Dallas Cowboys: Quentin Mikell
January, 1, 2011
By Bryan Broaddus | ESPNDallas.com
The league hoped this would be a matchup of two teams once again fighting for a division title, much like last season. It has turned into a preseason game in cold conditions.
The Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys will be starting backup quarterbacks this week but for different reasons. The Eagles have nothing to play for after a crazy week of playing a Tuesday night game against the Minnesota Vikings and getting Michael Vick banged up with a quad contusion. They will have to turn around and play a wild card game next week, so Andy Reid is taking the smart approach by resting his Pro Bowl quarterback.
The Eagles are a dynamic offensive team with Vick in the lineup, but without him you can really see the flaws of this offensive line. When these two teams met in the second week of December, it was impressive the amount of pressure that defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni was able to generate. Vick took some tremendous shots in that game, and it seemed to affect the way he threw the ball and his willingness to take off and run with the ball.
The Vikings took the same game plan and attacked the Eagles’ front and backs. With Vick out of the lineup, the Eagles lose that ability to have their quarterback save the line when they struggle to hold their blocks for any length of time.
What Vick does is he extends the play. Kevin Kolb has mobility but nowhere near as effective as Vick. The plan for the Cowboys should be simple: continue to attack this Eagles' offensive line, which will struggle.
For all the money that the Eagles spent on Jason Peters, the results can’t be what they hoped for. He is not a dominant player and has his moments where he struggles on the edge and with his ability to hold blocks.
On the other side, Winston Justice is athletic, but he plays way too soft and tends to catch blocks. Justice tries to steer or take his man where he wants to go instead of hammering him off the ball. For all the games where Anthony Spencer was a nonfactor, the Eagles game earlier was one of his best.
The Cowboys will be able to rush these tackles and have some success getting to Kolb because he doesn’t have the skill of Vick to avoid the rush.
Something else to watch in this game is the ability of the Cowboys to put pressure on these Eagles running backs to have to play in pass protection. As good as LeSean McCoy is running and catching the ball, he struggles as a pass blocker. In the Vikings game Tuesday, they put him to the test. The Eagles want to get the ball in his hands as much as possible, but there will be times where he is going to have to step up and help Kolb out in blitz pickup.
The Eagles are a big screen team and are not afraid to do it at any point on the field. The Cowboys have to be careful when they do blitz that McCoy doesn’t sneak into the flat or work into the middle of the field and take a pass.
It’s not that McCoy doesn’t give the effort in pass protection. He is much like a Felix Jones in that he tries, but the technique and the results don’t always work out.
On the outside these Eagles receivers are tough to deal with. DeSean Jackson was listed as questionable this week, so like Vick, he might sit. Jackson had a monster game the first time these teams met. As the Cowboys found out, any time the Eagles get him the ball on the move, he puts a great deal of pressure on the defense.
Both Jackson and Jeremy Maclin have speed, but their most impressive trait is their quickness. The Eagles like to use Jackson on screens or misdirection sweeps. Maclin is the better route runner of the two and appears to have the better of the hands. Maclin gets in and out of breaks without any wasted movements.
Barbara Johnston/US PresswireThe Cowboys won't have to deal with Pro Bowler Michael Vick, who will get some rest to be healthy for a wild-card game next week.
At tight end, the Eagles have a nice player in Brent Celek, who is an upfield player and is always a factor in the red zone. Celek has more than dependable hands and is usually a mismatch for linebackers in coverage. The Eagles have also begun to use backup Clay Harbor in the red zone more as well. Harbor is like Celek in that he can get up the field and is decent enough as a get-in-the-way blocker to help in the running game.
The weapons are still there offensively for the Eagles, but the key man in the offense is not. Vick has played like an MVP in 2010 and has hidden the sins of this offensive line, so it will be interesting to see how well they function with Kolb in the lineup.
When studying the game tape after the first matchup, I came away with the thought that this wasn’t one of Jon Kitna’s better games. There were too many times where plays were well-protected and he saw ghosts, which led to rushed decisions. There were plays that were left on the field -- the pass to Roy Williams early in the game along the sideline, the forced pass to Miles Austin that ended up as a tipped-ball interception and the underthrow to Martellus Bennett on a blown coverage by the Eagles.
