Dallas Cowboys: Tarvaris Jackson

Scout's Eye: Cowboys-Seahawks review

November, 8, 2011

After a crushing defeat to the Philadelphia Eagles last week, Sunday's game was our first opportunity to see how a team led by Jason Garrett would respond. The Dallas Cowboys' opponent was the Seattle Seahawks, who have had their own issues in winning games but weren't as bad as the St. Louis Rams, a team Dallas was were able to handle easily Oct. 23.

Scout's Eye
The more I studied the Seahawks, the more I thought that this game had the potential to be similar to what the Cowboys went through last season with Jacksonville. The Jaguars had talented players at key positions, but their record didn't reflect that. I felt that the Seahawks had some players who could give the Cowboys problems along the defensive front in the passing game much like the Jaguars did, but that didn't prove to be the case.

Newman enjoys banner day

Where the Seahawks had been struggling the most was at quarterback with Tarvaris Jackson, who has a huge arm and is mobile but his accuracy is nowhere near as good enough to have any type of consistent offensive attack. The Seahawks have receivers who can get open and make plays. Sidney Rice, Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu do a nice job of getting open but in this game, the Cowboys' secondary was outstanding.

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Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesJason Garrett rebounded from his worst thumping as a head coach to handle a talented Seahawks team.
Cornerback Terence Newman played one of his better games this season and to be honest, one of the best that I have seen in a while from him. Newman was much more physical not only on the outside but when inside in the running game. The only problem he had was on the deep ball that Rice was able to get behind him on. When Newman does struggle, it's when he tends to hang on a route thinking the quarterback is going to throw the ball short. Where Jackson got him was on the pump fake to the outside, and Newman gave a slight hesitation which cost him an opportunity to make a play on the ball.

Overall, Newman had a nice drive on the slant, which he had not been aggressive enough on in my view this season. He had outstanding position on an "in" where he carried the receiver across the field and was able to knock the ball down. On his interception, again he was in outstanding position in the route down the sideline, catching a gift from Jackson who just threw the ball up for grabs.

Church, Carter, Spencer impress

Coming out of the Eagles contest, there were plenty of questions about how Rob Ryan would use his linebacker rotation with the injury to Sean Lee. Where Ryan was in a little bit of a bind was that Bradie James and Keith Brooking really showed their age last week when it came to dealing with the speedy skill players of the Eagles.

Against the Seahawks, James and Brooking played better but Ryan chose to go with a look that he had used during the season, and that is with safety Barry Church as a linebacker alongside James or Brooking. I have to say that Church looked comfortable in the role. He has nice size at 219 pounds but what I was most impressed by was the way that he was able to fight off blocks, keep himself free but also quickly read the blocking scheme and fill for the tackle.

Church had a real feel for working through the trash and making the tackle. There was a play in which Ryan had him fit tight into the "A" gap, shoot the gap and get a tackle for a loss. The only play that I observed was when he jumped around a block and it left a crease in the defense that Lynch was able to scoot through for a nice gain.

Bryan Broaddus, official scout of ESPNDallas.com, breaks down every angle of the Cowboys-Seahawks game.

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It was also the first real defensive action for rookie linebacker Bruce Carter. I have said this a hundred times but I was impressed with the way that Carter played on tape at North Carolina. He was one of those players who never came off the field. When paired with a player such as Sean Lee, you will have two athletic linebackers who can play sideline to sideline in the running game but also handle the position in the passing game.

On the first defensive snap Carter took, Ryan brought him on a blitz. You saw the quickness and the burst coming around the block but he needed to work a little tighter to take a more direct path. On one of Lynch's long runs, he got caught inside on his read and didn't get over to his right quick enough to fill the hole.

Thought Carter needed to read the play quicker. There was also a play in which he overran the running back in space. He needs to do a better job of breaking down and making the tackle in space. Where Carter did do a nice job was in his zone drop in pass coverage. He was able to drop and read Jackson's eyes and knock down the pass.

