Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Cowboys Defensive Film Study Summer Project - Part 2


No Gregory - Otherwise this is the full defense as planned in training camp.  Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain play their first action of the year and are used liberally to start.  The game featured the Cowboys taking off a linemen to allow most of the game in the dime defense to feature a 3-2 in front of it with Hardy, Crawford, and Lawrence as the front with Lee and McClain behind it.  The Cowboys rushed all 5 at times with this alignment and actually were quite impressive with 5 first half sacks.  Hardy was very effective off the RDE spot.  In the 2nd half, the Cover 1 spread out attack ran into repeated pick plays and rub routes which put the Cowboys in space.  In particular, 24 Claiborne was attacked repeatedly down the field and 42 Church underneath trying to deal with Dion Lewis.  Also, Claiborne and the secondary were exposed with the edge contain on multiple run plays leading to issues.  As the game went on and the offense proved hopeless, the Patriots started to figure out the Cowboys defense and put on a clinic starting with about 5 minutes left in the 2nd Quarter.  It ended up being a bloodbath.  Byron Jones was locked on Gronkowski all day and did a fine job against a much bigger opponent.  JJ Wilcox was again late on many plays and is now so deep that there is no chance he is going to jump a play in front of him.  Is he being coached this way?

COVERAGES - The Cowboys were in 32 pass situations against Tom Brady and basically ran Cover 1 all day with actually man coverage across the board, and then as many as 3 shallow robbers underneath trying to take away Brady's initial quick pass offense.  20 times in Cover 1, 6 instances of Cover 3 (all in 1st half), and 6 of Cover 2.

Through 5 Games – Coverages in 193 pass plays: 90 in Cover 1, 39 in Cover 3, 11 in 2-Man, and 53 in Cover 2.


Gregory is back so pretty much all hands on deck for this 2nd meeting with the Giants.  They did scratch Tyler Patmon for Corey White as they try to figure out how to live without Orlando Scandrick on the fly.  This game was one of the best defensive performances from the Cowboys all season, but it might be partially because the Giants were never too aggressive on offense.  The Giants ran the ball, they completed a few big plays at big moments, but for the most part were nothing to write home about at all.

The issues started to creep up though that would be the theme of the season - no takeaways, although they had a chance or two again (Byron Jones INT), and the offense sabotaging them to no end (and a KO return for a touchdown to Dwayne Harris).  It was remarkable how badly the offense and Matt Cassel played in the 2nd half and that means the defense would get more and more frustrated as they felt the game slipping away.  They did great on total yardage (less than 300), great on 3rd downs, and yet there was very little to show for it.  Jack Crawford did well, Byron Jones was great.  Rolando McClain started to look very poor.  And the safety position had all sorts of mixing and matching with 27/42 broken up for Byron Jones high and than a small amount of Jeff Heath.

COVERAGES - The Cowboys were in 28 pass situations against Eli Manning and it was almost completely Single-high safety to try to get that extra man down against the run and to flood the intermediate zones.  14 times in Cover 1, 11 times in Cover 3, and 3 times in Cover 2 zone.

Through 6 Games - Coverages in 221 pass plays - 104 in Cover 1, 50 in Cover 3, 11 in 2-Man, and 56 in Cover 2.


All hands are available in this one.  This is a pivotal home game in which the Cowboys are going to be an substantial underdog.  Unfortunately, they did not play that way and their conservative offensive style and lack of any sort of playmaking made this a very frustrating day for the defense.  They really battled their rear ends off and got really big performances from many.  Greg Hardy might have played his best game for the Cowboys - he was great and also grabbed an interception on an exceptional play.  Byron Jones was good again.  DeMarcus Lawrence was very good.  They did a wonderful job against the Seattle running game limiting them to 3.6 yards per carry all day.  And Seattle's passing game was nothing special for the most part.  The Cowboys defense played about as hard and as well as they possibly could.  They even blocked a FG in the 4th Quarter to fight their tails off to the end when Seattle finally broke through.

It did appear that the Cowboys wanted to run a ton of single-high Cover 1 and Cover 3 on this day.  Seattle started sniffing out the Cover 3 and were attacking it as you would expect Seattle would given that this is basically a coverage that they have created and perfected.  The 2nd Quarter TD drive - their only one of the day - was a clinic on this with a lot of the attack centered on Claiborne and a little on Church underneath.  Rolando McClain was horrendous and looked like he should be replaced throughout the day.  Maybe hurt, but just substandard play all afternoon.

COVERAGES - The Cowboys faced 30 pass situations against Russell Wilson and the Seahawks and were in a Cover 1 or Cover 3 on 29 of those 30.  They had one Cover 2 late in the 1st half.  Otherwise, Cover 1 - 15, Cover 3 - 14.  So, it was a very vanilla day where the 2nd safety was up to stop Marshawn Lynch.  It worked pretty well, too.

Season totals through 7 games - Coverages in 251 pass plays:  119 in Cover 1 (47.4%), 64 in Cover 3 (25.4%), 11 in 2-Man (4.3%), and 57 in Cover 2 (22.7%).


A rematch of the week 2 battle where the Cowboys looked like world beaters on defense.  They absolutely dominated the first game and then started this game with all sorts of effectiveness.  This game was more of the same early, but for numbers reasons, the Cowboys pretty much stayed in Cover 1 for the majority of the game.  When you play Cover 1 (usually with a LB as a robber), you make things pretty easy for an offense to work against.  They know what you are doing and they have also watched the Saints and Patriots (Giants and Seahawks, too) just run rub routes over and over until someone gets free on a high percentage shallow cross.  It happened a lot on this particular occasion and the Cowboys did not find success as the game wore on.  Sam Bradford looked about as good as he ever has against the Cowboys in this game.

