Dallas Cowboys: Matt Moore

Five Wonders: Tagging Jason Hatcher?

December, 3, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys have had some time to wonder some things after their win on Thanksgiving against the Oakland Raiders.

Every Tuesday as always wonder about some things. Five Wonders is back and off we go:
  • Jason Hatcher is having a career year and it could not have come at a better time. Hatcher will be a free agent after the season and already has more sacks this year than he has had in any season. And he could make the Pro Bowl, which is something he mentions frequently. But Hatcher will turn 32 next July. I'm on record saying the Cowboys can't pay age. But I wonder if the Cowboys would consider using the franchise tag on him. It would chew up $9-10 million in salary-cap room, but they would buy some time in finding defensive line help for beyond 2014. The Cowboys will have to make a number of moves to get under the cap, but they would be able to fit Hatcher in at the franchise number. Is it worth it? The Cowboys put the tag on Anthony Spencer last year, paying him $10.6 million. I thought it was the right move at the time and did not second guess it after Spencer's knee injury cost him all but one game this season. I'm not as sure about tagging Hatcher. They might have to restructure more deals than they would want and that would also affect the cap in 2015 and beyond. And last year the defensive line market was thin, even for the top players.
  • I wonder if the Cowboys will have a decision to make on backup quarterback Kyle Orton in the offseason. He will make $3.25 million in 2014 and count $4.377 against the salary cap. The Cowboys will have to do a lot of maneuvering to get under the cap in the offseason and could just restructure Orton's contract in the same way they did last March. The Cowboys have yet to start the clock on finding Tony Romo's replacement, which is another reason to keep Orton around. But the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers also offer up valid reasons to keep Orton even if he does not throw a pass this year. The Packers season has gone to shreds without Aaron Rodgers. They have not won since losing Rodgers, turning first to Seneca Wallace, who got hurt, then to Scott Tolzien and now they're on Matt Flynn. The Bears are 2-3 without Jay Cutler, though it is difficult to put much of the blame on Josh McCown. He's done a nice job and been a stabilizing force, but the Bears appeared to learn their lesson when they lost Cutler in previous seasons. Romo turns 34 in April. He's battled injuries in the past and had back surgery last April. Keeping Orton makes sense and something I think the Cowboys do. It's an insurance policy worth keeping.
  • I wonder if the Cowboys had Laurent Robinson in the back of their mind when they have signed some of these defensive linemen this season. Confused? Hear me out. In 2011, Robinson had a career year with 54 catches for 858 yards and 11 touchdowns, but because the Cowboys signed him to a minimum salary-benefit contract they were unable to re-sign him before he hit free agency. Jacksonville swooped in with a five-year, $32.5 million deal with $14 million guaranteed. It was way too rich for the Cowboys -- and ultimately the Jaguars -- but without the restriction Robinson would have re-signed with the Cowboys at a much cheaper rate. That brings me to the defensive linemen. When the Cowboys signed George Selvie, Everette Brown, Jarius Wynn, Drake Nevis and Martez Wilson, they made sure they got a second year on the contracts. They are all signed through 2014, so if they hit -- and Selvie is a hit -- the Cowboys hold their rights for a second year. That's a shrewd move, in my opinion.
  • I wonder if DeMarco Murray can reach 1,000 yards. Yep, I do. Murray missed two games with a knee injury and essentially missed a third when he got just four carries for 31 yards against the Minnesota Vikings when the game plan called for Tony Romo to pass the ball early and often. But with four games to go Murray needs 303 yards to reach 1,000. In his last three games Murray has rushed for 89, 86 and 63 yards. If he keeps up that pace, he would get there. Reaching 1,000 yards should not be that difficult, but the Cowboys sure seem to make it difficult after years of Tony Dorsett and Emmitt Smith almost annually reaching the mark. The last Dallas runner to go for more than 1,000 yards was Julius Jones (1,084) in 2006 and that's the Cowboys only 1,000-yard rusher since 2001.
  • I don't wonder if the Cowboys will rue the day they lost Alex Tanney, just as I don't think the Cowboys have rued the day since losing Matt Moore oh so many years ago. (Long-time readers will know how I feel about Moore). The Cleveland Browns signed Tanney off the Cowboys' practice squad last week. I liked what Tanney did in a short time with the Cowboys over the summer. He showed some things in his preseason work, but there will be a new Tanney next summer. Or even next week. I wonder if the Cowboys add a quarterback to the practice squad over the final month of the season. They could use the last four weeks to bring a guy in for a free look and essentially give him a “signing bonus” for four weeks of being on the practice squad and sign him to a futures deal when the season ends.

W2W4: Five things for Texans-Cowboys

August, 29, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys meet the Houston Texans in the preseason for the first time since 2010 at AT&T Stadium. Intrastate pride might be on the line for the fans of both teams, but little else.

