Friday, August 14, 2009

Preseason Game 1: Oakland 31, Dallas 10

Cowboys Raiders FootballSurely, it is live football. It is real blocking and tackling. So, we should take note of some good things and bad things that happened last night in Oakland.

And, of course, we would start with the scoreboard. Not only did Oakland outscore the Cowboys, 31-10, but they also outgained the Cowboys in yardage, 456-274. From the Bill Parcells school of scoring, every 100 yards should account for 7 points. Therefore, by that rationale, the Raiders should have scored about 31 and the Cowboys about 19. Regardless, it was not very close last night in the 2nd half.

This speaks to what we have been saying all along about the state of the Cowboys. If the final record is completely dependent on the 22 starters of each team, then the Cowboys will have a very successful season. However, the NFL is a league of attrition. Injuries can and do happen. And often times it comes down to your 40th man on the roster doing his job or the 47th man on the roster doing his. In these battles, because of what appears to be some very sub-par drafting since 2006, the Cowboys do not appear to have a whole lot of quality depth.

Incidentally, this premise may explain the Dallas Cowboys' performance in December and down the stretch each season. Hypothetically, the stretch is where you test the depth of a team. And if you continuously come up short late in the year, it may be because your 4th safety or 8th offensive lineman fails his mission.

Back to last night in Oakland, where we saw the 1st team offense look very powerful. I thought the touchdown drive showed us plenty to confirm my ideas about this offense causing all sorts of issues with defensive coordinators. The strength of the Cowboys offense will be its ability to do so many things from so many different looks. Shotgun is a great time for a screen to Felix. "12" is a great spot for play-action over the top because the 2 TE's suck the safeties up in the box. Jason Garrett has to know that he can run from pass looks, and pass from run looks. As long as he doesn't get too predictable or too cute, there is no reason to put too much stress on Tony Romo's ability to fit the ball in tight spots. This is the pure definition of a "Romo Friendly" offense.

Here are some other items that jumped out at me from a night that I think we should all quickly forget:

* Jay Ratliff picked up C Chris Morris and threw him aside as he batted down a pass and almost picked it off. As a guy who proves you can in fact make plays from the interior DL of a 3-4, Ratliff is still the undisputed king of the trenches on this defense. He demands a double-team. If you are not willing to provide that, #90 will be in your backfield.

* Anthony Spencer is going to need several games before we have enough information to properly evaluate his ability to take over the spot opposite DeMarcus Ware on the flank. However, his one glaring moment last night came on a scramble by JaMarcus Russell late in the first Quarter over midfield. If you isolate Spencer on your screen, you will see that he looked very stiff and slow, as Russell faked him right to the ground and easily ran by him. Honestly, he looked like a player that reminded you of Greg Ellis in space. I was under the impression this was a quicker and more fluid type edge player when they took him in the 1st round. Again, just one play, but I need my edge LB to plant a shoulder into Russell's chest and drop him in the open field.

* I don't think The Blue Star Network is planning on winning any awards with the glitches last night. Audio chaos, video chaos, and altogether looking like its first preseason performance. It is the 1st game for the broadcasts, too, you know.

* I don't mean to pick on, but since they are one of the references I use to track player data from around the league, I had to write what they published last night about the performance of #27 Courtney Brown: "...led the team in tackles...bringing down six. A great start for Brown at his new position of cornerback. If he's this solid in the Cowboys next three preseason games, expect him to be on the sidelines on Sundays." Now, here is my view: "I have never seen a cornerback as picked on in a preseason game as Courtney Brown. He looked lost and confused. He was the target of any and all Raiders QB's who were throwing the ball at every opportunity at whoever Brown was attempting to run behind. He only led the team in tackles because of the sheer volume of action he saw. He was very, very poor. If he plays like that in the next three preseason games, his only chance to see Sundays is with Directv." - Were we watching the same game?

* The Cowboys lack of depth at NT is an issue. Junior Siavii looks suspect, and I am not sure they have very many options. It is curious that they did not take this potential weakness more seriously in the off-season, because despite having 80 guys in camp, they appear to have only Ratliff in the middle.

* In the battle for 3rd WR, let's give the first round decisively to Sam Hurd. He certainly had a few rough edges yesterday, but his 5 catches for 79 yards demonstrated the ability to contribute quality to the cause. Miles Austin (my pick to click) did not make the most of his opportunity. Beyond that, there was no distinguishing moments from any of the lower-tier WRs in the mix. Jesse Holley did not step on the field until under 5 minutes were left unless I missed him earlier.

* Jon Kitna will be just fine. He is not much of a starter in this league, but if you need him for 2 or 3 weeks, there is no reason why he can't run your offense. The upgrade over Brad Johnson is immeasurable. The Cowboys get credit for this upgrade now, but where were they last summer when Johnson was their best plan at 2nd QB?

* There are a few things I won't discuss this morning just due to the fact that it is one game early, early in August. So, yes, I realize the Joe DeCamillis era is off to a rough start and I also saw that Stephen McGee did not make me forget Staubach, but let's allow a few more minutes prior to knee-jerking for those who have been here for 10 days. Spencer, Carpenter, Brown, and Stanback are fair game, but rookies or rookie coaches are allowed more than 1 preseason game before we break out the "jump to conclusions" mat.

* Speaking of Bobby Carpenter, here you go: In space, he appears capable of retreating and running with TE's down the seam. In practice or game action, he shows the ability to cover passes as well as any LB on the team (not saying much). But, at the point of attack, he is still on roller skates. He is easy to block. He appears unwilling to run to contact, and he is pushed back and seldom drops anchor. I find it hard to believe, but he really is a finesse LB. And, no, there is no such thing as a finesse LB in the NFL for long. As Shawn in Florida points out that despite playing 3 quarters: "LB Carpenter 1 Tackle, K Buehler 2 Tackles".

* 2nd string OL from what I could tell: LT Free, LG Holland, C Procter, RG Gibbons, RT McQuistan - This is the real group we must study carefully. They need at least 3 of these 5 guys who can be ready to play for a month this seson in huge games. Do they have them?

There are many other things on my mind, but I will leave it there for now. Feel free to provide your own game notes below. Back to camp for the Boys with plenty of film to study.

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