My thoughts on the Cowboys' 13-7 loss to the Redskins:
Tackle Alex Barron was brought in from the Rams to handle that swing duty in case of an injury to Colombo or Doug Free. Barron has made 75 starts in the NFL, playing both the left and right side. I even had a chance to watch him myself while with the Rams against the Saints and Vikings. Both were productive games. You did see the lack of power in his upper and lower body, but you also observed good footwork. In training camp, the same areas of concern that you had studying the Rams games presented itself in the way he played.
In the Washington game, outside linebacker Brian Orakpo had been doing his homework on Barron. Barron really struggles when you take him hard down inside. He is just not strong enough to deal with a player that has the speed-to-power ratio of Orakpo. Barron is a long-armed player, but when he can’t extend those arms to stop a rusher, his feet have no chance to save him. Where Barron has success is if he can hook on and run his man up the field.
On the last play of the game, Orakpo had a plan to rush him as hard as he could to the outside and see if he could get home. It was a three-man rush with Leonard Davis, Marion Barber and Barron handling the right side. Both Davis and Barber where checking for rushers inside; you can see their heads turned that way.
When Barber sees that he is clear from assignment, he releases between Davis and Barron to the flat. If Orakpo takes an inside charge, he runs right into Barber. Davis sees what is happening to Barron but it’s too late. Orakpo is on Barron’s right shoulder so fast, he doesn’t have time to do anything but grab him.
If Barron had been able to get a hand on Orakpo, he might have been able to ride him up the field, which is the strength of his game.
Tony Romo does a nice job of avoiding the rush and working to his right. Roy Williams is lined up slot left and runs across the field to find the perfect spot in the end zone where the Redskins linebackers and defensive backs failed to secure.
*Keith Brooking is as hard-nosed linebacker as you will ever find in the NFL. This Cowboys defense is truly better when he is on the field.
Brooking was a relentless player Sunday night, but you expect nothing less. I was very impressed overall with the way that the Cowboys linebackers played as a group. Brooking, along with Bradie James, did a solid job of attacking the pocket and bringing pressure from the inside. Anthony Spencer’s exceptional quickness shined in the running game and DeMarcus Ware was able to apply pressure off the edge but also drop and help in coverage.
The Redskins like to use misdirection in their offense to fool an opponent, but give the Cowboys linebackers some credit. They were assignment sound.
*If there were any question about why the Cowboys went ahead and extended the contract of wide receiver Miles Austin, those had to be answered Sunday night.
As the game wore on and each offensive snap became more important, you knew that Tony Romo would find a way to get the ball into Austin’s hands. Redskins cornerbacks DeAngelo Hall and Carlos Rogers really didn’t have an answer for Austin and his ability to run routes and snatch the ball out of the air.
If there were two throws that Romo would loved to have back in that game, it would be the fourth-and-10 pass on the final drive when he had a chance to hit Austin between the two safeties down the middle in Cover 2 and the pass that should have gone to Austin on first-and-10 from the 12 that went to Roy Williams.
On the fourth down play, if Romo could have just led Austin down the middle instead of Austin having to adjust to the ball, he splits the safeties and it’s six points.
On the first-and-10 from the 12, Williams is looking to Romo as if to ask what the play is. Williams has his palms up and comes off the line on a vertical route. From the slot on the left side, Austin is going vertical as well into the middle of the field. Romo is locked into Williams and just throws the ball away. Would have been interesting to getting the ball to Austin on the move near the goal line with a good chance for a run after catch.
*The minute you want to understand why kicker David Buehler got the kicking job, he does something to once again put that doubt in your mind.
There is no one that has been more critical of Buehler than me. Buehler had a very nice training camp for the Cowboys and the way he finished the Dolphins game out in the preseason had to be a confidence boost of the staff and his teammates. But that was preseason and this is now.
Buehler cannot afford to miss 34-yard field goals in tight games or really any games for that matter. In the locker room on Monday, Buehler was sorry that he didn’t get another chance to redeem himself for the miss. He spoke of putting the misses behind him and moving on. It might be easy for him to move on but misses like that affect the staff and his teammates.
Special teams coach Joe DeCamillis has always had a plan that if Buehler were to go south, but it’s something that he really doesn’t want to do.