The Cowboys did great against 3rd downs, but no takeaways and no real stops as the Eagles racked up 459 yards and 8 explosives (plays of 20 yards or more) which probably was the most the Cowboys gave up all season long.

Sean Lee was lost early in the 3rd Quarter with a concussion and the game went down hill from there.  Andrew Gachkar and Anthony Hitchens were repeatedly attacked.  Gachkar also looked to struggle with run fits on a few occasions.  Wilcox with another poor angle on the winning touchdown.  No real pass rush to speak of.

COVERAGES - The Cowboys were in pass coverage on 41 occasions.  It was mostly Cover 1 (28), with some Cover 3 mixed in on 3rd down (especially) - 9, and Cover 2 - 4.

Season totals through 8 games - Coverages in 292 pass plays:  147 in Cover 1 (50.3%), 73 in Cover 3 (25%), 11 in 2-Man (3.7%), and 61 in Cover 2 (20.9%).

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Copa America - USMNT vs Ecuador - June 16 - Quarterfinals - Running Notebook

Here is the Quarterfinal match with Ecuador vs USMNT in Seattle.

The USA is without Yedlin who took a red card.

Very bizarre choice without Yedlin of moving Johnson from left back to right back and putting in Besler when most expected Orozco to play as he did against Paraguay.

Ecuador has a couple of their big guns down with Bolanos and Jamie Ayovi both on the bench.

Here we go.

US gets first attempt on goal and Zardes deflects on wide for a corner for US.  3'

Jefferson Montero gets down and earns a corner on the left.  

Montero with a drive that goes high.  5'  dangerous winger from Swansea.  

This is the portion of the blog where we observe that ECU have a midfield with a player from Manchester United next to a player from FC Dallas.  

Enner Valencia with a chance inside the area and a counter from the US is spoiled on a horrible ball from Jermaine Jones.  9'

Fabian Johnson whipped a ball in and it was dangerous looking for a brief moment.  

ECU doesn't look overly confident defending, either, to be honest.

Gruezo from distance with a worm burner.  12'

Bradley on a corner finds Cameron who was looking to flick on to Wood and it misses at the back post.  Nice idea, though.  

A harmless chance almost turns into something as Wood gets to a slow roller and almost pokes it past the keeper.  Beautiful chance.  17'

Very shaky defending and a deflection off Cameron goes right to Arroyo and the chance goes high.  Some unforced errors now.  19'

GOAL - The United States carve open the defense with a beautiful run from Wood who then pulls back for Jermaine Jones and he puts it right on the head of Clint Dempsey who makes no mistake picking out the top right hand corner!  A real impressive finish.  1-0, 22'

Now with the lead, the US can certainly decide to sit back in their 4-4-2 and counter.  

That is Dempsey's 52nd US goal, trailing only Landon Donovan with 57 - All-time.

Zardes goes down on a foul in 26'

Dempsey with another chance.  A hard strike that Dominguez stops on the ground.  27'

Big shot for Ecuador - Arroyo from the spot and John Brooks deflects and sends it back.

Then Mina gets a boot up against Wood.  

ECU starting to pick up play a bit.  They continue to look dangerous.  Meanwhile, John Brooks doesn't look right health-wise.

Valencia fouls Besler on a turnover.  34'

Johnson sends in Wood with an early ball and Mina saves his skin with a toe poke for a corner.  Brooks still looks hurt.

Surge for ECU and Jermaine Jones gets back to snuff it out some.  37'

A great counter and Dempsey found Bedoya who hit it right into the goalie.  Big chance lost.  41'

We will have 2 minutes of extra time in the first half.  

ECU with another huge chance.  Brooks falls and Cameron tries to hassle Arroyo but the powerful man blows through and gets off a shot that is saved by Guzan.  Well done!  46'

He then goes and gets a corner for another stop.  Guzan stayed sharp and was ready.  

2nd half - 

Jermaine Jones fouls Montero over in the corner.  Not really necessary.

Set piece from that spot.  Headed on twice and E Valencia had a real chance.  48'

Antonio Valencia and Jermaine Jones are both given red cards!

Valencia kicked out the legs of Bedoya for no good reason, it seems.  I have no idea what Jones did.  I guess he pushed on Arroyo's face.  Weird for sure, but very penal.  

Then, Wood takes a yellow and that will be a game for him, too.  53'

Chance!  Bradley picks out Zardes who sends it back for Dempsey from straight on at 22 yards.  59'  

Offside flag catches ECU on high line.  

Montero with some impressive moves on a run, but a shot on a lay-off goes high.

Gaibor in for Noboa.  62'

Parades given a yellow going in high on Wood.  64'

GOAL!!!!  A beautiful ball from Brooks finding Wood into the left corner.  Pulled back Besler curls it in to Zardes who plays it back to Dempsey.  Deuce sends it right down the line and a finish by Zardes!!!  2-0.  Beautiful  

Chance for EDU as service to E Valencia heads it over the bar.  He got behind Cameron a bit.  68'

US concedes a corner after some opportunities for ECU that are less than stellar.

Ramirez on and Gruezo off.  72'

Foul on Bedoya as he takes down Paredes.  Bedoya given yellow and he will miss the semifinal.  

GOAL for Ecuador.  Off a set piece and a beautiful play is converted Arroyo scores from distance and we have a game.  2-1.  74'

Beckerman in for Dempsey.  75'

Ecuador is really coming now.  Another chance is looped in and a header goes just wide.  13 Valencia with a poor conversion.  But, things are getting rough now.  77'

Now, Valencia is finding some space again.  Another chance is headed wide.  Yikes.  78'

Ecuador has the US on the run.  Another chance just goes over the bar.

Here comes another sub.  J Avoyi in for Paredes.  Their final sub.

