Dallas Cowboys: Beanie Wells

Scout's Eye: Cowboys-Cardinals review

December, 6, 2011
12/06/11
10:32
AM ET

Scout's Eye
During the Cowboys’ four-game winning streak, I learned that no matter the opponent's record, there will always be a reason for caution and concern.

The only time this season I've felt the Cowboys would clearly handle an opponent was against the Rams. In breaking down the Cardinals, I didn’t let their record affect me. There is talent on their squad. The more I studied, the more I believed that the Cowboys couldn’t just roll their helmets out on the field and feel like they would get a favorable result.

Where it all started to go wrong for Cowboys


Defensively for the Cowboys, this game really hinged on two areas: Could this secondary hold up against one of the league’s top five playmakers in Larry Fitzgerald and could they control Beanie Wells? For three quarters, Rob Ryan’s defense was up to the task, not allowing Fitzgerald or Wells many opportunities. All that changed on a play to start the fourth quarter to wide receiver Andre Roberts.

With the Cowboys holding a 10-6 lead, Roberts lines up in the slot with Terence Newman in coverage on the defensive right side. Fitzgerald is lined up outside Roberts with Mike Jenkins in coverage on Fitzgerald. At the snap of the ball, Fitzgerald runs a vertical route inside of Jenkins and past him but right on the toes of Gerald Sensabaugh, who is playing single high safety in the middle of the field. The other safety, Abe Elam, is on the left side of the defense near the line and in coverage on tight end Rob Housler, who is lined up as a wing right.

Roberts runs a route like he is going to curl, squaring his shoulders to quarterback Kevin Kolb. Newman, reading the route and feeling that Kolb is going in the direction of Roberts, drives forward to get into position to handle the ball. As Newman gets to Roberts’ back, he spins away from Newman and heads up the field and toward the sideline. There is no safety help in the middle of the field because Sensabaugh is running with Fitzgerald through the middle of the field. Newman is left trailing Roberts who now has separation on Newman.

In the backfield, Kolb is using a play-action fake to Wells and begins to roll to his left after the fake. The protection for the Cardinals is outstanding, allowing Kolb to make a perfect pass down the field to Roberts on the Dallas 49 with Newman still in chase. Newman manages to finally catch up with Roberts, getting him out of bounds on the Cowboys’ 33.

Four plays later, the Cardinals scored to take the lead. If the Cardinals don’t make this play to gain some momentum, I don’t believe that they would have won this game.

Costly series of mistakes by Terence Newman


In overtime, the Cardinals win the toss and go on offense first. Newman’s problems continued when he allows Roberts to run a slant on the first play, which looked like a sight adjust by Kolb, who takes the snap and the throws the ball to Roberts, taking advantage of a 12-yard cushion.

A couple of plays later, Newman commits a costly penalty. Newman is playing press coverage on Roberts and is in good shape on the jam, but he gets overextended and is out of balance on the route. Newman has to grab Roberts and ends up holding him. That turns a second-and-20 into an automatic first down.

Later in the drive, after a false start penalty against offensive tackle Levi Brown that makes it first-and-15, the Cardinals come with the perfect call against the Cowboys defense. Fitzgerald is lined up in the slot to the right, Roberts is outside right. Kolb is in the shotgun with LaRod Stephens-Howling to his right and fullback Anthony Sherman to his left.

At the snap, Anthony Spencer blitzes off the offensive right side, Stephens-Howling slides underneath from left to right, as the line slides to the right as well to form the blocking for the screen. Kolb manages to get the ball to Stephens-Howling in the flat and he heads up field.

The first line of support is Newman, who is blocked to the outside by Roberts and has no chance on the tackle. Sean Lee tries to chase from the inside along with Bradie James, who gives an outstanding effort but isn’t fast enough to make the tackle.

With Fitzgerald in front blocking on Gerald Sensabaugh, Stephens-Howling cuts back to the inside and then quickly back out. Elam tries to get into position to make the tackle but overruns the play when Stephens-Howling makes his second cut. Sensabaugh has fought off Fitzgerald’s block, but he has a hard time adjusting to make the tackle and misses. Orlando Scandrick tries to get in position to make a play from across the field but is too late arriving. The touchdown on the screen gives the Cardinals victory in overtime.

Missed opportunities for Cowboys offense


Offensively for the Cowboys, when you only score 13 points in a game, there is a pretty good chance that you will lose. This was the case for the Cowboys.

It really was a game of missed opportunities. There were several plays where the normally reliable Dez Bryant dropped balls that he would never put on the ground. Bryant has improved greatly this season as a route runner. This is important because with Bryant finding ways to get open, it’s giving Tony Romo more opportunities to get him the ball.

