Thursday, November 5, 2009

Know Your Enemy - Dallas

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sorry for the late post

Sunday it is Dallas at Philly for 1st place in the NFC East. More importantly, this game is about good vs evil. The Cowboys are full of violent criminals that would prefer if every night could be Devil's Night and if all other holidays were cancelled (even Talk Like a Pirate Day). And that is just the cheerleaders. The players are so bad that it almost defies description. Clearly, there is pressure on the Eagles to save the universe.

Dallas is on a roll now, having won 3 in a row. The offense is clicking, the defense has tightened, and even their STs are coming up big. Some Philly fans have their heads stuck in the December beatdown we put on Dallas. That's fool's gold. A handful of plays turned that game from a tight contest into a major route. Dallas is welcome to make a bunch of mistakes on Sunday night, but we sure can't count on that.

Tony Romo is playing well, but the offense feels different to me. I see more RAC yards now than in the past. Romo only has 4 picks and is on pace for his lowest total in that area. He hasn't thrown a pick in 3 weeks (which means he's due, of course). The offense feels safer and smarter than in the past. They have a good run/pass balance. The running game has slowed a bit, but Dallas is still 6th in the league and averages a gaudy 5.4 ypc.

The defense is playing better recently, but still has issues. They allow 342 yards a game. Opposing QBs have a rating of 90+ against them. For comparison's sake, we're at 68.5. That isn't a good sign for Dallas no matter how you slice it. Their pass rush has come alive in the last 5 games. The team now has 17 sacks on the year. Dallas only has 4 INTs. I guess that goes back to the opponent QB rating. Gotta pick off passes.

The secondary is getting better. Check out this blurb:

"In the last three games, CB Terrence Newman has 20 tackles, two forced fumbles and five pass breakups. CB Mike Jenkins has 12 tackles, four pass breakups and an interception."

I mentioned STs. Patrick Crayon has PR TDs in each of the last 2 games. We gave up a KOR TD to Felix Jones last year so I'm sure our guys are hearing about the importance of good punt/kick coverage. P Matt McBriar and PK Nick Folk are having good years. The coverage units are improved from last year. KO specialist David Buehler leads the league in touchbacks.


PLAYERS

(since we know Dallas well I'm only going to mention things of specific interest)

RBs --- I'm lumping them together since it really is a group effort. Felix Jones averages 7.8 yards a rush. He's only got 37 carries, but still...wow. Choice and Barber are the workhorse runners who punish defenders and move the chains.

WR Miles Austin --- Believe it or not, he's got better numbers than DeSean Jackson. Austin has put up great stats since becoming a starter. For the year: 26-563-6, 26.1 ypr. Austin has good, but not great hands. He's fast. He has great RAC skills. He's broken tackles in a couple of games and then turned a short or intermediate play into a long TD. Dallas moves him around and tries to get the ball to him.

WR Roy Williams/Patrick Crayton --- Very talented guys, but neither can get into a groove this year. Roy is complaining about Romo's passing, but doesn't think the complaints should be seen as complaints. Crayton wasn't initially happy about losing his starting gig, but has started to shine on STs. The two have combined for 34 catches and 4 TDs.

OL --- LT Flozell Adams already has 7 penalties this year and has given up 3 sacks. C Andre Gurode is outstanding. RG Leonard Davis is huge, but seems to bring out the best in Mike Patterson.


LB DeMarcus Ware --- He started slow, but then someone reminded him that he's DeMarcus friggin Ware. He's got 5 sacks and a FF in 3 weeks. Ware can fly off the edge, but is a complete rusher. He has a good inside move and also is a powerful bull rusher. You can't single block him consistently without taking a chance on him getting hits on the QB.

LB Anthony Spencer
--- Hasn't developed into a top pass rusher. Doesn't have a sack this year and only has 4.5 in his career. Jason Babin has 2 in 2 weeks and Anthony Dixon even has one. Very strange. Spencer isn't a bad player. He just hasn't put it all together so far. Does have 4 TFLs. Steamrolled the Seattle FB last week on a play where he was rushing the QB.

DE Stephen Bowen --- Backup DE. Only has 1 sack this year, but is 2nd on the team in QB pressures.

NT Jay Ratliff --- He's not the traditional monster NT, but this guy is a terrific player. Great motor. Very quick off the ball. Stronger than you think. Makes a lot of plays in the backfield (5 TFLs). You can move him if the C gets hold of him because Jay isn't meant to be an anchor vs the run.

ILB Keith Brooking --- Remember this guy? Dan Klecko caught a pass on him last year and ran away from Keith (as a Falcon). Ouch. Keith lacks ideal speed, but he has played well for Dallas. The 3-4 gives him less ground to cover. He still has a great motor and can tackle with the best of 'em. I'm looking forward to seeing how he handles our speed.