Now, the US is defending hard in their own end.  Fabian Johnson that time.  

Zusi is on with some fresher legs.  

Guzan comes out to sweep that ball and secures it to put out a fire himself.  86'

The Ecuadorian coach has been expelled for cussing out the ref.  

The ECU comes right don and has a chance to put another one away and it was luckily deflected wide by Brooks.  Fortunate.  Wow.  90'

Now, 4 minutes of stoppage time.  

Brooks stops a big Arroyo run!  

Corner for ECU with 1 minute to go.   The chance pings around and the US survives again.  

Birnbaum on now for Zardes.  Blow the whistle.    There it is!

USA wins again!

USA 2, Ecuador 1

It was a wonderful win.  Not dominant, but the USA always looked fine.  They had to hold on late, but really survived well again.  

A three win tournament!!!  The Klinsmann era will continue indefinitely because this Copa is clearly in the win column.  Anything else is clear gravy.  

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Copa America - USMNT vs Paraguay - June 11 - Running Notebook

Ok, here is the final game of Group A.  After a loss to Colombia and a big win against Costa Rica, the USMNT only require a draw to go through, but could conceivably with the group with some help from Costa Rica which seems unlikely since they are eliminated.  

Get a result and go through to likely play Brazil on Friday.  Or, lose and go home.

Match is in Philadelphia in a moderately populated Linc.

USA still in a 4-4-2, despite the sheet listed.  

Big counter attack by the USA and Fabian Johnson led the attack and was fouled 30 yards out. 2'

John Brooks starting strong early.  

Dempsey posts up and is fouled in the 5' within 27 yards.  Fabian Johnson stands over it and his curler around the wall demands a save.  Villar has been the PAR keeper since 1999.

3 on 1 for PAR is broken up wonderfully by Brooks!  Wow.  Everyone caught up and Brooks saves the day with a beautiful blocked shot.  11'

Current clubs of the starting 11 for this Copa America:  

Clint Dempsey - Seattle
Zardes - LA Galaxy
Bobby Wood - Hamburger (GER)

Michael Bradley - Toronto
Jermaine Jones - Colorado 
Alejandro Bedoya - Nantes (ITA)

DeAndre Yedlin - Sunderland (ENG)
John Brooks - Hertha (GER)
Geoff Cameron - Stoke (ENG)
Fabian Johnson - Borussia Mönchengladbach (GER)

Brad Guzan - Aston Villa (ENG)

A bit chippy here tonight as these two teams are going at each other with studs up.  15'

Zardes down the left flank provides good speed and counters.  

Great ball possession in deep for the USA, but nothing of it.  But, back the other way, a shout for a penalty as Jones brings his man down in the box on a tackle, and then Gonzalez finds Lezcano on the far post for a header, but Guzan makes the save.  19'

More US opportunities but the final ball is missing.  Bedoya looking for Yedlin that time.

Dempsey tried to slide the ball to Wood and there was a handball by Balbuena at the top of the circle. Dempsey on top of it.  24'

He goes top right and misses it high.  Enough to make everyone nervous, but just missed.  

GOAL: Zardes with that run down the left flank and then beautifully turns the corner to cut it back to Dempsey who slams it home!  GOAL!  1-0, USMNT.  Jermaine Jones won possession and freed Zardes down the left.  Dempsey's left foot is true and it is his 51st goal for the nats.  27'

Ayala is fouled by Wood 25 out for PAR.  Ayala's kick is high.  

Lezcano gets another window of light only to have Brooks there.  33'

Samudio and Yedlin get into it and a blind elbow gets Samudio who stays down.  41'

The US now noticeably more compact and sitting in their shape to get to halftime, we assume.  

3 on 2 counter for the US draws a corner as Wood slips a bit on his cutback.  44'

In the 45th, Lezcano is sprung all alone behind the high line!  Guzan makes the save!  Huge save 5-hole.  Big.  

Halftime - US 1, PAR 0

2nd half - Iturbe on for Balbuena at the half.  

Yedlin goes in hard and gets a yellow card for his tackle on 16.  47'

Then, he does it again????   This time on Samudio and he gets a 2nd yellow in about 60 seconds.  What are you doing????   Sent off and properly sent off.  

SUB:  Now playing with 10 men - Dempsey must come off for Michael Orozco (Tijuana - MEX).  

This is going to be difficult to bring home now.  

Rojas on for Ortiz.  

This is where Jermaine Jones is going to be a key.  Brooks so composed under fire.  Orozco now playing right back with Wood alone up high.  

Wood turns a ball at midfield to get a 3 on 2 on the run, but his pass to Zardes is scuffed at the goal as Villar makes a fine play.  62'

A long shot goes wide from Ayala.  62'  

Benitez on for Sanabria.  3rd and final sub for PAR.

Orozco blocks a shot for a corner.  PAR has 4 corners now.  65'  Everyone back for the US.  

Wood sure looked fouled down in the PAR end.  But, no call.  

I think the Ref is hurt.  The magic spray is being applied.  

Now things are really getting heated.  Rojas on Wood and Wood pushes him back.  Yellow cards for both, I do believe.  71'

SUB:  At the 74', Zusi on for Bedoya to bring on fresh legs and heavy energy.  

Ayala fouls Zardes and is booked accordingly.  78'

Zusi tracks back and breaks up a play in his area.  

A Lezcano header from Iturbe goes high.  80'

Guzman with a huge sequence.  First Benitez, then Lezcano.  Guzan is there for both!

SUB:  Beckerman and he is on and fires it high.  '87

Jermaine Jones foul is cautioned and the ensuing set piece is broken up by Brooks.

Then return play is sent in and a goal is scored by Gomez, but clearly offside!  '89

There will be 6 minutes of stoppage time!  