Throughout this season, I have been critical of Jason Garrett’s play-calling, but in this case I have to give him credit for a nice design of a play. When I worked for the Packers, Mike Holmgren used to have this play he called “swing arrow.” The design of the play is to get the ball to a running back down the sideline after you ran the receiver hard inside to pick off his man in coverage. It is one of those calls that works when you feel like the defense is in man coverage.

On this play, the Cardinals were in man coverage and Garrett tried to take advantage of that. At the snap, Bryant took off hard inside, trying to pick off Felix Jones’ man. Jones appears to start his route too far inside instead of trying to arch wide. If Jones takes his route wider, there is a better chance of gaining separation and getting the ball up the field.

When Jones finally works outside, he is unable to find the football in the air. In the backfield, Romo has to deliver the ball a little early because he is feeling a blitz from safety Adrian Wilson, who is unblocked coming from his right side. Romo has to throw the ball more to the sideline than to the middle of the field where Jones is running. The play was well designed and had a chance to be successful, but the blitz by Wilson made Romo have to hurry his throw.

Jones has to do a better job of running the route and finding the ball in the air. Garrett got the defense and coverage that he wanted and the execution from Bryant, but the result was a missed opportunity.

There are always plays in the game plan that when called have a great chance to be successful. This was one of those times.

Play-by-play: Cowboys' final drive in regulation


On the final drive, the Cowboys get the ball with 2:54 left on the clock. The drive starts with a nice completion to Jesse Holley on a curl when Romo buys time by moving to his right away from the pressure inside.

On the next play, Garrett sends three wide receivers in the game left and Romo wants to throw that way. Holley is on the back side and works to the middle of the field between the corner and safety. Romo again heads to his right with Holley still open in the middle of the field. Now Romo heads back to his left to throw the ball to Jason Witten in the flat for a loss of a yard. Romo never sees Holley in the middle of the field.

On second-and-11, the Cardinals go with single high safety as Romo moves Jones from the right to the left to help with protection. Kevin Ogletree runs the inside slant from the slot, and cornerback Michael Adams can’t stay with Ogletree. Nice throw and catch. Gain of 10.

On third-and-1, Romo gets the team to the line for the quarterback sneak. First down.

Garrett sends three wide receivers, one tight end and one back in the game, but Montrae Holland moves at left guard for a false start that costs the Cowboys five yards. With the Cardinals in a two-deep look, Laurent Robinson gets doubled on the outside. Late pressure from linebacker Paris Lenon causes problems because Holland doesn’t adjust. Incompletion.

On second-and-15 from the 50, Garrett and the offense get a delay of game penalty. This was strange because it comes after an incompletion with the same personnel on the field for the Cowboys as the previous play. Don’t understand why there would have been a delay of game there.

On second-and-20, there are two missed blocks on the play by Holland and Jones that cause Romo to have to throw off his back foot. He manages to get the ball to the outside to Bryant, who does a wonderful job of working the sideline and coming back to the ball for the reception for a gain of nine.

On third-and-11 from the Cardinals’ 46, Bryant is lined up wide left, Ogletree slot right and Robinson outside right. Witten is on the line to the right. Jones is next to Romo to his left in the gun. At the snap, Witten heads up the field, then out, Ogletree drives hard inside and sets up over the ball, Bryant runs his best route, which is the “In” 10 yards behind where Ogletree is set up. Romo throws the ball over the top of a jumping Ogletree, and Bryant adjusts low to make the catch with Peterson on his back. Great throw and even better catch.

On first-and-10 from Cardinals’ 31, Romo -- with direction from Garrett -- spikes the ball to set up the attempted game-winning field goal.

Dan Bailey has been money all year for the Cowboys. With the game on the line from 49 yards, there was no reason to believe that he would not be able to get this ball home for the win.

With every successful kick comes a good snap and hold. The snap to Mat McBriar was slightly above his eyes. As Bailey moves forward with his eyes down, he sees the laces are facing him. Two steps from the ball, McBriar does the best he could to get the laces forward before Bailey gets to the impact point.

Just before Bailey gets there, McBriar gets the laces away from Bailey, but the ball looks to be moving at impact. That split second of operation can affect the kick. In this case, it did.

Scout's Eye: Cowboys-Cardinals preview

December, 2, 2011
12/02/11
9:34
AM ET


It’s never easy when the Cowboys travel to the desert to face the Cardinals, and this season will be no different.

Scout's Eye
The Cardinals have skill at several positions, but they have weaknesses that Jason Garrett’s club can take advantage of. It’s this mix of good and bad that could either lead to an upset or to the Cowboys winning their fifth straight game on their march to the NFC East title.

Offensively, the Cardinals present two reasons for concern: Larry Fitzgerald and Beanie Wells.

