“Nothing good ever happens on a re-kick” And other notes from Cowboys win over Bengals

Bengals Cowboys Football.JPEG-0175d

After the Bengals’ Brandon Tate returned a punt for a 75 yard TD, he said of his coach,
“Darrin always tells us that nothing good happens for the punt team on a re-kick, and we made them pay,”

I’m not sure who is to be credited with originally saying it. No doubt many coaches and countless fans have uttered this expression over the years of watching football. I heard the great NFL philosopher, Warren Sapp, say it before. The re-kick was necessary after a punt hit Jerry’s big TV, a reflection of his enormous ego no doubt.

Anyway, hitting Jerry’s TV with a punt is a pretty impressive feat to me and I think punter’s should actually be rewarded for accomplishing it. New Rule: Two points for the punt team when they hit Jerry’s Big TV. Shoot off fireworks, drop confetti and make sounds like a pin ball machine or something.

OUR NOT SO SPECIAL, SPECIAL TEAMS
The punt return TD wasn’t the only special teams mistake of the night as they had a holding call on the opening kickoff that put them in the hole right away. Then late in the game clinging to a 21-18 lead, the Cowboys kickoff team allowed the Bengals a 53 yard return all the way to midfield. Putting them in good position to potentially tie the game with a FG.

-Last week against the Cardinals, Harris fumbled during a punt return that led to points for the Cardinals.
-In the Raiders game, they allowed a long kickoff return, had a blocked FG, and then Webb muffed a punt that led to the Raiders winning score.
In preseason games the Cowboys are dead last in punt returns with a pathetic 1.4 yard per return average. And they are 21st in KO returns.

It remains to be seen if their special teams problems leak into the regular season but it must be a concern at this point. If they don’t get better quickly, it will cost them a game this year.

Take Away Surplus
In an earlier blog “4 things to look for in the dress rehearsal game“, one of the things I mentioned was Dallas needed to take the ball away more than give it away. In the Bengals game, they created 4 turnovers while having 0 turnovers. That’s good to see. They recovered two fumbles and Xavier Brewer came up with a late interception that secured the win.

BW Webb also had a nice pick in the game and he is one guy who really needed to make a play. I still maintain that Webb would rather do about anything other than be involved with making a tackle. It’s the weakest part of his game as he allowed a Bengal to score from like 7 yards out because of weak tackling. But to his credit, the pick was nice. Baby steps.

This new defense looks capable of creating turnovers and if the offense can protect the ball, it should help them win more games in 2013.

Running Game Commitment
Another thing I mentioned was that Dallas needed to commit to the run game and against the Bengals, they did it. They finished with 156 yards rushing as they had more rushing attempts than passing attempts for the game. When Dallas runs more than passes, I like their chances of winning much better. Tanner provided a nice spark with 39 yards while Randle ran for 66 yards late in the game to help put the Bengals away. Murray finished with 51 yards rushing.

What was encouraging was that while their run game started slowly, they didn’t abandon it but kept coming back to it in the game. I really like that on one occasion after running the ball and failing to convert a 3rd and 1, they ran the ball again on 4th and 1 with Tanner picking up 2 yards to get the first down. I like that determination to run the ball.

NOTE: They will experience more success in short yardage situations running to the left behind Smith than trying to run right behind Free and Parnell. I don’t like Free at right guard. It’s not working.

For Dallas to succeed in the multiple TE sets they are talking of running this season, I believe an effective running game will be a prerequisite.

As far as a dress rehearsal game goes, it was a success for Dallas but they better tighten up on their special teams or it will cost them a game later. And avoid those re-kicks…

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4 Things to Look for in Cowboys Dress Rehearsal Game Saturday

Saturday night’s preseason game is what is referred to as the “dress rehearsal” game for the Dallas Cowboys because it represents the preseason game where the starters should see the most action.

Dallas will finally play at home and against a good Bengals team that has made the AFC playoffs back to back seasons. This represents a good opportunity to see if any progress has really been made compared to last season.

Here are four things that I will be looking for in the dress rehearsal game.

1. Commit to the Run:
Last season Dallas had one of its weakest run attacks in the history of the franchise finishing ranked 31st in the NFL with a shameful 79 yards per game. For them to win in 2013, it must improve.

In preseason play, they got off to a good start in the HOF game with 170 yards rushing against the Dolphins but it has gone back to primarily throwing the ball since then. Dallas only had 70 yards rushing against the Raiders and then it fell to a measly 44 yards against the Cardinals. In fact in the Dolphins game, they had more rushing yards than passing yards which is the only time it has happened this preseason and interestingly, it is the only preseason game they won.

In the Cardinals game with their starters playing, Dallas faced a very manageable 2nd and 1. They ran the ball but came up short then on 3rd and 1 by default, Romo went to the obligatory shotgun formation and threw an incomplete pass. Too often that happened last season where they just abandoned the run, and put it on Romo.

I would prefer to see Dallas run the ball two times in a row in that situation to pick up that 1 yard. Let’s face it, if a team can’t pick up 1 yard running the ball in two attempts, then they aren’t going to win championships anyway.

When the starters are in the game, I am looking for a commitment to run the ball and not abandon it quickly the first time it doesn’t seem to work. Romo would benefit greatly from having a legit run attack in 2013.