The closing down of swarms of US players are seeing this out.  Jermaine Jones, Bradley, Brooks, Cameron.  So good.  

They survive!  They beat Paraguay.

This is just the 3rd major tournament ever where they have 2 wins.  2002 World Cup and the 1995 Copa America (2009 Confederations Cup as well).  

Big accomplishment.  Well done.

Cowboys Defensive Film Study Summer Project - Part 1


No McClain, No Hardy – Game 1 of 4 game suspensions. The defense really played well against the Giants. It was possibly the best game of the season for JJ Wilcox. Tyrone Crawford was excellent. Hardly gave up anything. Eli Manning repeatedly tried to attack Tyler Patmon with Odell Beckham from the slot, with limited success. Randy Gregory looked great against rookie Erick Flowers at LT, but rolled his ankle badly and was lost for months. One sack and no takeaways, however there were two “near takeaways” where JJ Wilcox broke up a pass that looked like a fumble.

Coverages: 34 pass plays – 13 in Cover 1, 8 in Cover 3, 2 in 2-Man and 11 in Cover 2 (Zone) – with 4 of those in Tampa 2 – all 3rd down. Defense played great, but still needed an amazing screw up by Tom Coughlin with clock management to survive and an equally amazing drive by Romo late in the game. Jeremy Mincey with a horrendous personal foul late. The offense was sputtering all night, but came to life to save the game.


No McClain, No Hardy – Game 2 of 4 game suspensions. No Gregory. This was an absolutely stunning defensive performance that focused on stopping DeMarco Murray and the Eagles outside zone runs. It also helped that once again the Eagles had very poor QB play as the Cowboys challenged them with a lot of Cover 1 man coverage to get Barry Church up against the run. Church was outstanding, but not nearly as great as Sean Lee who might have had his best game of his career. Lee was sitting on and attacking run play after run play to the edge. Terrell McClain and Jeremy Mincey were lost during this game. Davon Coleman dressed. Repeatedly, Bradford tried to challenge Tyler Patmon again in man coverage and repeatedly, Patmon was up for it. The team played the entire 62 snaps in primarily nickel defense.

Coverages: 42 pass plays – 22 in Cover 1, 1 in Cover 3, 1 in 2-Man, and 18 in Cover 2 with most all of those coming late when the Cowboys were sitting on their lead. This was also a game where the team received a blocked punt for a touchdown. Again, there were all sorts of good things from this game. Sean Lee had an end zone interception, JJ Wilcox had a center field interception, and the team had three takeaways, dominated 3rd downs (2 for 11), and allowed only 4.1 yards per play. So good.


No McClain, No Hardy – Game 3 of 4 game suspensions. No Gregory, No Mincey, No Terrell McClain (put right on IR). This means that the defense was at a distinct personnel disadvantage for much of the game with issues like Ryan Russell starting in his first NFL action. Additionally, Davon Coleman and Ken Bishop played inside with Russell and Jack Crawford on the outside quite a bit. On top of all of this, Sean Lee was hurt pretty badly on the 1st play of the 3rd Quarter and wasn’t the same for a long time after that. Cowboys forced 3 3-and-outs in the first 4 drives and did very well overall until a short field after a Weeden interception gave a TD and then a blitz here Devontae Freeman was matched up with Jack Crawford and that went very badly before halftime. However, the team was still up 28-17. The 2nd half featured 3 Falcons drives and all were long touchdown drives. The Cowboys tried Cover 1 against Julio Jones and he destroyed them and Tyler Patmon on this. Then, the running game of the Falcons showed no mercy in the 2nd half and the game went in the wrong direction very quickly. Almost no splash plays, no takeaways, and just a Sean Lee sack on a blitz on the first drive of the game. 438 yards against and nothing close to a stop in the entire 2nd half. This is where the safety play was pretty disappointing with Wilcox further and further from where they needed him.

Coverages: 41 pass plays – 14 in Cover 1, 15 in Cover 3, 7 in 2-Man, and 5 in Cover 2. The Cowboys are starting to see more and more pick plays and rub routes from playing so much man coverage and also teams are now trying to find Patmon to take advantage of the Orlando Scandrick injury. Overall, it sure seemed the worst performance of the year followed the best by just 7 days.


No McClain, No Hardy – Game 4 of a 4 Game suspension. No Gregory, Russell scratched. Cowboys started Gachkar at the SAM, but with the Saints keeping them in nickel, that wasn’t vital. Yet, Lee was hurt on the 2nd drive of the game and Gachkar had to play the remainder of the game at WILL, with Damien Wilson now at SAM. Once again, the Cowboys did a pretty decent job of limiting the Saints offense early as most of the damage that Drew Brees was able to get was underneath as he paired his RBs with Cowboys backup LBs. Tyler Patmon and Gachkar both had near takeaways as Patmon dropped an INT and Gachkar’s strip was ruled knee down on Mark Ingram. As the game went on, Brees was getting a better and better feel for things and he rolled up another 438 yards of total offense and would have won in regulation if not for a missed FG after a rather easy drive down the field that included finding Patmon in a Cover 1 and going after him. David Irving made his debut and made some flash plays quickly. Corey White played for the first significant time. Jeff Heath started doing more and more at FS in certain sub packages. Wilber started playing nickel DE. Overtime was two very similar plays that included a pick play on a RB that took out Gachkar and then on the next play Damien Wilson lost CJ Spiller down the sideline for a wheel route TD where Barry Church showed he was no better at FS than Wilcox.

Coverages: 44 pass plays – 21 in Cover 1, 9 in Cover 3, 1 in 2-Man, and 13 in Cover 2 (with 2 instances of Tampa 2). Damien Wilson was pretty good at times against the run. Gachkar was pretty solid. DeMarcus Lawrence was great. Morris Claiborne fought hard in man coverage. 