Cardinals' Fitzgerald could exploit Cowboys' weakness


You do not have to be a professional scout to know that Fitzgerald is one of the best wide receivers in the game. The Cowboys have struggled with receivers making plays down the field the past two games. I was concerned about what Brandon Marshall was going to do against this secondary, but I am even more concerned of the challenge that lies ahead with Fitzgerald.

When you study his game, you see a tremendous route runner -- not in the sense of an explosive player, but much like Miles Austin in that he runs his routes at the same speed throughout the route. Fitzgerald doesn’t give the corner any type of hint when he is going to break in his route. Most receivers in the NFL have to chop their steps or slow down to make cuts, but not Fitzgerald.

In my view, the most impressive trait he possesses is his hands. Other than Kurt Warner, Fitzgerald has played with some bad quarterbacks throughout his career in Arizona. Never have I seen a receiver that adjusts to more bad balls than this guy, but he is always coming up with the play.

The Cowboys have to be careful with Fitzgerald when he runs the inside routes, getting the ball on the move and exploding through the middle of the secondary. Remember what he did to the Steelers in the Super Bowl several years ago? He has done that this year as well.

The one personnel switch for the Cowboys will be that Mike Jenkins will be in the lineup. That takes Alan Ball off the field in the nickel, and it also allows Orlando Scandrick to go back to his role as the nickel corner.

RB Wells has very similar style to Cowboys' Murray


The Cowboys’ run defense has had stretches where it has been outstanding, then two games where the Eagles and Seahawks were able to gash the defense for some nice gains. Beanie Wells is more of a physical runner than a home-run back. His offensive line doesn’t give him much room, so he has to create opportunities on his own, but he doesn’t have the quickness of LeSean McCoy or Marshawn Lynch.

Wells can hurt you with the ability to use his vision to see a crease then make a cut, much like what we have seen with DeMarco Murray. Wells is not afraid to take the ball to the hole then allow the defenders to commit and bend it backside. The Cowboys’ run defense can be aggressive flowing to the ball, so what happens on the backside with these defensive ends and linebackers will be key if they are going to keep Wells in check.

The Cardinals will attempt to run Wells to keep the rush off Kevin Kolb, who is making his return to the starting lineup after dealing with a toe issue.

Matchup to exploit: Cardinals' offensive line


The biggest weakness of this Cardinals offense is their line. There is nothing pretty about the way they play or the effectiveness in which they operate.

Usually when I study an opponent each week, there are one or two players that I will like on their offensive line. There is no one on the Cardnals’ offensive line I would want if I were building a team.

Tackles Levi Brown and Jeremy Bridges struggle with speed off the edge, and it would be no surprise to me if Rob Ryan starts there to attack this offense. At the guard spot, things aren’t much better with former Packer Daryn Colledge and ex-Brown Rex Hadnot, who really struggle with movement of the defensive line and don’t do a good enough job of handling the twist stunts or games in the middle of the line. Colledge really struggled because he would become engaged with his block, then a linebacker would run through on the blitz and he was unable to adjust off that to secure the blitzer.

The biggest fear for the Cardinals is if they are stuffed on the run with Wells and it turns into a game where the Cowboys can tee off on Kolb. The fear for the Cowboys is that they allow this poor Cardinals line to block them like the Redskins did two weeks ago.

There are questions about Kolb’s health and mobility. The Cowboys need to take advantage of the situation when given the opportunity.

DT Dockett will be handful for Cowboys' line


Defensively for the Cardinals, tackle Darnell Dockett will be a handful for Kyle Kosier and Montrae Holland. I worry more about Holland because he tends to struggle with those players that can get on his outside shoulder and quickly get up the field. That is what we see in Docket’s game.

Dockett is an explosive player that loves to attack on the outside. Holland hates this type of player because he doesn’t always adjust quickly enough out of his stance.

The Cowboys have to be careful when they go to their outside game that Dockett isn’t allowed to get up the field and into the backfield to throw off pullers or John Phillips trying to get to the edge to secure the corner. Any type of penetration throws off timing and the execution of the blockers.

The Cowboys will have an advantage when the Cardinals have to rush the passer. Other than Dockett, this front really struggles with pressure. It is only when they are able to bring linebacker help that they are able to generate a pass rush.

The Cowboys have struggled some this season when teams have brought pressure from the linebackers in the middle of the defense. Center Phil Costa was better last week, but continue to watch how he and Holland handle these games.

Cards' young linebackers making some noise


The Cardinals have two young linebackers that I really like. Former TCU star Daryl Washington and Texas-ex Sam Acho really show up on tape. Both of these players are always around the football. Impressed with the way that they are able to fight blocks and finish plays.

Washington showed the ability to work through the trash, keep his balance and make the tackle in the hole. I would not call Washington a thumper like a younger Bradie James, but at the point of attack, he has done a nice job.