This was a strong game for Anthony Spencer. It's a shame that he doesn't play like this every week because he can. Spencer was all over the field. He was quick off the snap, created pressure and was able to consistently get off blocks in the running game. Spencer is an explosive player, and you can really see this when he is running down plays from the backside. The one sack that the defense had for the day was when he was able to run Jackson down from the backside.

Spencer was awful against the Eagles when it came to getting off blocks and being a factor in the scheme of the defense. In a game in which the Seahawks did the best they could to take DeMarcus Ware out of the game, Spencer was able to step up and make plays to help out.

Rookie Murray puts on a show

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Tim Heitman/US PresswireDeMarco Murray made better use of his eyes in helping him carry the ball against Seattle.
Offensively for the Cowboys it was once again the DeMarco Murray Show when it came to running the football.

Murray had a timed speed of 4.37 in the 40 yard dash coming out of Oklahoma but there are times when he doesn't look like he is running because of how smooth he really is with the ball in his hands. It's almost as if he is gliding with the ball in his hands but to me where Murray has made the most improvement is when using his eyes to help him carry the ball. There were times earlier in the season when Murray carried the ball that I didn't feel that he saw the hole or the development of the blocks.

The rookie looks more confident where he needs to fit in the running game. He now sees the backside cuts, he feels where the hole is going to develop and he is also showing the ability to finish runs.

There has always been praise for Murray as a pass receiver, but I have seen improvement as a pass protector in blitz pick-up. When Murray stays square and upright, he can handle the job. Where he has to be careful is when he tries to cut block, which I saw last week against the Eagles. The great backs are not only able to run and catch the ball but able to be a solid pass protector as well. Running the ball will get you glory, but pass protecting will get you respect from your teammates.

Good defense foils good plan

With the score 3–3 in the second quarter, the Cowboys had a first-and-goal on the Seahawks 1. Jason Garrett sent three tight ends in the game with fullback Tony Fiammetta as well. At the snap of the ball, Witten who was lined up on the line to the right, headed up the field and then broke to his right but was tightly covered by linebacker K.J. Wright into the flat.

Romo, looking at Witten, saw no chance there to make the throw. Fiammetta headed into the space that Witten had left and was picked up by safety Atrari Bigby, who was covering Fiammetta as well. Now Romo's second read had been taken away. On the backside of the formation, John Phillips was the wing left and released up the field, uncovered. Phillips would be Romo's third read and was open in the back of the end zone off the snap but as Romo's eyes turned back to him, he was now in the path of linebacker Leroy Hill. With the clock going off in his head, Romo fired the pass too high for Phillips to reach.

Second-and-goal: Garrett tried to take advantage of how aggressive defensive end Chris Clemons plays in run defense. Holland pulled to his right and Doug Free released inside to his right trying to draw Clemons down to crash inside. Clemons didn't bite on the flow and played his technique to the outside, staying at home. Murray took the flip going to his left but Clemons was now up the field and in his face. Murray was able to avoid Clemons, but Free was unable to secure his block on the linebacker. Thus, no gain.

Third-and-goal from the 1: Garrett once again is going to try and get the ball to Witten, which is not a bad thing to try on the goal line. Witten was in line on the right side and released to the corner, Murray was in the backfield and headed for the flat but ran by a blitzing Earl Thomas off the edge. Romo had Thomas in his face and had to spin to avoid his rush, and he is able to gather himself. All his options were covered and he had to force the ball high to the corner to see if Witten can make a play, but he couldn't.

The point I am trying to make here is that there are times where you have good ideas and plans for the red zone, but the defense is just a little better.