Through 4 Games – Coverages in 161 pass plays: 70 in Cover 1, 33 in Cover 3, 11 in 2-Man, and 47 in Cover 2.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Copa America - USMNT vs Costa Rica - June 7 - Running Notebook

Must-win game already for the USMNT.  And Jurgen Klinsmann is reportedly under fire in a do-or-die situation.  Imagine being the first team eliminated in a 16-team tournament that you are hosting.  Yikes.

So many seats available at Solider Field in Chicago.  Yikes, again.

Lineups - Same 11 for the USMNT.  Bizarre.

Here we go from a moderately populated Soldier Field.

Costa Rica jumps on the ball early.  

High press!  That can't hurt.  

Zardes with a ridiculous clearance attempt just about ends up a disaster as Joel Campbell strikes one wide of Guzan.  5'

Penalty on a beautiful chance in the CR area!  This is a no brainer as there is a push in the back on Bobby Wood by #16 Gamboa!  Yedlin with the cross from Bedoya!

Who will take the penalty?  Clint Dempsey, of course.   Costa Rica has been quite combative with our official over this call.  Can Dempsey cash in on career US goal #50?

YES!  1-0!  US!  9'

Bedoya with a nice feed to Wood on the edge.  Diagonal pass that is often missing.

Yedlin looks the part with strong play.  14'

Saborit on because 21 Urena is hurt some sort of shoulder issue.  17'  

Bobby Wood with impressive possession, but no real destination on his run.  20'

Fabian Johnson looks better than Friday.  Confident and going forward.

On a few occasions, the US is getting the ball in transition in the center circle and just turns and charges forward.  Dempsey does this well.  Just keep it and play-make.   Zardes with a half-chance in 27'

Dempsey feeds Zardes yet again and he fires it over the ball.  Must finish that!   '33

Jermaine Jones off a feed from Dempsey on a counter attack opens up a chance, but the shot goes high to the far corner on a curler.

Huge goal as Jones has pushed up and caused a turnover, Dempsey then play making in the other direction and sends it back to Jones for the finish to the far lower corner.  2-0!  37'

What a play!

CR with a chance in the US area on the counter.  But, US bodies get in front of it.  Dangerous.

Bobby Wood turns and fires for a wonder goal off another pass from Dempsey!   3-0!  Everything is going in!

What a first half and now with that goal differential situation, you might consider that.

United States 3, Costa Rica 0 - Halftime

Jones - age 34, Yedlin, Dempsey have all been great.  Very strong performance.

2nd Half - 

15 Salvatierra and 14 Azofeifa on.  16 Gamboa and 12 Campbell off.

US in a 4-4-2 now.  

54' - US is caught with a late run to 5 Borges who shoots high from the spot.  Costa Rica demonstrating a little scoring punch.  

Brooks and Yedlin have both had moments of massive composure with ball handling in their own box.  Crazy calm and they got away with it, so no worries, but man.  61'

Off the corner, Bryan Ruiz headed one of the woodwork, but the ball is called offside.  67'

Jermaine Jones contributions have been absurdly underrated for these last many years.

Graham Zusi is on, Bobby Wood is off.  What a goal in the 1st half.  

Jones finds Bedoya who might have just shot it, but he looks to feed Zardes instead.  Miss chance there, but great idea.  

Wondolowski on for Dempsey.   78'

How did Costa Rica not score on that set piece at '83?  Amazing let off.  

Finally, high press beauty with the turnover and the finish from Graham Zusi.  Love it.  

This is as easy a win in a big competition that we have seen in forever.

3 points! 

USA 4, Costa Rica 0

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Copa America - USMNT vs Colombia - June 3 - Running Notebook

June 3 - Levi Stadium

Geoff Cameron with a fantastic bit of skill in the 4th minute with a spin but then lost his man on a corner in the 8th minute as Cristian Zapata pounds one home with a right footed finish from the spot.


The amazing Juan Cuadrado of Juventus is problems down the right flank with quickness and ball skills and goes at Fabian Johnson.

It sure seems evident that the USA could use a true #10 playmaker. This is when it occurs to us that most of the best #10's in MLS are imports.
Gyasi Zardes provides real electricity up top if you can just get him some service.

Finally had a half chance in the 27th minute, but some good movement did not result in a shot of any substance.  Bobby Wood on the ball and Yedlin getting forward.

36th minute, Zardes finds Dempsey who shoots to the left post from 20 yards and just misses.  Very close chance there to lock it up.

Bradley with a very poor giveaway results in a counter.  Bradley then fouls and attempts to stop play but the advantage is properly played.  Ball gets sent in and Yedlin turns but the ball hits his hand and a penalty is given.  40th minute.  Rough break, but likely the right call.

James takes the penalty and makes no mistake.   2-0.

Weird half in that it seemed the US played pretty well, but a corner and a weird and flukey penalty is the difference and it is a substantial one.

2nd Half-

Seems like Jermaine Jones is almost just shadowing Cuadrado.  Bradley has really struggled.

I really don't understand no high press.

John Brooks with a mix-up with Cuadrado in the 53rd minute and offered a strong physical moment.  He is decent enough at his age to feel good about.

Not sure Bedoya is better than Zusi.  This is not a great spot for the US.

Colombia is a low possession team but they sit on the ball in the 2nd half because we are not pressing at all and I really don't get it.

59th minute corner from Bradley showed Dempsey with a huge chance that is kicked off the line by a defender.

63' - Dempsey with another set piece chance that required a great save by Ospina.  Dempsey curled it near post and it was very impressive.

In the 65th minute - 17 year old Christian Pulisic on for Bobby Wood and Jermaine Jones goes off for Darlington Nagbe.