With 75 players on the roster, some jobs remain but most are filled. Here’s what we’ll be looking at tonight:

Job fair: With 18 roster moves to make by Saturday’s cut-down date, most of the decisions have likely been made. There are perhaps two open spots with as many as eight guys looking to fit the square peg. Would the Cowboys carry five tight ends? How about six receivers? Nine defensive linemen?

Defensive tackle Sean Lissemore, tight end Andre Smith, wide receiver Anthony Armstrong, cornerback Micah Pellerin, tackle DeMetress Bell, guard David Arkin and guard Kevin Kowalski can make their cases tonight. Linebacker Brandon Magee (concussion), safeties Eric Frampton (calf), Danny McCray (hamstring) and Matt Johnson (foot) will have to watch and sweat out the final decisions.

Dez Bryant joins Tim MacMahon and Landry Locker to discuss his hobby of studying the game's great receivers, if his next contract ever crosses his mind, what it was like to be investigated by the NCAA and much, much more.

Listen Listen
Tanney time: Maybe Kyle Orton opens the game, but the Cowboys will give Alex Tanney most of the work.

With needs at other positions and injury questions going into the opener, Tanney is looking more like a practice-squad fit than a 53-man roster fit. If he plays lights out, he could change the equation or at the very least get another team to keep him on the 53-man roster the way Matt Moore did a few years ago.

Check out the Texans: Last year the Cowboys closed the preseason against Miami and traded for veteran offensive lineman Ryan Cook a few days later based on what they saw in that game.

With the Cowboys moving to a pure zone blocking scheme this year, check out the Texans’ offensive linemen. Assistant offensive line coach Frank Pollack spent five years with the Texans (2007-11) and will have a good idea of what would be a good fit with the Cowboys.

As unsettled as the Cowboys are with their starting offensive line they’re more unsettled with the backups. A case could be made they don’t have a ninth or 10th guy (if they choose to reach double digits) on their current roster to fill out the line.

Earning practice squad jobs: Tanney has been talked about, but there will be seven other spots to fill. The Cowboys like to keep receivers and defensive backs on the practice squad because of the amount of running in practice, so guys like Danny Coale, Tim Benford and Pellerin bear watching.

And the line play will have candidates to, like defensive end Jerome Long and offensive tackle Darrion Weems. Linebacker could be another spot of interest with Cameron Lawrence and Taylor Reed.

The digital board: Chris Jones hit it last week with a punt against Cincinnati and the Bengals returned the re-kick 75 yards for a touchdown, continuing a preseason-long issue of special teams’ miscues. Jones is unlikely to hit it again, but watching it to see the clock tick down will be more important because it brings us closer to the start of the regular season.

Matt Johnson to have MRI on ankle

August, 4, 2013
CANTON, Ohio -- Safety Matt Johnson will have an MRI on his left ankle when the Cowboys return to Oxnard, Calif., on Monday morning.

Johnson was hurt in the second quarter of Sunday’s 24-20 win against Miami as he tracked down wide receiver Chad Bumphis on a 45-yard gain. Johnson landed awkwardly as he tackled Bumphis and limped to the sideline.

X-rays during the game were negative.

Also, defensive end Ben Bass was kicked in his left knee after defensive end Kyle Wilber pressured quarterback Matt Moore. Bass was examined by the medical staff and did not return to the game, but owner and general manager Jerry Jones said he was told it’s not believed to be serious.

Running back Phillip Tanner had X-rays on his left arm. He left in the first quarter but was able to return to the game. After the game, Tanner said he was fine.

Rookie wide receiver Terrance Williams did not play against the Dolphins after suffering a concussion in practice Friday but still made the trip to Canton.

“I’m going to tell you day by day, but we don’t think what he has is a serious issue,” coach Jason Garrett said of Williams' status.

Rapid Reaction: Cowboys 24, Dolphins 20

August, 4, 2013

CANTON, Ohio -- The Dallas Cowboys opened their preseason with a 24-20 win against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday in the Hall of Fame Game thanks to a stingy defense and a solid running game, which was something they did not really have last season.

The Cowboys have now won their preseason opener four straight years. What does that mean? Not much, since they have missed the playoffs in three of the last four seasons.

What it means: With a new playcaller on offense in Bill Callahan and a new defense led by Monte Kiffin, getting off to a good start is a positive. The only starters that played were tackles Tyron Smith and Doug Free, center Travis Frederick and linebacker Justin Durant. Free and Smith played a series. Frederick moved over to guard in the second quarter and for some of the third. Durant played a handful of series. While it’s still a question, the Cowboys found some answers for depth in guys like George Selvie, Phillip Tanner and Joseph Randle.