When you are playing a team like the Eagles, they put images in your head of blitzing and attacking, which causes a quarterback to make poor choices.
For the most part, the line did a nice job of handling what Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott threw at them. Trent Cole is the Eagles’ best pass rusher and once again will be matched up with Doug Free, who wasn’t at his best last week against the Cardinals.
Cole doesn’t get the credit that he deserves as a run player. Free will need to block him throughout the play. He is not one of those guys that you give one shot to and he goes away.
When you play in Philadelphia, you always have to deal with the crowd noise. This is always an advantage to a guy like Cole that gets off the snap with solid quickness.
In the secondary, the Eagles have a big time player in Asante Samuel. Samuel didn’t play in the first game and has been nicked up some the last few weeks, but he was in the lineup against the Vikings on Tuesday.
Whether it’s Stephen McGee or Kitna at quarterback for the Cowboys on Sunday, they will be well aware of Samuel, who loves to bait quarterbacks into thinking that their receivers are open, then drive on the football to make a play.
Samuel also has a history of not wanting anything to do in the tackling side of the game. There have been times where he flies forward on a play to miss badly. In the past, teams have tried to take advantage of this part of his game.
Safety Quintin Mikell is no Brian Dawkins, but McDermott likes to use him in that way. Against the Cowboys last time out, Mikell was a steady performer. He will play forward and around the line of scrimmage. He will also be used on the blitz, which is an area that the Eagles have been outstanding at over the years.
Kitna missed a slot blitz by Joselio Hanson for a sack, and if McGee is the starter on Sunday, he will see more of the same. The Eagles like to create confusion with their scheme. Jason Garrett will tailor a game plan that won’t expose McGee too much. The throws that he was able to make were quick ones. Slants or inside routes to receivers and Jason Witten working all over the field will help.
Where the Cowboys had some success was getting the ball to the backs on the outside in space. Garrett will ask his quarterback to make throws without much reading involved. The most important thing is that if McGee does in fact start, he received all the reps in practice this week and he does have the confidence of his teammates to get the job done.
December, 9, 2010
By Bryan Broaddus | ESPNDallas.com
The Cowboys have faced several outstanding quarterbacks already this season, but they have yet to face one that has the talents of Michael Vick.
When I see Vick play, I have to laugh at the fact that any team in the NFL could have had Vick's numerous skills on their roster if they had only offered the Eagles enough in the form of a draft pick. Last offseason, the Eagles made the commitment of playing Kevin Kolb, but when Kolb was banged up against the Packers opening day, Vick was pressed into the starting lineup and Kolb quickly became a backup quarterback.
It is truly amazing that Vick was gone from the game for two seasons then spent one season as the "wildcat" quarterback. He now is nowhere near that quarterback that struggled to read defenses or to make accurate throws that he was in Atlanta.
The ability to escape the rush and make plays with his feet is still there, but he now can beat you throwing the football. Vick no longer has to play with just a simple high-low read on the boot. He can stand in the pocket and hit receivers on vertical routes or across the middle. He can throw screens and checkdowns with touch. He can fit balls into tight spots with the confidence of Drew Brees or Peyton Manning.
Vick has become the quarterback that scouts thought he would be, except no one believed that he had the ability to make all the throws and can be successful executing them. When you now watch Vick throw, there is some snap to it. He can deliver the ball on the line. The ball isn't all over the place, and receivers don't have to make adjustments to catch each throw like his teammates in Atlanta did.
These Eagles' receivers, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, are outstanding in space. Any time they get the ball on the move, it's difficult for defenders to deal with. Both Jackson and Maclin have speed, but their most impressive trait is their quickness.
The Eagles like to use Jackson on screens or misdirection sweeps. Maclin is the better route runner of the two and appears to have the better hands. Maclin gets in and out of breaks without any wasted movements.
You have heard me talk about Miles Austin and the way he runs routes without changing speeds; Maclin is the same type of player. He runs his routes all the same speed and makes it difficult for corners to get a read on him.