Big counter chance for Colombia as Carlos Bacca gets a chance from Cuadrado at the spot gets deflected wide by Yedlin.

James is hurt - appears to be a shoulder issue.  Winner of the World Cup Golden Boot in 2014.

Celis is on for James Rodriguez who cannot continue in the 72nd minute.

Bedoya has started to create more in the last 10 minutes as he looks for a pass to unlock things.

Bacca off the bar in all alone on another Bradley turnover.  And then another Bradley turnover.

Dempsey with a chance in the 78th minute before he gets tied up with Pulisic.  It would be foolish to put Dempsey and Bradley in the same bin.

US had some possession in final minutes, but Bradley's volley wasn't close.

Zusi on for Bedoya in 87th.

Colombia 2, US 0

Costa Rica next on Tuesday, Paraguay next Saturday


Friday, June 03, 2016

Cowboys Mailbag - June 3

It is Friday, so as we reach the end of my work year of Cowboys writing (the new year begins in late July in Oxnard), let me offer you one last mailbag before I shut it down for about 7 weeks.

They will still offer you various things from the last year for you to read again (or for the first time), so hopefully we won't be too far apart for long:

Q: Let's say the offense is what we hope it is with Zeke, healthy Romo and Bryant and it averages 30+ points a game. Let's also say the defense is an average defense. That should mean there should be some blow outs during the season. Which QB (Moore or Prescott) should get those garbage time snaps since you are going to want to get Romo out as soon as you can?

This is a fantastic scenario that everyone can get behind.  The team just absolutely kills everyone in 2016, so let's sort through who will be mopping up, right?  I love your optimism.  OK, let's explore this idea and I will say that it is absolutely going to be a job for Kellen Moore.  I don't think he is the most complete and capable QB ever seen, but he should be perfect for this job.  Dak Prescott's #1 job will be to figure out what he can do in the NFL, wow us in the 4th Quarter of preseason games, get hazed as all rookie QBs do, and basically learn and learn some more.  He shouldn't be asked to be active on gameday, nor should he be asked to play a single snap.  If the idea is to get Prescott ready to be the #2 by 2017, then this year should be treated as a training red shirt year.  Nothing more.  Give the mop to Kellen Moore and pray neither of them have to start a single game.

Q: Who would you say has been the most underrated player for the Cowboys over the last few seasons?

Well, that is a tough question because "underrated" can mean many things.  So, underrated in the media?  Well, Brandon Carr shows up for 1,000 snaps a year and hardly gets burned for big stakes.  People want more and should expect more for $50 million, but I do think it is comical to demand he is cut on blogs and newspapers.  Underrated in the public?  Travis Frederick is amazing and I don't see many jerseys out there because centers don't sell jerseys.  Underrated by the coaching staff?  I wish I knew what James Hanna had to do to get more chances and snaps.  Underrated by the rest of the league?  Hmmmm.  Well, let's say Tyrone Crawford.  But, obviously, 2014 was his great year.  2015 must be better.  

Q: Do you think Rod Marinelli is going to have to change some things up in the first four games scheme-wise with so many dudes out?

Not really.  That is the thing about Rod.  He isn't worried about the guys he has.  He is worried about everyone fulfilling their obligation.  He will trust those he has and not "baby" anyone.  He demands the most of his players but actually enjoys people saying his guys aren't good enough.  Pound for pound, there aren't many I would rather have than Rod Marinelli.  The guy is certainly a great defensive mind who trusts his experience.  

Q: Biggest concern for Zeke going forward?

The same concern for every RB that plays in the NFL.  That his body is shown mercy from the collisions that shorten careers and zap explosiveness.  Most RBs who are drafted are not given a 2nd contract by the team that drafts them because they view RBs as disposable and high-risk.  The Cowboys obviously disagree (even though they seemed to agree 18 months ago) and were willing to pay Zeke huge amounts of money before he ever carried the ball once.  He is being paid to be elite.  He needs to be elite and offer longevity.  They are betting he is a real outlier.  We shall hope and see.

Q: How do you think the Cowboys will handle being loyal to Jason Witten/phasing him out of the offense when he starts to decline even more than he has?

Great question and not really something that you would suggest is their specialty.  The idea of making a rough decision on when someone they really like is not what he once was is something that I am hesitant to suggest they have done well in the past.  They elected to say goodbye to DeMarcus Ware because of the cap number and Jay Ratliff over his health.  But, Witten may be 2nd only to Romo (and maybe even with Romo) when it comes to the beloved son of the franchise.  I would wonder when the time comes that they will hope Witten makes the first move. This is one worth following as unfortunately, the finish line approaches.

Q: Do you think it'd be a good idea to sign someone like Dwight Freeney now that Maliek is hurt? I'm worried about that DLine

I understand the concern, but I don't want to make too many decisions based on 4 weeks.  When Lawrence returns the DE position will look ok with Charles Tapper, Benson Mayowa, Ryan Russell, Lawrence, and probably David Irving.  As far as I am concerned, I think I like that.   Freeney was great last year at times in ArizoI keep seeing rumors that the Cowboys might trade a back. Which one do you think is first out the door?na, but we should remember who he was surrounded by and understand that this is not similar to here.  I think the Cowboys should see what they have here with the new group.  

Q: I keep seeing rumors that the Cowboys might trade a back. Which one do you think is first out the door?

This often upsets people, but when you look at Zeke, Alfred Morris, Lance Dunbar, and Darren McFadden, the one that seems to be the odd man out remains DMC.  He doesn't run the zone scheme well and the others are tailor made for what the team wants to accomplish.  He is very good, but is not a good fit here.  I don't know if you could get much in a trade, but I think that is the possibility in August.