DeVonte Holloman with a pick-six: The rookie linebacker had the most athletic play of the night when he reached back to snag a Matt Moore throw intended for Chad Bumphis. Holloman was able to compose himself and then sprint 75 yards for the touchdown, slamming Moore to the turf with a facemask. Last season, the Cowboys forced turnovers at an alarmingly infrequent rate, which led to Rob Ryan’s firing and Kiffin’s arrival. On the first series, Nick Hayden came up with a fumble recovery that set up Tanner’s touchdown run. In the second half, the defense forced two fourth-down stops.

There’s a running game: One of the biggest complaints about Jason Garrett was his willingness to abandon the run. Callahan’s background as an offensive coordinator has many believing the Cowboys will have more balance. In the first half, the Cowboys’ three runners -- Tanner, Randle and Lance Dunbar -- averaged more than five yards per carry. In the second half, Randle did a nice job of picking up yards on his own. The Dolphins weren’t playing many of their regulars, but the fact that the Cowboys ran it 17 times for 97 yards in the first two quarters was a good sign. Last season, the Cowboys had four games in which they had fewer than 17 carries. Even undrafted rookie Kendial Lawrence got into the act with a 7-yard touchdown run with 1:57 to play in the game.

Injury concerns: Safety Matt Johnson was off to a good start by starting the game, but he was hurt tracking down Bumphis on a 45-yard catch and run. He suffered a left ankle sprain and did not return. Defensive end Ben Bass hurt his left knee and did not return to the game but appeared to be fine on the sideline. He did not go to the locker room for X-rays, and he did not receive extra attention from the athletic training staff. Tanner hurt his left arm in the first quarter but was able to return to the game.

What’s next: The Cowboys play at Oakland on Friday in preseason game No. 2, and the starters will see some playing time against the Raiders.
Will the Eagles hit their average of six plays of 20 yards or more Saturday against the Cowboys?

After what you've seen the past several weeks, you couldn't possibly think the Cowboys can stop Philadelphia's offense.

Not when Dallas has made average quarterbacks such as Washington's Rex Grossman, Miami's Matt Moore and Arizona's Kevin Kolb resemble the game's best quarterbacks. Do you really think this pass defense that Eli Manning torched for 400 yards passing can hold up against Philadelphia's big-play attack?

It can't. And it won't.

Philadelphia is tied for third in the NFL in plays of 20 yards or more with 73. The Eagles rank second in plays of 10 yards or more with 226.

The Cowboys have allowed 33 plays of 20 yards or more in their last eight games. See, this is a bad matchup for the Cowboys. When the Eagles go to their formation with three receivers, a tight end and a running back, Dallas is going to have all sorts of matchup problems.

In his last two starts against the Cowboys, Mike Vick has led the Eagles to an average of 32 points and more than 7.0 yards per play.

None of this means the Cowboys can't win. It just means Dallas' only shot is to win a shootout because the Eagles will hit their average of six plays of 20 points or more and score at least 31 points.

Would Nnamdi Asomugha have made difference?

December, 14, 2011
IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys did not hide their interest in adding cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha as a free agent in the early part of the 2011 training camp.

Asomugha ended up signing a five-year, $60 million deal, with $25 million guaranteed, the Philadelphia Eagles after the Cowboys were unwilling to go that high.

“It was an opportunity to improve ourselves if it worked out,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “But it didn’t work out.”

The Cowboys have allowed a 100-yard receiver in four straight games and have been burned by less-than-stellar quarterbacks such as Washington’s Rex Grossman, Miami’s Matt Moore and Arizona’s Kevin Kolb in important moments before a start-to-finish whipping by the New York Giants’ Eli Manning on Sunday.

While he is not having the Pro Bowl type of season he had in Oakland, would Asomugha have upgraded a secondary that has struggled lately?

“I don’t know,” Jones said. “It’s not over yet. We’ve got to play the Buccaneers. We control our own destiny if we win the rest of our games and we will see. A fair question.”

Scout's Eye: Cowboys-Dolphins review

November, 29, 2011
Scout's Eye
The Dallas Cowboys ended November with a 4-0 record and the 18th career win for Tony Romo in the month since he took over as the starting quarterback for the Cowboys.

As impressive as that stat is, fans care more about what you do in December, January and now February. You have heard me mention many times before how difficult it is to win in the National Football League. You fully appreciate how hard it really is and how grateful you are when it happens after being in offices around the league.

The 2011 Cowboys have done a nice job of playing their best football at the right times. There are too many times that we get caught up in what the opposing team’s record is, using that as a base for how we think the Cowboys will play on a weekly basis.

In the tradition of things to be thankful for, I am grateful that I get the opportunity to break these games down for you, trying to give you a clear idea of why and how with this Dallas Cowboys squad.