At tight end, the Eagles have a nice player in Brent Celek, who is an upfield player and is always a factor in the red zone. Celek has more than dependable hands and is usually a mismatch for linebackers in coverage.
Drew Hallowell/Philadelphia Eagles/Getty ImagesEagles receiver DeSean Jackson is fast, but it's his quickness that really creates issues for defenses.
Would not be the least bit surprised to see Paul Pasqualoni have Anthony Spencer try to hammer Celek all night off the line of scrimmage. Any time you give Celek free access in a route, he is going to be a problem.
Other than quarterback, the area that I feel like the Eagles have made the biggest jump is at running back. For many years, I was a Brian Westbrook fan for all the ways he could hurt you in a game, but with LeSean McCoy in that role now, the Eagles have an even more dynamic player.
McCoy is an explosive ball carrier that can make you miss in the open field or punish you with power. He is good in space, and his hands are steady. Vick likes to throw him the ball in the flat on simple plays, and he has the ability to turn them into large gains. Would not call him a killer as a pass blocker, but he will chip and then get in the route. Does a nice job of running the stretch play, finding the hole and then making the cut inside.
The Cowboys' defenders need to get to him before he can get started. He hits the hole in a hurry and can extend the run. The Eagles like to run a play-action game with boots and waggles off action involving McCoy.
The Eagles' offensive line benefits from players like Vick, McCoy, Celek and the two receivers. These players that I have mentioned all hide the sins of this line, whether it's Vick's ability to scramble and avoid the rush, McCoy busting through a defense that is not cleanly blocked or Jackson running with a screen.
There are some flaws along this line when it comes to pass protection. The Eagles' line doesn't handle movement all that well and will set on different levels in pass protection. Teams have been able to create pressure because the longer this line has to hold a block, the more trouble it has finishing the block.
Drew Hallowell/Philadelphia Eagles/Getty ImagesLeSean McCoy has skills in the open field similar to former Eagles running back Brian Westbrook, but he can also punish you with power.
The Bears were able to get pressure with a four-man rush and movement up front. Pasqualoni will try to do the same, keeping his rushers wide and playing coverage behind the rush. If the Cowboys can hold up on the back end, the opportunity to get someone home on the rush will increase.
*Week 16 and the Wild Card game last season against the Cowboys are two games that Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott would like to forget.
In neither of those two contests was his defense ready to play or did he and the staff manage to come up with any type of answers to slow down this Jason Garrett-led Cowboys offense.
McDermott is in his second season since taking over for the late Jim Johnson, who was a master at creating all types of blitz packages and schemes to get your offense off the field. McDermott will give you different looks defensively, but he isn’t close to the exotic blitzer that Johnson was.
The defensive line likes to be active up front with movement, and the linebackers will play tight to the line of scrimmage. When the Eagles do blitz, it’s usually through the double "A" gap with linebackers Stewart Bradley and Ernie Sims.
From the secondary, McDermott will bring safety Quintin Mikell. who is playing the role of Brian Dawkins but is nowhere near as effective as Dawkins once was in this scheme.
The Eagles' best pass rusher is defensive end Trent Cole. Cowboys left tackle Doug Free once again draws the assignment of handling the opponent's best rusher. Unlike Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney, Cole plays the run well, so Free will need to be at his best each snap and work to finish his blocks and not allow Cole to chase down the play.
In the secondary, the ball-hawking cornerback Asante Samuel returns to the lineup after missing the Chicago and Houston games with a knee injury. In Samuel’s place, nickel man Joselio Hanson has been the starter at left corner.
Samuel has a history as a gambling player. Samuel loves to bait quarterbacks into thinking their receivers are open, then driving on the football to make a play.
Samuel also has a history of not wanting anything to do with the tackling side of the game. There have been times where he flies forward on a play to miss badly.
I would expect this Cowboys offense to test him on the outside early to see the condition of his knee and also see how committed he is in playing in a physical game. Any ball that spills to his side of the field will be a soft force and will be something worth watching.