Acho is a nice player off the edge. In the Rams contest, he showed the quickness to come around the corner, beat the tackle and get a sack of Sam Bradford to cause a fumble. He and Dockett are the two best pressure players the Cardinals have in the front seven.

Don't overlook Peterson as defender, either


Rookie Patrick Peterson has created quite a buzz with his ability to return punts for touchdowns. Peterson is a talented cornerback, but I have heard the whispers that early in the season he wasn’t playing as well and was struggling in coverage.

I studied four games -- Eagles, 49ers, Rams and Ravens -- and did not see the struggles that scouts were speaking of. There was one play against the 49ers where he slipped on a stutter-go to Michael Crabtree and it ended up as a nice gain, but overall, I only observed a corner that could read the route, drive on the ball and defend the play. Didn’t see a corner that played with wasted steps or was not quick enough to keep position in the route.

In the Ravens game, Peterson did a nice job in press coverage, turning and running with his man, then finding the ball. In my view, Peterson did not look like a player that was struggling to do his job. We’ll see if Jason Garrett’s game plan will be to try to attack Peterson, but there are other areas that he can go to for better results.

Cowboys run game: Watch safety Wilson


When the Cowboys run the ball, they must be aware of safety Adrian Wilson, who likes to work around the line of scrimmage. Wilson is a physical player who is not afraid to mix it up against the run or pass.

When the Cardinals need a big play in the secondary, it will usually come from Wilson. Wilson can hurt you as a blitzer. He has a nice feel for how to time his blitz and be that disruptive player.

The Other Side: Kent Somers, Arizona Republic

November, 30, 2011
11/30/11
10:53
AM ET
We're back for another shot at The Other Side. This week, we speak with Arizona Cardinals beat writer Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic. Check out Kent's blog here.

Q: The Cowboys are worried to death about Patrick Peterson. Just how much of a threat is he?

A: He's a huge threat. He's returned four punts for touchdowns this season, tying an NFL record. He is so smooth in catching the ball that he can steal a couple of glances to see how close the gunners are. If they are blocked, he's going to try it. You have to pin him against the sideline. Punting to him in the middle of the field, as the Rams did last week, is a colossal mistake.

Q: Will Kevin Kolb come back this season?

A: I think he does, possibly this week. He practiced some last week and they considered using him as the backup in St. Louis but decided against it. There was concern that he wouldn't be able to get warm if he had to go in the game suddenly. The Cardinals are 3-1 in John Skelton's starts, but he has struggled the last two weeks. There's no quarterback controversy.

Q: Looks like Beanie Wells has really emerged as a quality running back in this league. How big has he been to the offense?

A: He's been the most consistent threat. Receiver Larry Fitzgerald is as good as ever, but they have trouble getting him the ball.

Wells has played through a knee a injury for about six weeks now, answering questions about his toughness. He's big and physical and defensive backs don't want to hit him. They have had trouble creating room for him to run in some games, however.

Q: Is Ken Whisenhunt in trouble in Arizona, or is the front office still behind him?

A: I don't think he's in trouble. He's under contract through 2013 at more than $5 million a year. Plus he has a little equity left from playoff appearances in 2008 and 09. But 2012 will be a critical one for him.

Q: Your thoughts on Sam Acho, the rookie outside linebacker.

A:He's one of the bright young players on this team. He's started the last five games, replacing Joey Porter, who is out with a knee injury. Acho should have been the starter throughout the season. He has five sacks, all in the last six games. Porter had five sacks in 22 games. Acho's always in the right place, and it appears the Cardinals finally hit on an outside linebacker in the draft.

Cowboys braced for bunch of Beanie Wells

November, 30, 2011
11/30/11
8:48
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Cardinals running back Beanie Well’s franchise-record 228-yard rushing performance against the Rams last week doesn’t exactly strike fear in the heart of the Dallas defense.

“I heard he ran the ball well,” defensive end Marcus Spears said, “but I watched DeMarco [Murray] run for 250-something on that same defense.”

Wells’ second 100-yard game of the season was at least impressive enough to get the Cowboys’ attention.

The Cowboys have played well against the run most of the season, including the last two weeks. But you don’t have to go too far back for evidence that this defense can get gashed.

The Cowboys allowed 185 rushing yards to Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy, 135 to Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch and 114 to Buffalo’s Fred Jackson over a three-week span. They don’t want to let Wells add his name to the list of backs to crack triple digits against the Dallas D, and they anticipate he’ll get plenty of opportunities.

“Guys play well,” Spears said. “If you don’t have an answer for them, they’ll hurt you. We’re not immune to that if we don’t go out there and prepare to play. Obviously, it makes you pay attention, because if I was a coach and I ran for 250 one week, I’d probably try to run it the next week.”

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