Romo overcomes mistakes to save Cowboys

For the second week in a row, Romo won this game for the Cowboys with the way that he managed the quarterback position despite some early mistakes with the interceptions.

The first interception, which was intended for Martellus Bennett, was clearly Romo’s fault with the lack of depth as he tried to fit the ball to Bennett up the sideline. Romo threw the ball too much on the line instead of putting air under it. Cornerback Vontae Davis was able to adjust his coverage on the route because he was really not threatened by Bennett’s vertical route. The safety was not a factor in the coverage coming over, and Romo was not pressured at all to have to make that throw much like others that he had to make under duress.

Laurent Robinson took the blame for the second interception. At pre-snap, Jason Witten and Robinson flip spots on the line. Witten moves to the slot and Robinson outside. At the snap, Robinson tries an outside release against Sean Smith, who doesn’t lose position in the route. Robinson really doesn’t buy himself much space.

Smith is in great position and Romo throws the ball to the curl with Smith standing in front of Robinson. Romo threw the ball in tight coverage, evidence of the confidence that Romo has in Robinson and that receiver is going to run the right route.

Romo-to-Robinson connection clicking

Speaking of Robinson’s route running, his first touchdown was perfectly executed. This play in the red zone now has a chance because the way that DeMarco Murray has been running the ball the last several weeks. Without the threat of a running game, you don’t get this type of bite on a play-action.

On the play, Robinson is the only receiver on the field and lined up wide left. At the snap of the ball, the line blocks full flow going to their right, Murray starts to stretch right, and Romo fakes to Murray while moving right to draw the Dolphins’ defense up and to that side. Robinson holds one count like he is going to block, then explodes to the inside, leaving his man.

Romo’s eyes now find Robinson in the middle of the field uncovered with the linebackers moving forward. Romo throws the ball to an area, and Robinson is able to adjust and make the catch for the touchdown.

One more example of Robinson and Romo clicking was on the second touchdown throw.

With the Cowboys down 16-10 at the start of the fourth quarter and the ball on the Dolphins’ 18-yard line, Garrett goes with three wide receivers, one tight end and one running back. Dez Bryant is lined up wide left, Witten is on the line to the right, and Kevin Ogletree is in the slot to the right with Robinson outside of him.

At the snap, Witten starts vertical, working the middle of the field between the hashes. Bryant drives hard inside to cross the path of Witten. Ogletree works outside then up like he is running a wheel route. Robinson clears Ogletree going vertical. The protection is able to hold up to a point while all of this is developing down the field. Romo then flushes to his left, with his eyes down the field. Romo is able to square his shoulders and finds Robinson running along the backside of the end zone.

Robinson has a step on Smith and safety Yeremiah Bell doesn’t react well enough to Robinson, who crosses behind him. Romo throws the ball in a manner that allows Robinson to adjust to the pass by extending his body to make his catch, then drag his toes. Smith dives to try and defend the pass, but the ball is so well thrown that he has no chance to make the play.

Big-time throw, big-time catch.

Dolphins' Marshall gets best of Newman

Coming into this game, there were going to be several players on the Dolphins that were going to present problems for the Dallas defense.

Brandon Marshall is an outstanding wide receiver. In studying him, you could see that Terence Newman and Orlando Scandrick were going to have their hands full because of his physical style and the way he likes to use his hands to push off in route. Scandrick learned this firsthand on a play-action pass down the field. Marshall shoved Scandrick off the line to get separation. It was clearly pass interference, but it was not called, which resulted in a big gain for the Dolphins.

Marshall also took advantage of Newman on a touchdown pass. Newman had been playing well in his press coverage, but in this case, he missed with his hands on the jam and allowed Marshall to get up the field. Safety Abram Elam played shallow to try to help Sean Lee with tight end Anthony Fasano. Elam is trying his best to do two jobs but is unable to really help Newman fully. Anthony Spencer is applying late pressure on quarterback Matt Moore, but it’s not enough and he is able to deliver the ball down the field to Marshall, who makes the catch with Newman around his neck. The coverage really broke down for Newman when he missed with his hands on the jam.

Cowboys' Ware vindicates himself

The position that played well for the Cowboys in this game was their outside linebackers. I had been very critical of DeMarcus Ware in the Redskins game for his lack of production on the final drive as the game was in the balance. In this Dolphins game, Ware was outstanding not only as a pressure player but in coverage as well.

One of the plays that I wanted to point out was when Ware carried Reggie Bush up the field in the red zone. We all know what an outstanding rusher Ware is, but in this play, you see what an aware football player he really is.

On the play, Ware is lined up as an inside linebacker in the middle of the defense. At the snap, Lee is trying to cover Bush by banging him at the line. Lee loses contact with Bush as he escapes through the middle of the defense. Ware sees that Bush is clear of Lee and adjusts to play him in coverage. Moore sees Bush clear Lee but has to try to float the ball over Ware, who is in outstanding shape on Bush. Moore would have to make a perfect throw to get the ball to Bush with Ware on coverage and he is unable to do that.