How you feeling? Cowboys-Seahawks

November, 6, 2011
As you get ready for Sunday afternoon's home game against the Seahawks, here's one reason for Dallas Cowboys fans to be feeling good and one reason for concern:

Feeling good: The Cowboys' passing game should be back today. Seattle defends the run very well, so I wouldn't expect a huge game out of DeMarco Murray. But the Seahawks aren't strong in the secondary, and this should be the day quarterback Tony Romo once again begins to find wideouts Miles Austin and Dez Bryant down the field. They couldn't do that on a frustrating night last Sunday in Philadelphia against the Eagles' talented cornerbacks, but they should have more chances to hit big plays in this one.

Cause for concern: Oddly the way the Cowboys should be able to beat the Seahawks is the way the Seahawks might be able to give the Cowboys trouble as well. Seattle quarterback Tarvaris Jackson has actually been a pretty good downfield passer when he's been healthy this season, and he's got a real rhythm with wide receiver Sidney Rice from their days together on the Minnesota Vikings' second-team offense. With cornerback Mike Jenkins and inside linebacker Sean Lee out with injuries, the Dallas defense could be weaker than usual at the second level and will have to limit the Seahawks' big plays in the passing game.

Scout's Eye: Cowboys-Seahawks preview

November, 4, 2011

Scout's Eye
Those of you who think that the Seahawks are going to come into Cowboys Stadium and roll over because of their 2-5 record might be in for a bit of a surprise come Sunday afternoon.

This game has a 2010 Jacksonville feel to it, when the Cowboys clearly overlooked the Jaguars and were embarrassed on their home field 35-17. When you study the Seahawks, their record is misleading because there is some talent on this team and their record should be better.

It's a mistake to compare the the Seahawks to the Rams. St. Louis defensively was a bad football team; Seattle is not.

QB, O-line struggle with pressure

Offensively, there are problems with the third-youngest offensive line in the NFL, but the biggest struggle is at quarterback with Tarvaris Jackson. There is no doubt that Jackson has a cannon for an arm, but the problem is that he is not an accurate quarterback. Receivers Mike Williams, Sidney Rice, Doug Baldwin and Ben Obomanu really have to work to catch his passes.

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AP Photo/Don WrightA young offensive line does little to improve the accuracy of Seahawks quarterback Tarvaris Jackson.
Jackson is all over the place when he throws the ball. I have seen him throw the out or slant and be dead on the money, but then the next three throws would be nowhere near the receivers.

Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell likes to move Jackson around in the pocket with designed boots or waggles, but there are plenty of times when you see Jackson moving on his own when the pressure becomes too much. One of the best traits that Jackson has is his ability to scramble and buy the second chance.

There will be times Jackson doesn't make the best decisions. I have seen him throw the ball up for grabs for no reason at all instead of taking a sack and living to fight on the next down.

The pressure that Jackson and even Charlie Whitehurst have had to deal with this season can be put at the feet of this offensive line. The Seahawks start two rookies on the right side with guard John Moffitt and tackle James Carpenter.

Moffitt really struggled on tape. He doesn't sustain well -- run or pass -- and much like his former Wisconsin teammate Bill Nagy, when he has to face a rusher who plays with power or strength, it really throws him off.

Carpenter is a large man who is not slow-footed, but he is more of a catch blocker than one who punches and tries to stop the charge of the defender. The Seahawks will try to get him on the edge in the screen game and on the toss sweep as well. Carpenter has had his share of struggles with the inside rush, much like Tyron Smith has. For young tackles such as Smith and Carpenter, that's the biggest problem -- always thinking about protecting the outside then having to adjust back inside, which rushers like DeMarcus Ware will take advantage of.

The two best offensive linemen for the Seahawks are the left tackle Russell Okung and center Max Unger.

Official scout of ESPN Dallas Bryan Broaddus previews the Cowboys-Eagles matchup on Sunday.

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Okung is impressive in the way that he tries to finish his blocks. His feet are good and he can adjust to the rush.

Unger was a player who the Cowboys were very interested in drafting three years ago after an outstanding career at Oregon, where he was an All-Pac 10 tackle and center. Unger, like Okung, is good with his feet and is able to adjust to twist stunts and blitzers. Rarely do you see him on the ground, plays on his feet. Good with the reach and cut-off blocks.