2. Offensive Line:
It’s well documented that the offensive line was a weak area last season and while Jerry Jones once again failed to improve the guards, they did add a center in rookie Travis Frederick. In the Cardinals game, I noticed that tackle Tyron Smith struggled to protect Romo’s blind side and he was consequently pressured some. While the starters are in the game Saturday, I’m looking for this offensive line to play together as a cohesive unit in forming a reliable pocket for Romo to pass.

3. Win turnover battle:
Last season Dallas gave the ball away much more often than they took it away. In fact, they ended the 2012 season with a -13 deficit in turnovers. That would be why Rob Ryan was bounced as defensive coordinator and replaced by Tampa 2 guru, Monte Kiffin who is implementing their new 4-3 defense. It’s designed to create more turnovers.

However in the Cardinals game, Dallas had a ridiculous 6 turnovers while only managing to take the ball away one time. That deficit in take aways was all too common in games last year, and it must improve this season.

While the starters are in the game, I’m looking for Dallas to take the ball away more times than they give it away.

4. Secondary Struggles:
The too generous Cowboy secondary is a familiar issue. So far in preseason games, Dallas has allowed an average of 259 passing yards per game. That is the 3rd most of all NFL teams. If that isn’t a concern yet, it soon may be. Second year CB Morris Claiborne has been out the entire preseason so his “minor knee injury” is beginning to make me wonder just how minor it actually is? Yes, there have been a lot of reserve players flying around in the secondary contributing to their weak performance but in the dress rehearsal game, I’m looking for some consistency back there.

In particular, the Safetys need to step up and make plays for this Cowboys defense to get it done in 2013.

FINAL TAKE:
It’s the preseason game that may tell us the most about the 2013 Dallas Cowboys. From the offense, I’m looking for a commitment to the run game and improved pass protection. From the defense, I’m looking for improved secondary play and to win the important battle of turnovers.

How they perform in these areas may tell us if our expectations should increase for this year or if we are looking at another dismal 8-8 disappointment. Or perhaps even worse…..

HBO ‘Hard Knocks’ Going to the Bengals in 2013

Hard Knocks is headed to the Bengals as the show will kick off on August 6, 2013. The Bengals hosted hard Knocks in 2009 and the Bengals actually went on to win their division that season. Chad “Ocho Cinco” who is out of the NFL currently, often stole the spotlight during the 2009 version.

As far as interesting stories and players, Hard Knocks should have no trouble finding plenty of material to work with in the 2013 Bengals. In fact, the Bengals are tied with the Vikings for the most arrests of any NFL teams since 2000. The Cowboys seem to get a lot of publicity in this dubious area, but the Bengals are the team that gets in trouble. Dallas was only ranked 23rd. STORY 

They have Adam “Pac Man” Jones who can provide drama as well as comedy. I remember Jones catching and holding 6 footballs (without putting any of them down) during punt return drills with the Cowboys on the 2008 Hard Knocks.  Coach Wade Phillips found a lot of humor in that impressive but yet, completely useless skill of Jones.

Other Cowboy Connections:

Coach Mike Zimmer is the defensive coordinator for the Bengals and was the Cowboys defensive coach between 2000-2006. He lead a very good Cowboys defense in the 2003 season which ranked high in several categories. The Cowboys have gone through several defensive coordinators since Zimmer left. 

Zimmer had a lot to do with bringing in former Cowboys CB Terrance Newman who had a decent season last year. It will be interesting to see what Newman can bring to the Bengals at age 34.  While his number of tackles increased with the Bengals, his INTs dropped from 4 to 2 compared with his last season in Dallas.

Preseason Game August 24 @ Dallas

The Bengals will play the Cowboys on August 24 so it will provide an opportunity for Dallas fans to get a behind the scenes coverage of the game and a unique perspective that HBO’s Hard Knocks often provides.

Rookie Running Back

The Bengals drafted RB out of North Carolina, Giovani Bernard, who will be very entertaining to watch in camp. At UNC he provided exciting plays running the ball, catching the ball, and returning punts. I think the Bengal coaches are going to enjoy this new weapon and fans will enjoy watching him make plays too.

Bengals sign former Dallas Cowboy Terrance Newman: Wizard of Oz in Cinncinnati with former Cowboys.

"No tackle" "No parole" "No cover"

Today the Bengals came to terms with former Dallas Cowboy CB Terrance Newman. Good luck with that Bengals fans. Yes you may have unloaded a weak offensive guard on Jerry Jones in the free agent signing of Nate Livings but we get the last laugh now that you have injury prone, tackle whiffing, and (Giants WR) Victor Cruz’s (B-word) Newman.

As if that isn’t enough to depress Bengal fans, you currently have former Cowboy safety, Roy Williams and former Cowboy, Pacman Jones. Now you have a guy that can’t cover (Williams), a guy that can’t tackle (Newman) and a guy that can’t seem to stay out of trouble with the law (Jones).

It’s like the Wizard of Oz in Cincinnati, a guy with no heart (Williams) a guy with no courage (Newman) and a guy with no brain (Jones). “Follow the yellow brick road” to the bottom of your division.

If there is one thing worse than having to endure the awful personnel decisions of Jerry Jones, it must be having to endure the players that he has moved on from.

Cruz "posterizes" Newman.