Dallas Cowboys: Jabari Greer

Grudge Match: Saints-Cowboys matchups

November, 25, 2010

The key matchups for this afternoon's Saints-Cowboys game:

*Cowboys secondary vs. Saints QB Drew Brees: Coming into last week’s game against the Lions, quarterback Shaun Hill did nothing to make me believe that he would press the ball down the field against this Cowboys secondary. Everything that Hill was doing was short and in the middle of the defense.

This week the Cowboys face one of the most productive quarterbacks in the NFL since 2006. Drew Brees has been outstanding in taking Sean Payton’s offense to a whole new level. He is the perfect quarterback for this system because of his ability to be accurate, to get rid of the ball quickly and to be able to throw on the move.

When you study Brees, his most impressive trait is his ability to be accurate. There are plenty of plays where the defensive backs have his receivers covered and there is little separation, but Brees is able to fit the ball into a tight window and allow his receivers to make yards after the catch.

When these two teams met last December, it was the Cowboys secondary that played well in the nickel.

The Saints will play with three receivers and two tight ends that can all catch the ball. Brees likes to try and look the defenders off with his eyes when he begins his drop. Brees is outstanding at pulling defenders away from where he is going with the football.

Defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni has played more zone coverage in the last two weeks trying to help his secondary but needs to find a way to get some form of pressure on Brees. That might be difficult against the Saints, who are second-best in the league protecting their quarterback.

*Cowboys TE Jason Witten vs, Saints SS Roman Harper: The Saints come into this contest as the second-ranked defense in the NFL against the pass. Despite that ranking, there are some plays to be made against them.

In studying corners Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter, the Seahawks were able to make some plays on the double move against them. Miles Austin hit them with the same move to opening the scoring for the Cowboys in December.

If the Saints are able lock it down on the outside, watch tight end Jason Witten. The Saints are in the middle of the pack when it comes to rushing the passer and the scheme might not require Witten to stay in and help with protection. Saints safety Roman Harper likes to hang around the line of scrimmage and play the run, while Malcolm Jenkins is more of a cover guy and plays the role of a true free safety.

Jenkins will also draw coverage of Witten, because to play Witten, you have to be physical and have to have the ability to run with him. Harper played Witten last year and it was a physical game between the two.

Jon Kitna has done an excellent job of getting the ball down the field and into the hands of his receivers. Where Witten has helped him is with routes to the outside going away from the defenders.

Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams might be forced to use Jenkins on the outside against Austin or Bryant and that leaves Witten one-on-one with Harper and a match up the Cowboys could try and work.

*Cowboys DEs Jason Hatcher and Stephen Bowen vs. Saints RT Jon Stinchcomb: The strength of this Saints offensive line is inside with the guards Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans. Where they struggle is at the center spot with Jonathan Goodwin and tackle Jon Stinchcomb.

Last year when these two teams met, it was Jermon Bushrod that had the most problems with DeMarcus Ware. In studying Bushrod, he is playing much better and is not the weak link of the offensive line. Stinchcomb doesn’t play with much power at all and there are times where he is driven into the backfield when he takes his pass set or while trying to get push at the point of attack.

After last year’s meeting, Sean Payton said that his coaches would need to think of different ways to help their tackles in pass protection. The Saints have a fullback on the roster in Heath Evans and also use tight end Dave Thomas in that role.

The Saints coaching staff is well aware of what Ware did to them last season and might try to make sure that doesn’t happen again. They will try and help Stinchcomb with a back to that side in the passing game.

Regardless of who is lined up over Stinchcomb, they need to take advantage of him in the running game setting the edge or in the passing game by closing the pocket to the right side on Brees and not allowing him to get outside and throw the football.

Scout's Eye: Saints-Cowboys preview

November, 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Day begins a stretch for the Cowboys where they play three of the top-rated quarterbacks in the NFL in consecutive weeks as they try to dig themselves out of this hole that has become the 2010 season.

Scout's Eye
Since Wade Phillips was replaced as the head coach by Jason Garrett, the Cowboys have done a much better job of consistently making plays in all three phases of their games.

The running game, which struggled for the majority of the season, has shown signs of improvement in the last two weeks against the Giants and Lions. It has not been a dominant unit but as a whole is doing a much better job of running with a purpose. The balance is due to the offense playing with a lead or the game in a manageable position.

The secondary has been helped with defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni relying more on a zone-coverage scheme, replacing the man scheme that exposed the defensive backs to big plays when the pass rush was unable to get home. Pasqualoni is focusing more on sound principles than the high-risk and pressure style of Phillips.

Quarterback Jon Kitna has been more than adequate leading an offense that is in the process of developing one of the most exciting and explosive players in rookie receiver Dez Bryant. The Saints have been a middle-of-the-pack team when it comes to rushing the passer but are ranked second in the NFL is pass defense.

In studying the last game the Saints played against Seattle, cornerback Jabari Greer was beaten badly on two long completions, one on a “stutter-go” or double move. In the contest that these two clubs played last season, Miles Austin scored on a similar move to get the Cowboys on the scoreboard first.

Both Tracy Porter and Greer are aggressive corners but they can afford to play this way because the safety play of Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper has been outstanding. Harper likes to play close to the line and get in on the action while Jenkins is more of a true free safety.

The matchup with Harper and tight end Jason Witten will be interesting. To play Witten, you have to be physical and have strength but be able to run with him. Harper has those types of traits when you talk about safety play.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Saints have one of the most explosive attacks that you will ever see. Sean Payton does an outstanding job of using all of his players in this attack.

Quarterback Drew Brees is deadly accurate throwing the ball to a talented group of receivers led by Marques Colston. The Saints like to run a three-receiver package with Colston in the slot, Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem on the outside. On third downs, watch Lance Moore. He seems to be a favorite target of Brees when he needs a play.

Speaking of players to watch, tight end David Thomas is an interesting player. He really stands out when you are studying tape. The Saints like to line him up in the backfield, inline and outside. He really plays the role of what John Phillips did for the Cowboys last season. Thomas is not as stiff of an athlete as Phillips and requires the defense’s attention anytime he is in the game. He can get down the field, work short or in the flat.

This week could mark the return of running back Reggie Bush to the Saints lineup. Bush is one of the most dynamic players in the NFL today, but how will his game conditioning be after such a long layoff?

The numbers say that the Saints are ranked 26th in the league running the ball, but rookie Chris Ivory is a player that I would love to have on my team. He is a physical load with the ball in his hands. He runs with power and brute force. If he can line you up in his sights, he will punish you.

The guards for the Saints are the best players along the offensive line. Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans are outstanding. Center Jonathan Goodwin is able to be a marginal player because these guards are so good.

If the Cowboys are going to attack an area of the Saints, it should be Jon Stinchcomb at right tackle. Stinchcomb is not as strong in the running game and will give ground in the passing game. Jermon Bushrod at left tackle is who the Cowboys went at last season, but he appears to be playing better in both the run and pass.

After the game last season, Payton spoke of his team’s inability to protect in the game when it needed to the most. There is no doubt in my mind that the Saints will do all they can to help their tackles in this game against DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer.

When these two teams met last season, the one area that really stood out for the Cowboys was their ability to make plays in their nickel defense. There is going to be a tremendous amount of pressure on the Cowboys secondary in this game. Mike Jenkins, Terence Newman and Orlando Scandrick will need to be at their best if the Cowboys are going to be successful in this game.