Scout's Eye: Dolphins-Cowboys preview

September, 2, 2010
9/02/10
1:00
AM ET


Thoughts on Cowboys-Dolphins preseason game:

*With the final preseason game upon us, the final cuts to the league-mandated roster size of 53 are near. Roster reductions at this point are always difficult for teams that have a great deal of talent but that must now part ways with players.

These players generally fall into three areas. One is the veteran players whom clubs have worked with for many years and who have been highly productive throughout their careers but are no longer needed because of new talent. The second involves players who are new to the program but need a year or more on the practice squad to develop and who could potentially be of service in Week 8, when there is that pressing injury to a starter or depth issues. The third is the college or pro free agent who looked like a good fit when signed but has no chance of developing with the team.

How should teams use this final cutdown? Let’s use the Rams as an example. To me, the Rams are talent-poor, but now here is an opportunity or a second chance to add players to their roster in the hope that they are much better than the players they have on the current roster.

As training camp wore on, you could see where you were going to struggle. Good teams can benefit from this cut to 53 as well. Smart teams will understand who their 53rd player is and study the wire intently to determine if that player is really better than a guy on that wire.

The cut to 53 can be considered a second draft for NFL teams. Some teams will benefit and others will miss an opportunity to make their roster a little stronger and deeper.

*I was surprised the other night after the Texans loss to hear Wade Phillips offer that he was debating playing the starters some Thursday night against the Dolphins.

I understand that Phillips was upset and, after watching that game myself, can understand why. On Tuesday, Phillips said that selected starters would get work in the game but Tony Romo would not. Wise move on Phillips part.

The last preseason game is about trying to get all your players through the game healthy, even the players you are going to release. If they wind up on IR, that’s a cost to the club.

Health of the squad is the No. 1 concern in this game. With the way that the Cowboys have struggled with injuries in camp to key players, why would you even risk it?

The Cowboys’ staff will have 10 days to get the team rested and ready to play against the Redskins. The problems we have seen in the running game and defending the run in these last two preseason games against San Diego and Houston need to be addressed. The return of Kyle Kosier and Marc Colombo to the lineup would be a huge boast.

This offense doesn’t run the ball the same way when you have Alex Barron or Robert Brewster at right tackle. Barron is not a nasty player like Colombo on the edge, and Brewster just doesn’t know better at this point.

Montrae Holland is a limited foot athlete and struggles to get to the second level and to work with Doug Free on combination blocks. Kosier is an athlete like Free -- he knows how to block in space.

On the defensive side, a return of Marcus Spears could add more stoutness to the line. Love Jason Hatcher the nickel player, but I have concerns about Hatcher the 65- to 70-play starter. Keith Brooking and his sideline-to-sideline play will also be a welcome sight.

The 10 days of preparation from here to the season opener are more important than two meaningless series against the Dolphins on Thursday night.

*Rookie linebacker Sean Lee is going to be a good football player. You can see it when he practices and he will flash during games.

When I heard about the new plan for Lee, it made me stop and try to find the answers. I didn’t have the opportunity to study Lee in college at Penn State, but I do have several friends around the NFL whose views I value that did.

The one underlying thought was that Lee was a fast-flow player in at Penn State. This means that he saw the ball and was gone.

In the NFL, you have responsibilities to fit in the scheme, read the ball, then go make the play. In watching Lee the last two games, it made perfect sense. Lee was reading too fast and not completely playing the scheme. If you don’t play the scheme, you can create problems for the rest of the defense because you create holes or gaps in the defense.

In Lee’s case, reading too fast allowed the opposition to make plays when he was out of position. Usually the speed or the pace of the game is too much for a rookie, but in this case, Lee needs to develop a better understanding of what his responsibilities are on defense. Then he can continue to develop as the linebacker that the Cowboys drafted him to be.

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