Dallas Cowboys: Shawn Andrews

A look at the 16th, 17th pick

February, 5, 2014
Feb 5
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys will not know until a coin flip at the NFL scouting combine if they or the Baltimore Ravens will pick 16th or 17th in the first round of the May draft.

The only time the Cowboys used the 16th pick in the draft came in 1961 when they selected E.J. Holub in the second round. They have not taken a player with the 17th overall pick since cornerback Kevin Smith in 1992. Before that? In 1990 they took Emmitt Smith, who is now the NFL’s all-time leading rusher.

What type of player has been available at Nos. 16 and 17? Here’s a look at the past 10 years.

2013 – EJ Manuel, Buffalo; Jarvis Jones, Pittsburgh
2012 – Quinton Coples, New York Jets; Dre Kirkpatrick, Cincinnati
2011 – Ryan Kerrigan, Washington; Nate Solder, New England
2010 – Derrick Morgan, Tennessee; Mike Iupati, San Francisco
2009 – Larry English, San Diego; Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay
2008 – Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Arizona; Gosder Cherilus, Detroit
2007 – Justin Harrell, Green Bay; Jarvis Moss, Denver
2006 – Jason Allen, Miami; Chad Greenway, Minnesota
2005 – Travis Johnson, Houston; David Pollack, Cincinnati
2004 – Shawn Andrews, Philadelphia; D.J. Williams, Denver
2003 – Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh; Bryant Johnson, Arizona.

Polamalu is by far the best player selected in either spot. He will be in the Hall of Fame. There are quality players in there like Williams, Greenway, Rodgers-Cromartie, Iupati, Solder and Kerrigan. Andrews had a pretty good short run as well. Kerrigan is solid and has done some good things versus the Cowboys. Coples has showed some pass rush his first two seasons. I expected more from Kirkpatrick, who was on the Cowboys’ radar in 2012.

The Cowboys held the No. 18 pick in 2013 and traded down to No. 31 with the Niners where they took Travis Frederick. They felt they were in a position to trade down and still pick up a quality player. When they saw Eric Reid, Justin Pugh, Kyle Long and Tyler Eifert go off the board in the next four picks they were left sweating it out until they got Frederick.

NFC East free-agency breakdown

July, 26, 2011
NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Unrestricted FAs

A look at the free-agent priorities for each NFC East team:

New York Giants

1. Figure out which of their own guys to keep. With Ahmad Bradshaw, Barry Cofield, Mathias Kiwanuka, Steve Smith and Kevin Boss all set to potentially go free, the Giants have to prioritize and figure out which guys they're keeping. The top priority is probably going to be Bradshaw, an emerging star at running back, and it appears they'll let Cofield walk while trying to bring back Boss. They think the injury situations with Kiwanuka and Smith will help keep those guys' prices reasonable. But before the Giants hit the market, they'll need to get their own free-agent house in order.

2. Get at least one linebacker. The Giants have ignored this position over the past couple of years, and they seem to believe Jonathan Goff can handle the middle linebacker spot. They'd probably be better off moving him back outside and exploring the middle linebacker market, which includes Stephen Tulloch, Barrett Ruud and Paul Posluszny. But if they're set on keeping Goff in the middle, perhaps someone such as Manny Lawson or Nick Barnett could be a fit. It's one thing not to prioritize a position, but it's another to ignore it completely, and the Giants have been doing that with linebacker, to their detriment.

3. Some offensive line insurance. There were lots of injuries along the line in New York last season, and although it didn't kill them, it was a potential sign of things to come. The Giants hope Will Beatty will soon be ready to take over at left tackle for a declining David Diehl, but they must watch out for the health of Shaun O'Hara at center. And if they have to cut Shawn Andrews to sign some other guys, they'll need to replace him with a tackle who can provide depth.

Top five free agents: RB Bradshaw, DE/LB Kiwanuka, TE Boss, DT Cofield, WR Smith

Philadelphia Eagles

1. Settle the Kevin Kolb situation. If they can get the great deal for him that most believe they can (i.e., a first-round pick plus), the Eagles will deal Kolb and look for a reliable backup quarterback who can play if and when Michael Vick gets hurt. If they can't get good value for Kolb, they'll probably keep him to serve as said reliable backup. A trade is most likely, but whatever happens, the Eagles will probably settle this soon after the league year begins.

