After a review of the Cowboys' 38-33 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night, we have our weekly Random Thoughts on the game.
1. It was a rough night for Cowboys right tackle Doug Free. He was pushed into the backfield on a consistent basis by rush end Brandon Graham. Free needed to be aggressive at the snap of the ball with Graham and he was a step slow. The Eagles place their defensive ends wider than most defenses when faced against tackles. Free has seen this particular scheme several times in his career when he was a right tackle and it continued when he played left tackle last year. Free has to get out of his stance faster and attack the oncoming rusher. Free did neither in the first half. In the second half, Graham continued with power moves but Free was barely able to withstand it. In the next month, defensive ends are not going to lineup wider but are going to challenge Free with quick power moves to test his athletic ability. It appears Free just couldn't get his feet moving fast enough. Free has to move laterally quicker and get his hands out faster with a jab to slow down pass rushers.
2. Late in the fourth quarter, outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware had a chance at a clear sack of quarterback Nick Foles. At the snap of the ball, left tackle King Dunlap pushed Ware's helmet up, limiting his vision. Ware beat Dunlap and dove after Foles, but there was nothing there because after the game Ware said he didn't see the quarterback. Ware endured a tough battle against Dunlap. He beat him one-on-one and a bulk of the plays were designed away from Ware's side of the field. Most NFL teams are doing that now to eliminate Ware's ability to make plays, especially in the backfield.
3. Rob Ryan isn't going to change the pass rush this late in the season. He's going to send four or five defenders on passing plays but what's hurting him is the inside linebackers and the lack of communication from the secondary. Yes, the Cowboys don't have Bruce Carter and Sean Lee, but Ernie Sims and Dan Connor are veteran players who should know the scheme. Connor has been here since training camp. The secondary players is missing only Orlando Scandrick, leaving Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne and Mike Jenkins at corner, with Gerald Sensabaugh and Danny McCray at safety. While Barry Church is not here, McCray has been with Ryan for at least two years and should know the scheme. The Cowboys linebackers and secondary players should make more plays on the ball and contest more catches. You could say Ryan needs to blitz more, and you might be right; however, the back end of the defense is familiar with the scheme and shouldn't allow so many completed passes.