RB trio carries load well

The Seahawks have three running backs on the roster and use them all. Marshawn Lynch, Justin Forsett and Leon Washington all get offensive snaps.

Lynch is the main ballcarrier and there is nothing really flashy about the way he does his job. He tries to hammer defenders when they come up for the tackle. Can tell that there are plays in which he gets frustrated because of the lack of blocking that he sometimes receives. Would not call Lynch an explosive back but one that will press the hole and if necessary use his vision to find the hole to the outside to finish the run. Lynch is not the type of back that will run away from you with blazing speed but more of a steady, workman-like runner.

Lynch is a productive pass catcher with outstanding hands. Will see him used in the red zone on screens much like the Cowboys saw last week against the Eagles' LeSean McCoy.

Lynch's problem in the games I studied was fumbling the ball. In the Bengals and Giants games, he put the ball on the ground, killing drives for his team.

Washington is a short, explosive ball carrier. Forsett has good hands but doesn't play with the explosiveness of Washington. Washington attacks the hole with suddenness, while Forsett shows more patience.

Safeties shines for Seahawks

While the Seahawks' offense has issues, their defense is far superior to the Rams'. The Seahawks have more skill at safety, corner and pass rusher.

I was really impressed with safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.

[+] EnlargeWalter Thurmond and Earl Thomas
Matt Sullivan/Getty ImagesThe Cowboys likely won't catch Seahawks safety Earl Thomas (29) out of position Sunday.
Thomas shows nice range and catch-up speed to make plays. He is also used as a blitzer in this scheme. He is quick around the corner. Thomas plays assignment sound. You don't see him out of position much.

Chancellor is a physical tackler but doesn't move as well in coverage as Thomas because he is not that quick-footed. Chancellor has struggled some in the passing game. He misplayed a ball in the air against the Giants down the sideline that led to a touchdown, so you don't see him put in those types of situations often.

At corner for the Seahawks, Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner are the starters. Sherman, a rookie from Stanford, is not the most physical player but has good cover skills. Both corners like to play press coverage and can run with their men.

The Cowboys had trouble last week against the Eagles when they had to fight off the press. I am not saying that these Seattle corners are as good as the Eagles', but they do have height that helps them when they jam receivers at the line. Browner is over 6-foot-3 and Sherman is at 6-foot-2.

Watch for the Seahawks to play with a single high safety and Chancellor down in the box to handle the run. On the outside, these corners will press and make Dez Bryant and Miles Austin fight for space and hope that their pass rush can get home like the Eagles did last week.

Pass rush can be explosive

The Seahawks have two rushers that can create problems for tackles. Defensive ends Chris Clemons and Raheem Brock do a nice job. Clemons is a starter that plays the weakside defensive end, so he will flip sides opposite the strength of the Cowboys. Brock will come into the game as a nickel rusher.

Both Clemons and Brock are explosive rushers. Both like to attack the edges, but Doug Free and Tyron Smith have to careful when these two try to spin inside on their rush. Last week against the Eagles, the biggest struggles that Free and Smith had was when Jason Babin and Trent Cole were able to use a spin move. I expect that Clemons and Brock have studied that game, and they will test Free and Smith from the word go.

The Other Side: Danny O'Neil, Seattle Times

November, 4, 2011
Seattle Seahawks beat writer Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times answers some questions for us. Check out the Seahawks blog here.

Q:So who is the starting quarterback for this team? Tarvaris Jackson, Charlie Whitehurst, Pete Carroll? Who?

A: Tarvaris Jackson is going to start. Anyone who thought there was a question about Seattle's best quarterback found out the answer when Charlie Whitehurst struggled in his two starts. Jackson was considerably better than Whitehurst last week, which is telling because Jackson a) had a high-grade strain of his right pectoral muscle; b) Whitehurst had all the reps in practice. Jackson has two 300-yard passing games in his career and they have come in his past three games for Seattle.

