Thoughts from the film room at Valley Ranch after the Cowboys defeat to the Redskins:
Young WRs Emerge
Wrote last night after the game that despite the loss, Tony Romo was pleased with the way the young kids Cole Beasley and Dwayne Harris played in the game once Miles Austin went out with a hip strain. There have been points of the season where Beasley had been active but not until his game last week against the Eagles that he had received more opportunities to get offensive snaps.
From visiting with guys that watch practice on a daily basis told me that Beasley did a great job on the scout team every week and it was only a matter of time before he would be in the mix. Harris has made his mark working in practice as well but where Beasley hasn't been active, Harris has, working on special teams. On the short week, both Harris and Beasley looked comfortable playing in the game which didn't surprise me one bit. There wasn't any confusion or indecision are their part while studying how they played.
On the two interceptions that Romo suffered , both were in the direction of Beasley but were on the quarterback and not because of the routes that Beasley had run. There were times where both of the receivers were open but Romo couldn't get them the ball. On the first series, Beasley was wide open when he and Dez Bryant ran a combination route with Beasley heading outside and Bryant driving inside. If Romo had time, he would have been able to get Beasley the ball but there was a slot blitz from Hall on the backside that Romo felt and had to get the ball underneath to Bryant.
In the fourth quarter, Harris had a 36 yard reception on a route where he avoided the corner then adjusted his route inside breaking off the sticks. Romo saw where Harris took his route and was able to hit him the middle of three Redskins defenders. Harris went high to get the ball and like what we had seen for his punt return ability how quickly he was able to get up the field and how well he is able to make people miss. It was a brave route and an outstanding adjust by Harris to make a big play for the offense. In total, Harris and Beasley were responsible for 11 grabs on the day and for two young players that just a few short weeks ago who were running on scout team, they were not only confident but productive as well.
Assessing O-Line Play
Last week there was no secret how poorly the Cowboys offensive line played last week against the Browns. In studying the Redskins in preparation for this game, I had the theory that the line would play better just because I felt like that the Redskins didn't do a very good job of rushing the passer, matter of fact, the Redskins were near the bottom of the league when it came to sacks per attempt.
Where the Browns were able to have some success rushing the passer was when they used a four man line then twist or stunt their linemen. The Redskins did more twisting but it was with their linebackers then it was with their defensive front. In this game, the Redskins tried something they had not shown before and that was twisting their line.
The Cowboys just allowed two sacks in this game and one of them was off a twist stunt where Derrick Dockery was late to adjust on Stephen Bowen and Felix Jones not being solid on the linebacker. The adjustment that the Cowboys were able to make in this game and from the previous game, was instead of man blocking the stunts, they went to a zone scheme and their protection in handling that was much better.
There wasn't as many problems with free rushers like we had seen against the Browns. If there was a player that struggled the most in this game, it was Derrick Dockery who just doesn't move as well as he needs to. There is a side of me that believes that if Costa or Cook still can't go again next week, that moving Kevin Kowalski into center and putting Bernadeau back at right guard, might be the best way to go. Dockery doesn't really help you in the running game which nobody really has but again when you don't get push or you struggle with movement and the ability to adjust, it doesn't make sense to continue to try and make it work.
Too Banged Up?
I am not going to sit here and make excuses for the defense with what has happened to them with all these injuries. Jason Garrett and Rob Ryan wouldn't do it but let me just offer this from my many years of working in this league, it's hard to compete when you look up and your best players are walking off the field with the trainers while you try and stop a player that is fresh off winning the Heisman Trophy.
With that being said, Rob Ryan and his players had one of those moments much like they did in Atlanta where they needed a stop in the worse way and couldn't get it. With the score 35 to 28 and 8:18 left in the game, the Redskins took over the ball. Nothing went right for Ryan in the first half but some big plays on offense and a turnover, they were right back in the game. The drive opened with a Dan Connor on a stop of Alfred Morris for a loss of one.
On second down, Ryan sends his nickel package in the game but Ryan didn't have his nickel corner Orlando Scandrick in the game because he left the game with an injured hand, so Mike Jenkins was put in his spot covering the dangerous Santana Moss. Before the snap, Gerald Sensabaugh comes up to the line to adjust the defense, At the snap both Claiborne and Carr are playing man coverage while Jenkins allows Moss to work up the field and to the inside and onto Peprah, as Jenkins steps forward to adjust to Paulson running the out in front of him. Peprah hesitates driving on Moss working the middle of the field.
In the backfield, Griffin III uses play action to Morris and sees Moss breaking to the middle and fires a dart for the completion and 23 yards. The drive continues and the Cowboys get the Redskins into a 3rd and 1. Ryan again goes with his nickel. The Redskins motion into a bunch formation, and at the snap breaks out of it. Moss on the outside, delays reading the coverage and runs his route just across the sticks. The secondary drops in zone as Griffin III throws the ball to Moss two yards beyond the sticks, catch and first downs. With now 4:02 on the clock, and the Redskins facing a 2nd and 9 , Ryan stays in his nickel.
Redskins Leonard Hankerson is in a tight split left with Danny McCray over the top of him. At the snap, Hankerson starts up the field then hooks at five yards. Griffin III again with no pressure makes a simple throw. McCray drives to meet Hankerson after the catch but his angle is not square and Hankerson spins inside as McCray over shoots the tackle and turning a five yard gain into a 12 yard gain and a first down.
Now Garrett is forced to have to start using his timeouts and has to burn two of them before Ryan and his defense is able to make a stop on third down forcing a field goal but in the process the Redskins take 5:20 off the clock and expand their lead to ten points before the Cowboys offense got the ball back.