GBL Teams - 2016 Season

Here are the Teams For 2016 GBL Season 


#40 - Vince Vaughan
#5 -  Dan Carlin
#25 - Robin Yount
#10 - The professor – And 1
#15 - Bam Margera
#30 - Norm MacDonald
#20 - Scott Storch
#35 - Anders Holm - actor/creator/writer, Workaholics


#28 - TJ Miller – “Erlich Bachman” Silicon Valley
#33 - Jack Dorsey – founder/CEO of Twitter
#8 - Major Applewhite
#3 - Scott Raab, Believeland
#13 - De’Voreaux White, Die Hard and Blues Brothers
#38 - Jason Bateman
#18 - Mia Sara - Sloan Peterson
#23 - Tia Carrare


#34 - Golden Tate
#14 - Krysten Ritter – “Jane” Breaking Bad
#29 - Kyle Mooney - cast member, Saturday Night Live
#39 - Aidan Gillen – Littlefinger, Carcetti
#9 - Jane Krakowski, 30 Rock and Vacation
#24 - Vincent D’Onofrio
#4 - Kip Dynamite - Aaron Ruell
#19 - Abbi Jacobson - actor/creator/writer, Broad City


#21 - Dan Harmon - creator, Community
#16 - Kumail Nanjiani - actor, Silicon Valley
#26 - Dane Cook – comedian/douche bag
#31 - Tom Hardy
#36 - Trey Parker
#6 - Paul Wilson, Bob from Office Space
#11 - Luke Perry, 90210 and OZ
#1 - Gavin Free, Slo Mo Guys


#7 - Curtis Armstrong, Booger from Revenge of the Nerds
#2 - Eric Bogosian, Talk Radio
#22 - Stephen Graham snatch, band of brothers, al Capone
#27 - Anthony Michael Hall
#17 - Cop from T2 - Robert Patrick
#37 - Cillian Murphy Tommy Shelby
#12 - Joshua Jackson - Charlie Conway
#32 - Jerry springer

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Sean Lee, Flaws and All, Was Awesome in 2015


Perhaps it will be the theme of this current era of the Dallas Cowboys -- the flawed superstar. Tony Romo might be a flawed superstar. Heck, Dez Bryant may be a flawed superstar. I suppose the definition of the flawed superstar is that they deserve incredible amounts of praise, and yet, while you offer that amount of praise, someone else at the table will counter with: "Yeah, but."
Romo has some flaws, of course -- great player and maybe as many personal skills as any quarterback this city has ever known, but, you know ...  simply suggesting Dez Bryant has a few flaws to overcome is enough to start a fight, but that conversation is certainly worth having at some point.

But, I want to focus on Sean Lee. Doing some work this morning with splash plays and the defense this season has led me back to awesome moments from Sean Lee's season. He was really, really good in 2015. In fact, there were several games where he just took things over.
Yet, the things people remember include the massive hit against Atlanta, the concussion against the Saints and the concussion against the Eagles. He can't stay healthy.
Wait a minute. He played 814 snaps. That is nearly 90 percent of all the snaps. Shouldn't we focus on that a bit? He played more snaps than any of the past four seasons. And when he played, the quality of his play was very, very high.
Now, you aren't going to get the benefit of the doubt when you play 1,000 snaps from 2012-14 and then, during your one "healthy" year, you miss games because of two concussions. But, allow me to admit that I wish he didn't have these circumstances and I would definitely trade him for a perfectly healthy Sean Lee who wasn't turning 30 next month.
But, then, allow me to show you 10 plays from last season that I easily and quickly collected from my notes to focus on what he can do for you. For better or worse, he easily is the best Dallas has. And he is fantastic in long stretches as these plays will demonstrate.
Ready? Here we go:
Thanksgiving Day: seek and destroy in the first quarter against Cam Newton on the read option. Lee isn't buying your fake, and he is chasing you down in the backfield.
Week 1: Lee has the "Will" linebacker responsibility of outside contain on the weak side and devours Rashad Jennings with no help.
He takes on the tight end in the hole and still makes the tackle on the running back behind him. Strong work.
Here is Lee's forte. There's a power run to his right -- you either shoot the gap with ferocity and conviction, or you get run over by a pulling guard. He records a tackle for loss.
Above you find my favorite play of them all. The tackle tries to get him. The fullback tries to get him. The running back tries to avoid him. This is Sean Lee blowing up a December game after a season's beating on his body with low stakes in the game. Film don't lie. Beauty.  
Pretty good game against the Bills, eh? That team runs the ball really well, but they had their issues with No. 50.
Can Sean Lee still run? Let's see Tyrod Taylor try to turn the corner on him.
Can Sean Lee still run? Let's see Matt Jones try to turn the corner on him.
Here, he meets Marshawn Lynch in the hole. Lynch is a tough guy to bring down, but Lee shows great aggressiveness.
And one more TFL against the now-retired "Beast Mode."
He was really good in 2015. I could have shown you 15 more of these.
Now, the NFL was not going to give him the All-Pro votes if he was hurt two or three times during the year, and I am not saying it should have. Here is the All-Pro voting on inside LBs in 2015:

Inside Linebackers

-- Luke Kuechly, Carolina, 49; NaVorro Bowman, San Francisco, 14; Bobby Wagner, Seattle, 12; Derrick Johnson, Kansas City, 9; Clay Matthews, Green Bay, 4; Brandon Marshall, Denver, 3; Jamie Collins, New England, 2; Anthony Barr, Minnesota, 1; Deone Buccanon, Arizona, 1; Thomas Davis, Carolina, 1; Sean Lee, Dallas, 1; K.J. Wright, Seattle, 1; Telvin Smith, Jacksonville, 1.
But, on this random June morning, I thought it would be a good idea to remind Cowboys fans that the guy can still play. These plays demonstrate his high value when someone at the table wants to spend all day discussing his flaws.  
He still has it.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