FS Ken Hamlin --- He's playing a lot of centerfield this year. He only has 1 PBU and no picks. Maybe he's keeping everything in front of him. He's not making many plays. Ken is still a good hitter and solid tackler. Safeties that are going to sit deep still need to fly up and get involved. It isn't like Dallas is keeping teams off the scoreboard. The Boys have only held one team to less than 17 points (CAR). For comparison's sake, we have kept 4 teams under 17 points.

CB Terrence Newman --- There is a lot of hype about him shutting down Steve Smith a few weeks back. Newman followed him all over the field. He also had a S over the top. That was Week 3 when Jake Delhomme was a real mental case. Newman is a solid CB, but I saw Roddy White and Brian Finneran beating him on key plays 2 weeks ago. Don't buy all the shutdown stuff you'll hear.

MISC

* Last 2 opponents have scored on opening drive, then struggled.

* Eagles lead the NFL in 1st Qtr points (61). Dallas is tied for 18th (30).

* Dallas leads the NFL in yards per play. They're 2nd in Total Offense and 6th in scoring.

* Interesting note on Dallas. They run the 3-4 defense, but use a 1-gap variation which is meant to attack upfield. Penetration is crucial. Dallas only has 15 TFLs this year. By comparison, we have 23.

http://espn.go.com/nfl/teams/stats?team=dal
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10 comments:

Stephen said...

This feels like more of a statement game than smacking around the reeling Giants. The 44-6 game is absolutely foolsgold. I give our team credit for not making dumb mistakes and making some great plays (Dawkins anyone? I still think that FF on Marion Barber near the goal line is one of the greatest plays I've ever seen, the way he opened up Barber and punched the ball out from the backside back into the field of play was just the most amazing forced fumble I've ever seen) but the truth is they moved the all reasonably well on us otherwise, and the game simply got out of hand on those plays. We cant count on Pacman Jones fumbling again after all, he's not there anymore.

Cliff said...

Yeah, I have to admit I'm worried about their offense. We need to force Romo to make mistakes, but he's got that Favre "elusiveness" that really pisses me off on 3rd & longs - the plays our D should easily stop and force a punt, but Romo somehow squeezes out a pass or scramble that picks up the 1st. AHHHHH!

Their WR's aren't anything we can't handle, but hopefully our S's and LB's are up for the challenge Witten will present.

Jason said...

Tommy,

So I have seen a lot of people talking about Austin benefiting from poor defenses. At the same time, 250 yards is no simple task. In your opinion, is Miles Austin good or is he benefiting from poor defense?

IMO, Miles Austin has clearly improved from last year to this year. That being said, I still do not view him as a guy you necessarily shift coverage towards. My one concern would be if Miles Austin makes a catch, we need some to make a solid tackle on him. Would you have Sheldon covering Miles Austin rather than Asante?

Dollar Brand said...

It will be quite interesting to see whether McDermott tones down the pressure if Fokou starts @ SAM. I have a feeling Dallas will throw quite a few RB screens to offset those blitzes.

Cliff said...

That's the last thing I want McD to do. He toned down the pressure against the Saints and Brees capitalized. I'm not confident in that approach from McD.

If Gocong's out, I'm even more worried about Witten. I predict we'll use a lot of 3 safety looks. Tommy will have to confirm this, but I felt like Jones, Demps, and Mikell were on the field together a lot last week.

Adam S. said...

I'm really going to miss watching Dawkins out there against the Cowboys. He has been such a force against them. The over the shoulder INT in the endzone while covering TO(it was TO right?) and like Stephen said that FF last year are two recent plays I can't get out of my head.

I'll be keeping a close eye on the play of our FS's mostly out of curiousity. Hopefully Jones or Demps can create a big play. If they get torched I'll be having nightmares of Dawkins doing his Weapon X routine in disgusting brown and white striped socks...........wwaaaaaaiiiit a second

Cliff said...

The thing is though, even if Jones/Demps/Harris get torched Sunday it will be like watching the last 2 seasons all over again.

Dawkins made memorable plays, but they were often in between giving up long passes or TD's.

Cliff said...

With that said...

Dawkins: 45 tkls, 3 PDef, 0 INT

Demps/Jones/Harris: 45 tkls, 5 PDef, 1 INT

So even if our FS position has been upgraded, it's still taken 3 guys to replace Weapon X.

Stephen said...

I don't remember Dawk giving up too many long passes or TD's, certainly the past year or 2 he's dropped off a bit, but its not like he was getting burned left and right. The biggest problem I saw is we kept trying to use him like younger Dawk, lining him up over recievers in the slot or asking him to cover too much ground deep. By this point in his career he's simply lost too many steps to do the kind of stuff he could do when he was younger. We started to adapt how we use him but I feel like the change came too late, we should have been more proactive in that regard.

Adam S. said...

But what you can't see on a stat sheet was Dawkins ability to blitz. Disruptive plays don't show up on stats.com. I just think our two biggest defensive players in the past 10 years against the cowboys are both gone, Dawkins and Sheppard. It's time for other guys, or the team for that matter, to step up and replace them thats all.

I'm not disgruntled over those two guys being gone. It's just that you could almost always count on one or both of them making a big play aginst them.