Q:Penalties seem to be a major issue for Seattle. The Seahawks have been penalized the fourth-most times in the league this season. What's the problem?

A:Youth. Brandon Browner is a cornerback in his first season in the NFL. A CFL All-Star the past four seasons, he is a tall, at times ungainly and very physical cornerback. He has been penalized 10 times, most of any Seahawk. Tackles Russell Okung (second year) and James Carpenter (rookie) have been penalized eight and seven times respectively. The fact Seattle has flip-flopped quarterbacks because of injury over the past three games isn't helping the Seahawks remain disciplined along the line.

Q: The run game has struggled this year. Is it the offensive line or the running backs?

A:The line. Marshawn Lynch is an established back, who averaged four yards per carry in Buffalo. He's averaging 3.5 since coming to Seattle. The Seahawks averaged 89 yards rushing last season, fourth-fewest in franchise history. The rate is the exact same this season as Seattle has struggled to find any headway. The Seahawks have allowed the most sacks in the league and are averaging the second-fewest rushing yards of any NFL team, which says what you need to know about the line.

Q: Are you surprised at how bad Seattle is this year considering they lucked into a postseason berth last year?

A:I'm not surprised Seattle struggled. When you change over the offensive line, start two rookies and don't have any two starters who've ever started together, there are going to be some growing pains. It was clear when the season started that the Seahawks could get worse before they got better. But unlike last season, I think this is a team that will improve as the year goes on. I think they will be markedly better on offense the second half of the season compared to the first half. And one more thing I'm surprised about is this defense. It's legit. Very tough against the run, fast and aggressive.

Q: How has Pete Carroll been in Year 2? Does he have a command of what's going on or still building the team?

A: Pete Carroll is an aggressive coach, but he also had the confidence to watch a number of serviceable veterans walk away from Matt Hasselbeck to center Chris Spencer to safety Lawyer Milloy. Those moves cleared the way for Seattle's next generation to emerge. This team has suffered in the short term for the turnover -- especially without offseason workouts -- but the team will be better for the long term provided one thing: They find their quarterback of the future, and while Carroll hasn't ruled out the possibility Jackson could be that player, he hasn't tied the team's future to Jackson with a long-term commitment either.

Cowboys ready for Seattle copycat

November, 2, 2011
IRVING, Texas -- Tarvaris Jackson is no Michael Vick. Marshawn Lynch is no LeSean McCoy. Sidney Rice and Mike Williams are no DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.

But the Cowboys expect Seattle to replicate what Philadelphia did to them last week this Sunday at Cowboys Stadium.

“I think you’ll see some of those plays run against us that Philadelphia was able to have success with,” defensive end Marcus Spears said. “If you’ve got a blueprint of a great house you probably want to follow it. We’ve got to figure out how to break into that thing and shut it down. If we do see plays that Philly had, I’m sure we’ll be ready for it this time around.”

Seattle coach Pete Carroll wasn’t so sure his team could do what the Eagles did.

“They’re kind of unique in what they have with Michael Vick. Michael’s an amazing player,” Carroll said. “Right off the bat, he’s scrambling around and making some yards, causing some problems for guys, thinking they don’t know if he’s going to take off and run or sit in the pocket. He found some space and started hitting guys all over the field and, man, the thing just snowballed with the running game. Michael had a great factor in that, as he’s always going to have a factor as you defend him. You’re thinking about him the whole time and you’re trying to design things so he doesn’t control the game. They just handed the ball off and made a bunch of yards. They really probably played the game differently than even they expected to where they ran it so effectively against the best rushing defense in the NFL.

“I’d like to think that we could learn something from it, but we might have to get a moped or something for our quarterback to ride around in to be like Michael. We’re not as fast as he is.”

A moped?

“Well, maybe, that’s probably not right,” Carroll said. “Call it a Harley or something, all right?”