The 2015 Cowboys Defense - Splash Play Final Results


About 5 years ago, I was talking with some defensive-minded football sorts about the issues with statistics when it comes to that side of the ball.  The sport is based on numbers, but the exercise of any defensive player is to be 1 of 11.  Everyone do your job.  And often times, that job is a thankless effort where you take on someone so that your team-mate can make the actual play.
There is no way to change the fiber of how defense is played.  The beauty of football is that the guy with all of the big plays had plenty of help.
However, sometimes a play on defense causes a stop and it is less glamorous than a sack that the whole world notices.  So, back in 2011, because of that inspiration, I started collecting splash plays for the Cowboys defense.  
What is a splash play?  Here is a quote about Navarro Bowman from NFL Films that I enjoyed:
"He's really starting to make a lot of splash plays. We don't like those on offense. But, a splash play is when you have a big hit. Big hit on a running back. Big hit on a wide receiver. Big hit on a quarterback. Or just making a tackle for a loss. Just making that impact play is what they call a splash play. He makes a lot of those." - Davin Joseph on Navarro Bowman
So, because of that, I started asking defensive players and coaches to help identify what a splash play would be to them.  Here is what we came up with 5 years back.  What is a splash play?  
A sack, a pressure that forces a bad throw, and big hit on the QB, and a batted ball that may lead to an interception opportunity. Again, you can see how this leads to subjectivity, but a subjective breakdown is better than no breakdown at all, I have decided. In addition, a splash play will include tackles for loss, a big hit for a short gain, or a stop which is an open field tackle where a player is pulled down on 3rd down short of the marker because of an exceptional effort from a defender. An interception is clearly a splash play, but so is a defended pass that required a great effort. A major hit in the secondary could be a splash play, but I believe that the outcome of the play will determine that. Sorry, defensive backs, but standing over a guy who just caught a 15 yard pass because you think you hit him hard will not generally pass the test on this blog. So, stop doing it.
I am trying to be careful about handing out too many splash plays per game. I am trying to be picky, but not too extreme in either direction. When I log a splash play, I always put time of the game on the chart so that if you want to review the same game and challenge my ruling, you are welcome to do so. Also, if multiple players deserve recognition on a single play, we will try to see that as well. 
Basically, we are trying to assign a value to making plays on the defense. We don't want to just see sacks and interceptions. We want to see broader definitions of splash plays to assign credit to those who help the Cowboys get off the field in important situations. These rankings will not deduct for negative plays at this point. There are simply too many occasions where we are guessing, and for now, I want to avoid that for this particular idea. 
A splash play is a play that makes a positive and major difference in the game. And by keeping it all season long, we will see which defenders are play makers and which are simply warm bodies. And now, we have 5 years of Data to consider.  Since we started, the Cowboys have logged 1,186 splash plays over 80 regular season games.  The average game gives us about 14.8 splash plays.  The team results are as follows for each of the last 5 years:

Now, below, we will see the annual leader for the team for each of these 5 seasons.  You can see that in 2011 and 2012, the Cowboys had amazing years from DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer and since have not had anyone with what we would describe as "amazing".  We are still trying to find context on what is a great season and what is a good season, but clearly, anything that averages 2 splashes a game for 16 games is a rare feat we have only seen a few times.

By the way, Ware had 30 more in 2012 and Spencer had 29 more in 2011.  So, back then, the 2nd best player would have won any year since.  They were really impressive together (despite the public perception of their performances at the end).  
The chart below will take all of the Cowboys who were still active in 2015 and show the 5 year trend.  Again, the first thing that jumps out during the project is that no player has even 1 splash in all 5 seasons.  Sean Lee and Orlando Scandrick would have, but they both were lost for an entire year.  Most everyone else demonstrates that the Cowboys have had plenty of turnover and that longevity is a rare trait in the present day NFL.
Also, the chart below shows that Sean Lee is the all-time splash leader and will surely be the first player to 100 splashes this season (he sits on 92).  Amazingly consistent production from Lee as the chart shows.  

Ok, now below, let's focus on 2015-only.
Here are the final standings for 2015 for the Cowboys season - 

Lawrence wins the title, by barely edging out Sean Lee (who did not play in the final game).  Greg Hardy finished with a disappointing 19.5 (hoping for much more for that trouble and cash) and then Byron Jones with a very fine rookie season.  The Cowboys definitely could have used 2014 Tyrone Crawford.  

Now, raw splash numbers are problematic because if one guy is playing 1,053 snaps like Brandon Carr while another guy is playing 307 snaps like Tyler Patmon, we cannot just look at the splash numbers to settle all debates.  That is why we thought we should find out how many snaps it takes each player to get a splash.  Here we see DeMarcus Lawrence leading the way again with a splash play every 28 snaps.  Very impressive and on pace for a 30 splash season (if he can avoid suspensions).  Meanwhile, JJ Wilcox required an absurd 182 snaps per splash.  Apples and oranges for a deep safety to be compared to a DE, but I am not sure anyone would debate against the idea that the Cowboys need more big plays from their safeties.  That is why Byron Jones is so exciting.  
f you are wondering what to compare these numbers to for context, here is the same chart from that magical 2014 season - Check JJ Wilcox in 2014.  Also, Tyrone Crawford from year to year shows his value, as well as Scandrick the play-maker.

I realize it is a lot of data, but I wanted people to have this to see the production moving forward.  Here is one last chart that is difficult to make readable, but I want to post it anyway.  It will hopefully answer the questions about "what kind of splash plays is each player getting".  You can also see the categories for the entire study here:

So, there you have it.  Leave comments below if you would like further clarifications.  Also, if you are the type to want more details about the math or where each splash occurred, you can go through each games archives on my blog and I list time and spot for every single splash in this study here.