It was a nice, heads-up play by Ware that saved a touchdown.

Cowboys' Spencer stellar on goal-line stand

Anthony Spencer also played one of his better games of the season. Spencer was all over the field, whether it was in the running game, pressuring Moore or in coverage.

One of the key series of the game was in the fourth quarter when the Dolphins managed to get the ball to the Cowboys’ 3. Spencer played a key role in holding the Dolphins to a field goal.

On first-and-goal, the Dolphins try to run the ball on the edge, but Ryan slants his defensive line inside toward the center and Spencer is able to shoot the gap and make a tackle for a loss of two yards.

On second-and-goal, Moore tries a play-action pass. Spencer is now outside of tackle Marc Colombo and takes a sharp angle down inside off the edge. Colombo tries to work down then back to the outside but is too late to take care of Spencer, who is now in the path of Moore’s arm and is able to slap the ball out of his hand for an incomplete.

On third-and-goal, Ryan decides that he wants to bring two rushers from the same side. Ware and Spencer both are lined up together off the Dolphins’ right side. At the snap, Newman gets beat inside by Brian Hartline. Spencer rushes hard inside against Colombo again. Moore has to flush to his right to avoid the rush, and Elam turns in the middle of the field as he sees Newman struggling with Hartline in the back of the end zone. Elam is able to keep himself between Moore and Hartline. Moore, throwing the ball on the move, throws it too high and to the right of Hartline with Elam in position. Elam defends the pass, and instead of coming away with six points, the Dolphins have to settle for three.

The entire Dolphins drive was affected by Spencer, who at times shows the ability to make those types of plays.

Jerry Jones: Call against Elam was 'terrible'

November, 25, 2011
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones used the words "terrible" and "awful" to describe the penalty called against safety Abram Elam that kept the Miami Dolphins' go-ahead drive alive in the fourth quarter Thursday.

With the Dolphins facing third-and-4 from their own 38, DeMarcus Ware sacked quarterback Matt Moore to force a fourth down. But the referees flagged Elam with illegal contact, keeping the drive alive.

The Dolphins went on to get a 23-yard field goal by Shayne Graham to take a 19-17 lead midway through the fourth quarter. The Cowboys later responded to win the game on Dan Bailey's 28-yard field goal as time expired.

"We had a terrible, about as bad of an officiating call, on a hold on Elam, that would have given us the turnover, that I've seen," Jones said on his Friday morning radio show on KRLD-FM. "In review, it is awful. The bottom line is you got to have that. You're going to get some of those but you shouldn’t. But you're going to get some of them. It really shouldn’t be called if you don’t see it, and he didn’t see that because it wasn’t there."

Elam did get both hands on tight end Anthony Fasano as he tried a swim move to get past him while moving down the field. It was a questionable call in a close game where every play was important.

"That’s part of the game," Elam said of the call. "They get paid to officiate, we get paid to play, so all I can do is go back and line up and we were able to hold them down to just a field goal."

Welcome to Cowboys Stadium

November, 24, 2011
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Normally facing a team with a 3-7 record would be viewed as quite an advantage for the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving, but that’s not necessarily the case this year.

The Miami Dolphins, however, enter Cowboys Stadium with a three-game winning streak by a combined 72 points.

That has helped Jason Garrett sell this game to his team perhaps as much as the struggle they endured Sunday against the Washington Redskins, a team Miami beat 20-9 on Nov. 13. The Cowboys will be looking for their first four-game winning streak since Weeks 5-9 of the 2009 season.

The last time these teams played on Thanksgiving, the Dolphins tore apart what had been a great defense in a 40-21 victory at Texas Stadium on Nov. 27, 2003.

Cowboys update (6-4): Tony Romo was unable to play in the Thanksgiving game last year because of a fractured collarbone, but the holiday has been kind to him in the past. The Cowboys are 4-0 in Romo’s Thanksgiving starts, and he has thrown 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions in wins against Tampa Bay, the New York Jets, Seattle and Oakland. He has had three 300-yard passing days, topped out with 331 yards against Seattle in 2008.

Cowboys' inactives: Jon Kitna, Miles Austin, Mike Jenkins, Tony Fiammetta, Daniel Loper, David Arkin, Clifton Geathers.

Dolphins update (3-7): Miami has won three straight games for the first time since 2008 when they closed the year with five straight wins. Those wins were largely a product of the defense. It has not allowed a touchdown in the last 12 quarters to beat Kansas City, Washington and Buffalo. The 86 points scored by the Dolphins is the third-best run of the Tony Sparano era. Quarterback Matt Moore has had three straight games with a passer rating over 100.