2. Sign a cornerback. The starting spot opposite Asante Samuel is open, and no one on the current roster appears able to fill it. That's why you've heard, and will continue to hear, the Eagles connected with Asomugha. Philadelphia must rank among his most likely destinations at this point. If they don't get him, they'll look down the list at guys such as Johnathan Joseph, Ike Taylor and Antonio Cromartie. And there's a chance they could get a cornerback for Kolb. But they'll get one somewhere.

3. Re-sign Stewart Bradley. Sure, they could let Bradley go and play Jamar Chaney at middle linebacker. Chaney looked, at least, capable in that spot last season and may be the Eagles' future at the position. But if Bradley leaves, the Eagles' problems will be about more than just the alignment of the linebackers. They'll actually be short on bodies and will need to play the free-agent field to find a replacement. Bradley's had injury problems, but when healthy, he's the Eagles' best linebacker and could be a key cog in whatever new defensive alignment Juan Castillo and Jim Washburn are cooking up.

Top five free agents: LB Bradley, S Mikell, G Nick Cole, RB Jerome Harrison, CB Ellis Hobbs

Washington Redskins

1. Fill out the defensive line. Whether they add a free-agent nose tackle such as Aubrayo Franklin or look at defensive end options like Jenkins, the Redskins must figure who their starting defensive linemen are. They like their linebacking corps, and although they also need a cornerback, they love their safeties with Oshiomogho Atogwe in the fold next to LaRon Landry. But their good, young outside linebackers will need big, space-eating ends in front of them to open up lanes to the passer. And they'll also need to get some sort of pass rush from the line, whether it's from the nose or the ends.

2. Re-sign Santana Moss. The Redskins are making noise about pursuing a big-time wideout such as Santonio Holmes or Sidney Rice. But the reality is that it's going to be tough to convince receivers to sign in Washington while they're not viewed as a contender and the quarterback situation remains so cloudy. Moss likes it in Washington. The Redskins like him. And he's a nice guy to have around to help out young receivers Anthony Armstrong and Leonard Hankerson -- not to mention inexperienced quarterback John Beck.

3. Resolve the Donovan McNabb and Albert Haynesworth situations. They don't want either player on the team anymore, but the question is how to get rid of them. They might be able to dump McNabb for a late-round draft pick, but if they can't, they'll probably just cut him and let him find his next job on his own. Haynesworth has trade value in a league where many 4-3 teams are looking for interior defensive line help. Don't expect the Redskins to cut Haynesworth, because they don't want to do him any favors and they don't want him free to sign with former Tennessee D-line coach Washburn in Philadelphia. If they can't get value for him, don't be surprised if Haynesworth remains on the team all season and has a hard time getting into games.

Top five free agents: WR Moss, OT Jammal Brown, CB Carlos Rogers, LB Rocky McIntosh, QB Rex Grossman

Scout's Eye: Cowboys-Giants review

November, 16, 2010
In a week of change at Valley Ranch, it was only fitting that the previous five weeks of losing football would also change. The Dallas Cowboys went to the Meadowlands and won a football game against a Giants team that had been playing at a high level both offensively and defensively.

Scout's Eye
The more I watched the Giants during the week, more I was convinced that the Cowboys would struggle with the physical aspects of this game. The Giants are a downhill, power running football team that has the ability to also work the ball down the field with playmaking receivers .Their defense was doing an outstanding job of physically stopping the run but also putting pressure on offenses in controlling the passing game with pressure from their front.

The matchups across the board did not favor the Cowboys at all. In my weekly Grudge Match for Galloway and Company on 103.3 FM ESPN, I offered that everything the Giants do well, the Cowboys had been doing poorly on both sides of the ball, thus the 1-7 record.

In the days leading of the game, Jason Garrett spoke of change and moving forward. Where the Cowboys made the biggest improvement or change was their ability to block this Giants front seven, who were the keys to New York being ranked in the top three in several defensive categories.

Anyone that has followed the Cowboys’ struggles this season can point to the offensive line and their inability to generate any type of consistent play running the football or finishing drives as a reason for the shape of the team. With all that appeared against them on that Sunday afternoon, Doug Free, Kyle Kosier, Andre Gurode, Leonard Davis and Marc Colombo were able to sustain blocks, get to the second level, make blocks in space and avoid assignment errors that would put their quarterback in harm’s way.

