It’s a preseason game so many of the faces and names aren’t familiar but in this game some of the issues from last season looked too familiar. This 19-17 loss to the Raiders, reminded me of an early season game last season.
In 2012 after winning a big opening game against the Giants, the Cowboys went out to the west coast to play at Seattle. In that game, the Cowboys had a punt blocked and fumbled the ball during a kickoff return. The game last night in Oakland definitely had an NFL road game feel to it as the Cowboys had a FG blocked and fumbled a punt return that lead to the Raiders winning score. Some of the names may have changed but the special team mistakes were similar.
The Cowboys starters saw about a quarter of action in this game which provides a better idea of what to expect this season. I will start with the positives.
THINGS I LIKED IN THE RAIDERS LOSS:
1. FRONT 7– When it comes to their defensive line and linebackers, I think the Cowboys have as good of a front 7 as you will find in the NFL. Right away Lee came in on a blitz sacking the QB and creating a turnover. I look for Lee and Ware to thrive in the new 4-3 defense. Once Ratliff and Spencer return, it will be even better.
With CBs Carr and Claiborne not playing in the game, I will reserve my opinion on the secondary for later.
2. Pass Protection– While Romo was in the game, he had excellent time to throw the ball. On the sack, Romo simply held the ball too long. I give a lot of credit to rookie center Frederick and guard Leary for providing a nice pocket for Romo. Frederick at center is appearing to be a difference maker. On Cowboys pass plays, defensive lines aren’t getting that push up the middle like they did last season with Costa at center.
3. Romo to Dez– Romo and Dez appear to be on the same page and at times looked unstoppable. Opposing defenses will struggle to defend Romo passing to Dez when Dallas needs to pick up a first down. Dez may have a big year. On the 26 yard catch by Dez, he was popped by former Cowboy Mike Jenkins leading fans to ask, “where was that Jenkins when you were in Dallas?” If Jenkins tackled like that, he would still be in Dallas.
THINGS I DIDN’T LIKE IN THE RAIDERS LOSS
1. Special teams– In the NFL games are won and lost on special teams. They had a FG blocked, fumbled a punt and allowed a 51 yard kickoff return. On the blocked FG, responsibility lies on #80 TE Dante Rosario who turned a Raider loose to his inside.
Rosario lined up on the right end, reached to block a Raider to the outside while not blocking the one on his inside. When faced with blocking two, the rule is to always block the inside guy and make the outside guy at least take a longer path to a block attempt. While a 7 year veteran, it is Rosario’s first year with the Cowboys and he is trying to make the roster as a TE.
BW Webb nightmare– The rookie CB had a tough night on special teams mishandling a punt that basically cost them the game and he was on the kickoff coverage that allowed a 51 yard return. Webb had containment on the right side but never got off the block and did a poor job.
2. LACK OF RUNNING GAME– The Cowboys struggled to run the ball last year and while the starters were in, I didn’t see much of a running game. Murray only had two carries for 8 yards. during those two series, Romo threw the ball 8 times. It is all too familiar to see Dallas abandon the run game and put it on Romo. They must commit to the run more in 2013. They finished the game with just 70 yards rushing.
3. Penalties– Penalties were a problem last season and they killed some good opportunities to score against the Raiders. After an early turnover set Dallas up for a TD, TE Jason Witten was called for a hold that lead to only 3 points.
Later the Cowboys were driving the ball when the Raiders tackled Randle out of bounds and drew a personal foul. However WR Danny Coale was called for a hold leading to off setting penalties.
4. Read Option Scare– The backup Raiders QB Pryor rushed for 31 yards against the Cowboys defense. Yes it was the 2nd string defense and in a preseason game teams don’t put together much of a game plan but the Tampa 2 defense can be exploited by the read option.
The Cowboys will need to get better at defending it before they play RG3 and the Redskins. Oregon exploited Kiffin’s defense at USC and Chip Kelly is taking that offense to the Eagles so they will see a similar offense when they play the Eagles. Kiffin will need to tighten the defense up on read options.
I came away from this game thinking the Cowboys will be better at pressuring the QB and creating turnovers this season. I liked the way the offensive line gave Romo time to throw too.
I’m concerned about special teams play and the lack of commitment to the run game. They need to tighten up on eliminating drive killing penalties.
While I like the way the defense flys around to the ball, Kiffin’s Tampa 2 defense has a weakness that a read option can blow up. Kiffin better get them prepared for it.