Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Beat Writers Report: Mo Claiborne worries
By Calvin Watkins
We're done with Week 1 of the 2013 NFL regular season and with that we have a review of what we saw and some projections in our weekly Beat Writers Report.
• Before the start of the season, former Cowboys safety Darren Woodson voiced concern about cornerback Morris Claiborne's durability. In his rookie season, Claiborne missed the offseason program because of his recovery from wrist surgery. He suffered a minor knee injury during training camp, forcing him to miss the entire preseason. Then this season, a sore knee knocked him out again. And now despite starting the season on time, Claiborne has another health issue. He suffered a separated left shoulder while making a tackle in the fourth quarter of the Giants game. Claiborne has never shied away from contact, which is a positive thing, but he's always nicked up. Claiborne didn't look right at times running after receivers and maybe he's still feeling the affects of his sore knee. With this shoulder issue, his availability for Week 2 at Kansas City is in question. Claiborne will wear a harness to keep the shoulder in place, but you must think about his ability to make plays in the passing game. The Cowboys kept just four corners on their roster because they don't run a dime package and would rather add another safety on the field. With Claiborne's health a problem, maybe adding another corner, Sterling Moore or Brandon Underwood, is a possibility.
• In the fourth quarter, the Cowboys were faced with two third and short situations where the receiver might have run the route a little short costing them first downs. On a third and five from the Giants 31, tight end Jason Witten's route came up short of the marker. Maybe Witten thought he could run over the defender, safety Ryan Mundy, but a good open field tackle resulted in a two-yard gain. Did Witten know where the first down marker was? The Cowboys' Dan Bailey made a 45-yard field goal pushing their lead to 30-17. No harm, right? Later in the quarter, the Giants cut the deficit to 30-24 and the Cowboys faced a third and four with about three minutes to play. Dez Bryant ran a route short of the marker and Tony Romo got rid of the pass quickly because of pressure from Terrell Thomas, who came on a corner blitz. Bryant made the catch and fell down in pain because he hurt his foot. Did Bryant run the route short? Should Romo have waited just an extra second before getting rid of the ball so Bryant could get closer to the marker? The Cowboys were short of the first down and had to punt giving Eli Manning a chance to win the game. Brandon Carr's interception sealed things with 1:50 to play. No harm, right? Maybe. But it's worth watching what the Cowboys' receivers do next time they have a chance to make plays on third and short.
• The Pistol formation, where the running back or a wide receiver, is lined up behind the quarterback made it's Cowboys' debut on Sunday. The Cowboys' first two offensive plays were out of the formation, a three-yard run from DeMarco Murray and a false start penalty on Tyron Smith. You can use the formation to run the read option or to just drop back and pass. It's not just designed for quarterbacks such as Robert Griffin III, who are mobile and can throw on the run. Romo uses it too. The Cowboys have two coaches with an extensive background on the college level in playcaller Bill Callahan and wide receivers coach Derek Dooley. Getting their input as to when to run the Pistol and with which running backs to use is vital to the success of it.
• The Cowboys signed defensive lineman Jerome Long on Saturday and he played 13 snaps at defensive end and tackle Sunday night. Long is sort of a poor mans' Tyrone Crawford, someone who can play left defensive end in a base defense, then move to defensive tackle on passing situations in the nickel. Long didn't have any tackles, but was an active participant in the run game and part of a rotation, including Landon Cohen (24 snaps), Kyle Wilber (11 snaps) and Edgar Jones (four snaps) that provided depth with the defensive line short-handed due to injuries.
• Dwayne Harris had a productive special teams performance. He was in on 22 special teams plays and made two solid tackles and almost recovered a muffed punt. ... DeMarcus Ware didn't have any tackles. He did get some good pressures and he lined up at outside linebacker and dropped back into coverage once. ... Romo was sacked once out of the pistol formation and that occurred when tackle Doug Free pushed Jason Pierre-Paul out of the way on a pass rush. One problem, Pierre-Paul was pushed into Romo. ... While yes, the Cowboys would like to see Bryant see more one-on-one coverage, he's got to win some of these battles with two defenders covering him. The coaches also have to put him on the move, slot, in motion, in bunch formations, more to get open.