For this much maligned offensive line, it was a clean game against a front that had caused its share of problems for offenses this season. Tackles Free and Colombo were extremely steady and workmanlike against Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck in the running and passing games. Davis, who is usually exposed at guard with quick movement or games with down linemen and linebackers, did not have the type of errors that we are so accustomed seeing this season. Gurode didn’t play slow-footed or get overextended when trying to get to the second level or adjusting in pass protection.

Felix Jones and Marion Barber ran the ball with purpose and didn’t miss the opportunity to take advantage of the holes that were there. Jon Kitna made critical throws to receivers who found space in a secondary that for the last five weeks had been holding offenses in check with tight coverage.

[+] EnlargeBryan McCann
William Perlman/The Star-Ledger/US PresswireEli Manning was locked on receiver Hakeem Nicks the entire time, but Bryan McCann had better positioning -- resulting in his 101-yard interception return vs. the Giants.
On the defensive side of the ball, I was impressed with the ability of the secondary to hold up despite losing the starting corners at points during the game. When the Giants fell behind and the running game was not going to be a factor, the game shifted into how well Orlando Scandrick and Bryan McCann would hold up on the outside.

Scandrick has had his share of troubles this season, but for the role in this game of playing nickel corner and on the outside, he held up quite well. His tackling saved the defense from extra snaps by the Giants.

McCann, in my view, should have been on the 53 when they broke camp due to his performance in training camp. He is aggressive, smart, and plays with a great deal of skill. McCann is not afraid and again, you could see these traits in training camp.

On his 101-yard interception return, the Giants line up in a bunch formation to the right with Mario Manningham, Kevin Boss and Travis Beckum to that side. On the opposite side, five yards off the sideline is Hakeem Nicks with McCann lined up inside eye. The Cowboys have five defensive backs in the game. At the snap, Scandrick comes off the slot to the right of Manning on the blitz, leaving Ball and Sensabaugh to cover Boss, Manningham and Beckum. If Manning looks to his right, he has three on two to that side and it’s an easy touchdown.

Manning’s eyes are on Nicks the entire time. Nicks tries to break inside but McCann jams him with his right hand, then begins to adjust inside cutting him off. Manning has so much confidence in Nicks that he throws the ball regardless of McCann’s position. McCann has cleanly beaten Nicks and the ball hits him between the 3 and the 7 of his jersey and he begins to set sail for the goal line and a history-making interception return.

[+] EnlargeBradie James
AP Photo/James D SmithOn the fourth-down call, Bradie James reacted to the flow of the play his way and stuffed Giants running back Brandon Jacobs in the hole for no gain.
With 10:28 left in the fourth quarter, Giants coach Tom Coughlin decides to go for a fourth-and-1 from the Cowboys’ 42 after Sensabaugh made a first-down saving tackle on Boss’ circus catch that almost converted a third-and-20 for the Giants.

On the fourth down call, the Giants go unbalanced line to the left, moving right tackle Kareem McKenzie to the other side next to Shawn Andrews and Kevin Boothe. Fullback Bear Pascoe is offset to the left and linebacker Bradie James sees the unbalanced line and adjusts the defensive line to the right. Presnap, DeMarcus Ware jumps offsides but manages to get back. At the snap, the Giants block their line to the right or backside, Pascoe tries to lead on Ware on the outside, guard Chris Snee pulls from the right to the left but is unable to handle in the hole. James reacts to the flow his way and meets Jacobs in the hole along with Barry Church for no gain and the ball goes over on downs.

Just one final note on this Cowboys’ defense: New defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni made the adjustment to play more zone coverage instead of the normal amount of man coverage that they had played under Wade Phillips. Phillips in his nickel package played a great deal of man coverage. In this game, Pasqualoni used zone coverage over 25 times to help his secondary in the game which helped limit the big plays that the Giants tend to make in the passing game.

Grudge Match: Cowboys-Giants

November, 13, 2010
A look at the key matchups for Sunday's Cowboys-Giants game:

Cowboys cornerback Mike Jenkins vs. Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks: The Giants have three outstanding receivers, but with Steve Smith being ruled out for Sunday’s game, the main focus for the Cowboys now turns to Hakeem Nicks and his matchup with Mike Jenkins.

In the locker room on Friday, several of the media members were hanging around the lockers of Orlando Scandrick and Gerald Sensabaugh talking about how offenses attack defenses. Sensabaugh brought up the point that when you give up plays on defense especially in coverage, you are more likely to see offenses try and attack the same area or weakness.