Dolphins’ inactives: Dan Carpenter, Steve Slaton, Ikaika Alama-Francis, Will Barker, John Jerry, Will Yeatman, Igor Olshansky.

Scouts in attendance: Arizona, Oakland

Officials: Referee – Pete Morelli, Umpire – Ruben Fowler, Head Linesman – Mark Baltz, Line Judge – John Hussey, Field Judge – Jon Lucivansky, Side Judge – Don Carlsen, Back Judge – Rob Vernatchi, Replay – Tommy Moore.

Opposing voice: Matt Moore

November, 24, 2011
IRVING, Texas -- Since the Cowboys decided to release Matt Moore in 2007, the quarterback has become something of a mythic figure in these parts.

The Cowboys gambled they could slip Moore through the practice squad, but he was claimed by Carolina. To some it was a monumental error because the Cowboys missed out on grooming a young quarterback. To others, it was just a gamble they lost.

Moore visits Cowboys Stadium today as Miami’s starter and currently rides a three-game winning streak for the Dolphins. On the season Moore has completed 119 of 187 passes for 1,319 yards with seven touchdowns and five interceptions. He has been sacked 19 times.

But he has stabilized the Dolphins after an 0-7 start.

“We were obviously struggling early on and I think guy’s attitudes have been great the whole time,” Moore said. “Whatever hump or wall that we were battling and couldn’t get over I think we have. Guys got a little taste of what it’s like to be rewarded with a couple wins and so I just think the attitude, the work ethic of this team, the leadership from Coach Sparano all the way down has been spot on the whole season. And so guys are just staying the course, staying focus, and really working hard.”

This will be the second start of Moore’s career against the Cowboys. In 2007 he made the second start of his career in a 20-13 loss for Carolina. He completed 15 of 28 passes for 182 yards and had one touchdown and one interception.

“That was my rookie year,” Moore said. “You know more things. I’ve played in a lot more games, seen so many more things of what the defense throws at you just being comfortable in a game. I think that was my second start of my career the last time we played Dallas. Just really having a good base of starts and reps and live game action. And so that’s going to be the biggest thing.”

Matt Moore

Grudge Match: Dolphins-Cowboys keys

November, 24, 2011

*Cowboys CBs Terence Newman and Orlando Scandrick vs. Dolphins WR Brandon Marshall: After what Redskins receiver Jabar Gaffney did last week against the Cowboys secondary, there has to be some concern about this week’s matchup with one of the most physical receivers these corners have faced since the Lions’ Calvin Johnson.

There is no simple way to put this other than Newman and Scandrick had better be ready for a receiver that uses his hands and body to buy space when he is running routes. Marshall will try to beat up on corners.

Scout's Eye
He really is an outstanding route runner. He is so smooth at doing it that he will run full speed up the field, eating the cushion of the corner, then hitting the brakes and working outside to get the corner off-balance.

One of Marshall’s better routes is the slant. When the Dolphins need a first down, they will go in that direction.

Marshall can also be a problem in the red zone. Marshall is outstanding adjusting to the ball, whether it’s back-shoulder throws or fades. Against the Bills last week, he made an outstanding catch along the end line, adjusting to a pass from Matt Moore with a defender on his back.

In studying the Dolphins games, you can see the confidence that Moore has in Marshall. He is not afraid to throw him the ball no matter how covered he is.

The Cowboys secondary cannot afford to have another off day like it did last week with holding calls and soft coverage. It’s going to be a 60-minute game with Brandon Marshall.

*Cowboys ILB Sean Lee vs. Dolphins RB Reggie Bush: Despite playing with one hand, Lee has been outstanding playing with a dislocated left wrist. You would never know that he is handicapped in any way playing with that club on his left hand.

Dolphins offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has done a nice job of using Bush in several different ways in his attack. In New Orleans, Sean Payton didn’t use Bush as an every-down back, instead creating certain packages for him in the offense. Daboll uses him as a regular back, running him between the tackles.

Bush has really helped the Dolphins' offense when Miami uses him in play-action. He is such an explosive player that defenses are forced to step up to try to make an early tackle before he gets going, then routes develop behind them.

Bush is also effective as a route runner. Bush does a job running the choice or option routes. Bush has outstanding hands, and once he gets the ball in his hands, he can be a problem in the open field.

Lee doesn’t have the speed or the quickness of Bush, but he does have the smarts to read routes and be in position to help defend. The Cowboys have to be careful when Bush has the ball in space. He is a powerful enough runner that can run through tackles. In the open field, he needs to be brought down quickly before he can do any real damage.

*Cowboys RT Tyron Smith vs. Dolphins OLB Cameron Wake: This is going to be a serious battle Thursday afternoon.

