the left side with some stunts, on that right side, he was able to physically pass his man off to Free, then adjust back inside to take the looper and keep him along the line. It's rare that you see him get fooled or confused on a defensive scheme. Waters played with finish to his game on Sunday. He did not allow his man to outwork him on plays and this really has been a consistent part of his game. Whether it has been run blocking or pass protection, Brian Waters has been better than advertised.