Dallas Cowboys: Justin Tryon

NFC East Stock Watch

September, 11, 2012
9/11/12
11:27
AM ET
FALLING

[+] EnlargeKevin Ogletree
AP Photo/Julio CortezThe New York Giants secondary allowed the Cowboys and receier Kevin Ogletree to have a field day.
1. Giants' secondary. Tony Romo had a field day in last Wednesday's opener, consistently finding open receivers in the New York Giants' defensive backfield. It wasn't Miles Austin and Dez Bryant doing all the damage, as Laurent Robinson Kevin Ogletree had the biggest statistical day and scored two touchdowns. And it wasn't just backup cornerbacks Michael Coe and Justin Tryon getting burned, as Corey Webster was the victim on two of the most important plays. The Giants could get a boost this weekend if Prince Amukamara returns from injury, but he's far from proven as an NFL cornerback and they will need to play better overall on the back end going forward.

2. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback. Yes, they won. Yes, Vick engineered the game-winning drive (something he didn't do all of last year). But four interceptions in the season opener after an offseason in which you promised everyone from King of Prussia on up to the Mars Rover that you were a new man? It's possible Vick was rusty, but if that's the case he's going to have to shake off the rust extremely soon and show proof of his offseason claims about a newfound devotion to study and detail. We didn't see much of that Sunday.

3. Roy Helu and Evan Royster, Washington Redskins running backs. This is more about the "rising" of rookie sixth-round pick Alfred Morris, who was Washington's starting running back and carried the ball 28 times for 96 yards and two touchdowns. No other Redskins running back got more than two carries in the game. And while Helu still looks as though he could be an option here and there on third downs and in the passing game, for right now this appears to be Morris' job. The Redskins have health concerns about the other two backs, and Morris has played well enough to earn the carries.

RISING

1. Cowboys' defense. The Dallas Cowboys believe they would have won the NFC East last year if they'd been able to cover receivers better, so they spent the bulk of their offseason resources on cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. In the season opener against the Giants, the performance of the Dallas secondary was critical. Not only did they get the Giants' excellent receivers covered with the combination of Carr, Claiborne and Orlando Scandrick, but safeties Barry Church and Gerald Sensabaugh both looked quick and aggressive and made smart plays on the ball. The return of cornerback Mike Jenkins from injury, which could come as soon as this Sunday's game in Seattle, will only deepen a position group that the Cowboys believe they have turned from a crippling weakness into a strength.

2. Redskins' secondary. Lost amid the RG3 hype Sunday was the way the Washington Redskins' defensive backs performed, largely in man coverage. The Redskins don't usually like to isolate their cornerbacks on opposing wide receivers, but a sudden lack of depth at safety and the importance of devoting extra coverage to Saints tight end Jimmy Graham made it a necessity. Josh Wilson, Cedric Griffin and DeAngelo Hall were up to the task and covered the New Orleans receivers well all day while the linebackers and safeties did their best to try and slow down Graham. A perceived weakness of the team in the preseason, the secondary deserves praise for its effort in the opener.

3. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Eagles cornerback. The Eagles' defense was strong overall, and the performances of linebackers DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks as well as safeties Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman are all worthy of mention. But Rodgers-Cromartie is a player on whom lots of folks have their eye in Philadelphia this year. Playing the outside cornerback spot opposite Nnamdi Asomugha, Rodgers-Cromartie is going to be tested by opposing quarterbacks. The two interceptions he made Sunday should make them at least think twice.
IRVING, Texas – A depleted cornerback corps was the Giants’ primary personnel concern entering the season opener.

That continues to be the case after Tony Romo picked apart the New York secondary for 307 yards and three touchdowns.

However, it’s inaccurate to say the Cowboys simply exploited the Giants’ weak links over and over again. Sure, they had success against Michael Coe and Justin Tryon, a couple of journeyman corners forced into significant roles because of injuries to Terrell Thomas (season-ending torn ACL) and Prince Amukamara (high ankle sprain).

But the Cowboys had their most success in the air when attacking Corey Webster, the Giants’ best corner.

The Cowboys completed six of seven passes for 145 yards and a touchdown when targeting Webster. The lone incompletion was a dropped interception when Romo threw an ill-advised pass right to Webster after scrambling in the first quarter.

All four of Dez Bryant's catches for 85 yards, including a 38-yard deep ball, came against Webster. Kevin Ogletree, whose first touchdown came when he split a pair of linebackers in zone coverage, torched Webster on a stop-and-go for his 40-yard score. And Miles Austin had a 20-yard reception on a deep out the lone time he was thrown the ball while matched up against the Giants’ top corner.

The Cowboys were 4-of-6 for 37 yards against Coe, with Ogletree the intended receiver on each occasion. They exploited Tryon after Coe left with a tweaked hamstring, completing all three passes thrown his way for 61 yards, including the 34-yard KO TD to Austin on a jump ball down the left sideline.

“We knew their corner situation, but we wanted our receivers to go against their corners,” coach Jason Garrett said when asked about game-planning to attack weak links. “I think if you looked at the game we completed passes against every one of those corners, the guys who’d been playing a lot and also guys that not played as much. I think it’s important to understand the pattern vs. the coverage and where the ball needs to go, and I thought Tony did a really good job throughout the game last night.

“I thought our guys won on a consistent basis against all their guys.”

Webster was no exception. In fact, the Cowboys victimized the veteran starter more than anyone else.

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