I have to be honest that I didn’t know much about Wake as a pass rusher, but I do now. Wake keeps coming at you. He plays with a high motor and nice intensity.

He is one of those players that tends to give Smith trouble because he plays with power and quickness. Smith can handle the athletic rusher all day, but he tends to struggle if he has to try to anchor down and stop a charge.

Wake is dangerous because of how quickly he is able to get up the field and get around the corner, but he does it with power. Wake is a good technique rusher and will use an arm-under move to free himself from the blocker.

In recent games, Smith has done a much better job of handling defenders that spin on him inside, like what Jason Babin did to him in the Eagles game. I don’t believe that Smith will have troubles in the running game against Wake, but when the ball has to go in the air, Wake is a different animal. Smith will also get a shot at future Hall of Famer Jason Taylor as well, which is another good matchup.

Scout's Eye: Cowboys-Dolphins preview

November, 23, 2011

Scout's Eye
In the NFL, short weeks of game preparation are never easy. It’s even more difficult having to play a physical divisional game on the road before an opponent that you see once every four years.

There will be nothing easy about this game against the Dolphins. It’s a team that has quality players on both sides of the ball. We should not be fooled by the Dolphins’ 3-7 record, because in the games I have studied, this could have very well been a team on a five-game winning streak going into this game.

The Dolphins will give the Cowboys trouble in this game in two areas offensively, wide receiver and running back.

Be wary of Dolphins' Marshall, Bess, Bush, Clay

Wide receiver Brandon Marshall can be a physical beast when it comes to having to defend him up the field. He is not afraid of using his body to create separation with the defensive backs. Have seen Marshall get into his route, then take both of his hands and push the defensive back away. Marshall will use his body on the slant to protect the ball.

Matt Moore likes to try and get him the ball on the move whether that’s up the field or on the quick screen. Hard man to bring down when on the move with the ball in his hands. Primary target in the red zone on jump balls or back-shoulder throws. Terence Newman and Orlando Scandrick will have to be ready for an all-day physical game with Marshall on the outside.

Davone Bess will play the slot with quickness and the ability to adjust to the ball wherever it is thrown. Bess will need to be watched on third downs because he has a real feel for how to work inside routes and take advantage of coverage that might not be tight.

Running back Reggie Bush has proven that he can handle the workload as an every-down back. Bush makes this play-action game go for the Dolphins. Like the way that offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has taken advantage of his skill set with screens and plays on the edge in the passing game.

Bush can run the ball between the tackles, but he is most dangerous when he gets in space. The Cowboys defense has to be careful to not allow Bush to make to loose plays in space. Tackling on Bush will be key this week.

There is one other weapon I want to bring your attention to: fullback Charles Clay. We all understand now how important Tony Fiammetta is to the Cowboys running the ball. Clay is the same type of player, but he can really hurt you with his ability to get down the field and catch the ball. Clay is a converted tight end that is very athletic. He is a lot like Bess in that you don’t cover him, he will make a big play down the field.

Cowboys should target riight side of Dolphins O-line

On the offensive line, the Dolphins have some nice pieces in left tackle Jake Long and center Mike Pouncey. The weakness of this line is on the right side with tackle Marc Colombo and guard Vernon Carey. I fully expect Rob Ryan to try and put as much pressure on these two with anything scheme-wise that makes them have to move and adjust. Neither Colombo or Carey move that well, and the more you make them have to do that, the better the chance for successful pressure.

Don't sleep on Dolphins' defensive front, linebackers

I really came away impressed with what the Dolphins’ defense is doing scheme-wise and how physical the overall unit plays.

It really starts up front with guys like ends Randy Starks and Jared Odrick. These are powerful players and they are always working their way up the field, not only defeating single blocks. but handling double teams as well. Nose man Paul Soliai is difficult to move, much like what the Cowboys faced with the Jets and 49ers.

But the real strength of this defense is in its linebackers. Koa Misi, Carlos Dansby, Kevin Burnett and Cameron Wake are all outstanding. Misi and Wake are true pressure players. Misi is better against the run, but Wake will be a handful because of his ability to explode off the edge. Misi can get the edge too, but he will fight you more on the rush. Wake will slap, rip all while working his way up the field.

Wake will make Doug Free and Tyron Smith have to adjust on the move and reset their hands several times. They will need to find a way to anchor down on him.

On the inside, Dansby and Burnett will make plays in the running game. Last week against the Redskins, the Cowboys didn’t do a good enough job of handling the linebackers on the second level. If the line has the same kind of problems this week, running the ball will be difficult again.

The Dolphins linebackers run to the ball and they are sure tacklers. If the Cowboys struggle running the ball it will be because these linebackers are going unblocked.

In the games that I was able to study, the Dolphins’ front seven make their secondary better. Pressure has really helped this group make plays like they did last week against the Bills.

