Dallas Cowboys: Adrian Clayborn

A look back: Bad all around for Cowboys O

September, 25, 2012

IRVING, Texas -- Sometimes when reviewing a game, you see things that are not as bad as you thought. In this week’s "A Look Back," that was not the case for the Cowboys offense against Tampa Bay. It was just bad.

The run blocking: There’s a reason why the Cowboys had only 38 yards on the ground. There were no holes for DeMarco Murray to run. Heck, there were no places where he could make it up as he went. The Tampa Bay defensive line just dominated up front, and it wasn’t a case of one guy breaking down here and another guy breaking down on the next play. All five linemen had a hand in the poor running. Fullback Lawrence Vickers added little help as well.

On a delay run that looked promising, Murray had some room but Mackenzy Bernadeau got stuffed at the line and could not get to the second level. If Bernadeau gets there, it’s a big run. Center Ryan Cook had a hard time getting off the line and to the linebackers because of all the slanting done by the Bucs up front.

Throwing more effectively could have loosened things up, but the pass protection wasn’t much better.

Tampa Bay brought five or more rushers 16 times, but none of the four sacks of Tony Romo came off Bucs’ pressure. Three came on four-man rushes and one came on a three-man rush when Michael Bennett bulled Jason Witten and Doug Free was looking to his left. I don’t know what the line call was, but the Bucs had three guys on the line. Bennett is lined up outside of Witten at the snap. At some point common sense should kick in and Free should know he needs to help Witten. He didn’t and Romo was sacked.

Romo was hit 11 times out of 39 pass attempts. He was sacked four times and scrambled once.

Let’s talk about the one running play that did work: Murray’s 11-yard touchdown run. This was blocked perfectly. Tyron Smith smothered Adrian Clayborn at the line. Witten dominated Brandon McDonald. Miles Austin got just enough of a rushing Ronde Barber to push him by Murray. Kevin Ogletree locked up Eric Wright.

The only player to touch Murray on the play was Austin.

Who says we can’t be positive?

Defensively, it’s hard not to be positive with that kind of game. Maybe Josh Freeman had something to do with it, but the Cowboys were aggressive. Just maybe not as aggressive as you would think

I had the Cowboys for nine rushes of five or more in the game. They had seven five-man pressures in each of the first two games. So Rob Ryan called two more blitzes. Both of DeMarcus Ware’s sacks came on five-man or more rushes.

How aggressive were the Cowboys outside? They lined up in press coverage 38 times out of 53 snaps. The jams provided by Mike Jenkins, Morris Claiborne, Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick just threw the Bucs wide receivers off. They could not beat the jam. Even Vincent Jackson’s only catch -- a 29 yarder -- came on a contested play by Scandrick.

Bruce Carter is a quick learner. On Tampa Bay’s only touchdown he never put his eyes on tight end Luke Stocker and was sucked in by the play-action fake, giving Josh Freeman an easy throw for a score in the first quarter. In the second quarter he perfectly read a Freeman throw to fullback Erik Lorig, who was sliding through the line, and made the stop for no yards on a big third and 3.

Doug Free with tough challenges

December, 15, 2011
IRVING, Texas -- Cowboys left tackle Doug Free has faced some difficult times of late.

Free is credited with allowing six sacks and three quarterback hits this season, according to Pro Football Focus, which grades the snaps of every NFL player.

"You can always play better," Free said after Thursday's practice. "If there's ever a point you don't think you can play any better, I don't think it's not the way. I can always play better."

The last three weeks, Free has taken on Miami's Randy Starks, Arizona's Calais Campbell and the New York Giants Jason Pierre-Paul.

Pierre-Paul had eight tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss, two quarterback hurries, a forced fumble and a blocked field goal on Sunday night.

Not all on Free, of course. But he was very busy.

"Just got to figure out what your game is going to be against him and stuff," Free said of Pierre-Paul. "Nothing personal against him. Everybody plays a little different and that's kind of his playing style. It's something you got to get in your head and kinda get ready for."

On Saturday night, Free will be facing Bucs rookie Adrian Clayborn, who leads the team with 6.5 sacks and 24 quarterback pressures. The Eagles' Trent Cole (nine sacks) is next and a rematch, and a rematch vs. Pierre-Paul looms in the regular-season finale on New Year's Day.

The next three weeks are not only big for Free, but the Cowboys as a whole.

"It's huge," Free said of the next three weeks. "We got a lot of tough teams to play and two division games, and it's going to be a tough couple weeks and we have to get it locked down and get it going."

Feelin' a draft: Who's No. 9?

January, 3, 2011
The Cowboys earned the ninth overall pick with their 6-10 season, the highest they’ll draft since taking Terence Newman fifth overall in 2003, unless Jerry Jones trades down.

Here’s a quick look at the players ranked ninth overall right now on the draft boards of ESPN’s experts.

Texas A&M OLB Von Miller, a pass-rushing machine from DeSoto, is No. 9 on Mel Kiper’s Big Board. Miller would be a phenomenal fit in a 3-4 defense, but it’s extremely unlikely that the Cowboys will pick the local kid. Anthony Spencer didn’t have a good season, but he’s a recent first-round pick who has demonstrated the ability to be a force opposite perennial Pro Bowler DeMarcus Ware. The Cowboys have too many glaring needs to spend a top-10 pick on this position.

Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn is ninth in Scouts Inc.’s rankings. Clayborn played in a 4-3 scheme with the Hawkeyes, but at 6-foot-3, 285 pounds, he has the frame to be a 3-4 defensive end who would move inside on passing downs. Marcus Spears, Stephen Bowen and Jason Hatcher will all be unrestricted free agents – and at least two aren’t likely to return to Valley Ranch – so defensive end ranks up there with the offensive line and secondary on the Cowboys’ list of draft priorities.