Safety Yeremiah Bell is a hitter. Cornerback Will Allen throws his body around. Cornerback Sean Smith is a much better cover man than tackler, and corner Nolan Carroll will force the run. There will be plays to be made against this secondary if -- and only if -- the Cowboys protection can hold up again Wake, Misi and the veteran Jason Taylor.

It’s a defense that has found its way since the loss to the Giants and coming off a short week will be a difficult test for the Cowboys.
Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel gives us his thoughts on all-things Miami Dolphins in our weekly installment of The Other Side.

Q: What's happened down there? What's been the key to the turnaround?

A: As strange as it might seem, despite the team's 0-7 start they've always been a confident team. In fact, it bordered on arrogance. The players kept working hard, kept their attitudes positive, and they kept saying it would eventually turn around. That's exactly what happened once Matt Moore became comfortable, and the defense finally started playing up to expectation.

Q: Is the heat off Tony Sparano?

A: Not really. I don't think he can survive this season unless he puts together at least a .500 record. Too much damage has been done. However, if the Dolphins remain hot it could make it a tough decision for owner Steve Ross. However, the fan base is demanding a regime change and Ross typically gives them what they want. The problem is this team is rallying for Sparano and the rest of Miami's coaches. Unfortunately, it might be too little too late.

Q: How is former Cowboys tackle, Marc Colombo, playing?

A: Horribly. He's a turnstile, which I'm sure isn't much of a surprise to Dallas fans. He's allowed four sacks this season, but a tight end is usually next to him at all times. He typically allows five bad pressures a game, and considering how much Moore locked onto what's going on downfield those pressures can turn into turnovers.

Q: Tell us about the defense. It hasn't given up a touchdown in 12 quarters.

A: The strength of the defense is the defensive line, which is six players deep. Paul Soliai, the nose tackle, is a force against the run. The past four opponents are averaging 2.8 yards per carry. The biggest improvement that's been made comes from Karlos Dansby's resurgence. He can to camp at least 25 pounds over weight and it took him two months to play like he did in 2010. Now that he's doing it some of the pressure that was placed on Kevin Burnett has subsided. Also, the secondary is playing a lot better. A month ago opposing quarterbacks had a cumulative rating of 103.1. Heading into Thursday's game that QB rating has dropped to 85.8.

Q: Matt Moore is a pretty emotional player. How much has this helped during this win streak?

A: He's become a very popular person in the locker room. The players rally around him, and and the feel of the offense is a lot different with Moore as the starter. It doesn't hurt that he's transforming those red zone opportunities into touchdowns. Over the past five games the Dolphins have scored 11 touchdowns on the team's 16 red zone opportunities. Of course the running game has been better, but the touch Moore puts on his passes has also helped.

Q: Will the short week help or hurt the Dolphins?

A: I think it should help the Dolphins considering they are a relatively healthy team. Only one of two players are nursing injuries, and everyone is fairly young, so they should be able to bounce back quickly. However, the short turnaround might hurt the team from a preparation standpoint because the Dolphins are typically show starters. Just look at the 0-7 start.

Q: DeMarcus Ware is one of the best defensive players in the league. How can the Dolphins slow him down?

A: By playing a lot of two tight end sets, and putting a competent blocker in the backfield. Of course Rob Ryan will try to put him up against Colombo, and the Dolphins would be crazy to not protect their weakest link. The best approach might be to shorten the game by running the ball a lot.

Q: You're picking the Dolphins this week, right?

A: No. I think this is the week the team's feel good vibes come to an end. The Dolphins don't do well against teams with strong pass rushing games. That's why I'm picking the Cowboys to win 24-17.

Once 0-7, Dolphins suddenly winning big

November, 21, 2011
A few weeks ago, the Cowboys’ Thanksgiving guests looked like a gimme win.

Not anymore. The Miami Dolphins will bring a three-game winning streak to town.

The Dolphins aren’t just winning. They suddenly started dominating after an 0-7 start that was punctuated by three-point losses to the Broncos and Giants. Miami’s wins over the Chiefs, Redskins and Bills came by an average margin of 22 points.

An inept offense has morphed into an explosive one with Cowboys castoff quarterback Matt Moore throwing for six touchdowns and only one interception during the win streak. The Dolphins, who scored 20 points only once in the first seven games, have put up 31, 20 and 35 in the last few games.

The Dolphins’ defense, which has been respectable all season, hasn’t allowed a touchdown in the last three games.

“The group just keeps fighting, keep swinging pretty good,” Miami coach Tony Sparano told reporters Monday. “I think it’s great, but right now that one is behind us and we’re ready to go to the next one and see what we do.”

A win over these Dolphins certainly isn’t the sure thing it seemed to be a few weeks ago.