[+] EnlargeMike Jenkins
Jeff Fishbein/Icon SMICowboys cornerback Mike Jenkins will have a battle on his hands Sunday with Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks.
Anyone who has watched Jenkins play this season knows that he has struggled in coverage, but there have been times where he has been in outstanding position and, whether it was a good throw or an adjusting catch, he has struggled to finish the plays. The Giants are well aware of Jenkins’ struggles and will attack him with Nicks.

When you study Nicks, you come away with the thought of what a nice vertical player he is. He can cover some ground in his routes and he can adjust to the ball at any point. Nicks will adjust his routes for back-shoulder throws and he is a weapon in the red zone.

Jenkins knows that he will have a battle on his hands but some early success could go a long way in giving him confidence to continue to carry the fight to Nicks. Jenkins has the skill to match Nicks. Now Jenkins just needs to go out put everything behind him and find the way to finish the play against a talented receiver.

*Cowboys run defense vs. Giants running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs: The last time these two teams met in October, the Giants physically dominated the Cowboys by running the ball 37 times for 200 yards. Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs are powerful backs that run downhill at you and, if given a head of steam, are difficult to bring to the ground.

The biggest problem the Cowboys have had in the running game this season is shedding blocks. If you don’t play with your hands and don’t use leverage to work to free yourself from blocks, offenses can move the ball with ease.

The Giants are banged up along the offensive line on the left side, but that will not keep them from running the football. Left tackle Shawn Andrews has stepped in for David Diehl and has done an impressive job of creating push at the point of attack. He is a big man that plays light on his feet. The normal left guard, Rich Seubert, has moved to center to replace the injured Shaun O’Hara. There is nothing pretty about the way that Seubert, Chris Snee or Kareem McKenzie looks physically, but they use their bodies to lean on defenders and create lanes for these backs to run through. Rarely do you see these linemen on the ground and the way they finish blocks is quite impressive.

The front seven for the Cowboys cannot allow the Giants to control and mash them for 6 to 7 yards a running play and stay ahead of the chains. If the Giants do have an offensive weakness, and a slight one, it’s on third down. The Cowboys need to keep pressure on the Giants to have to convert as many third downs as possible in hopes of getting off the field.

*Cowboys running backs vs. Giants defense in blitz pickup: On the 13th play of the Cowboys-Giants game in October, linebacker Michael Boley came on a straight inside blitz that might have ended the season for quarterback Tony Romo. It was a missed assignment by fullback Chris Gronkowski that caused Romo’s broken collarbone.

Cowboys quarterback Jon Kitna has been sacked nine times in three games and taken numerous other hits. He is nowhere near as mobile as Romo and protection needs to be planned for him. The Cowboys cannot struggle with assignments when the Giants decide to bring pressure in the form of linebacker or safety blitzes.

Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell likes to bring different looks and packages into a game. He will match up his personnel to take advantage of certain situations. The Cowboys running backs have to be aware when they get in passing situations and they are responsible to pick up the extra rusher. In the game last week, Felix Jones missed an assignment and got his quarterback hit.

Of the three running backs on the Cowboys roster, Tashard Choice is the weaker than Jones and Barber in protection. Don’t be surprised if Fewell tries to take advantage of these backs when calling defenses because of the struggles that they have had in blitz pickup cleanly getting their men.

Scout's Eye: Cowboys-Giants preview

November, 12, 2010
This season’s second game of this longtime series takes a new twist.

Jason Garrett takes over for a departed Wade Phillips, who was unable to deliver the hopes and dreams of a Cowboys Super Bowl in the home stadium. Garrett out front has appeared to alter the culture of the franchise that struggled with issues throughout this 1-7 start to the season.

Scout's Eye
Make no mistake about it, the Giants are the last team the Cowboys need to be facing right now. When I study this squad, the first thing that comes to mind is how physical they are on offense. This is not a pretty offensive line in the way they sustain their blocks, and it’s not a group of running backs that are fleet afoot, but they beat up on you. If you are not ready to handle that, they can make you look poor playing defense.

The one advantage that the Cowboys have is that beating along the front is fresh in there minds. The Giants were able to rush the ball for 200 yards in the last meeting between the two clubs. Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs both are down hill runners and provide little relief for those in their path.

Bradshaw is the perfect back in this offense for Kevin Gilbride because this line likes to push and shove opponents around the field. Shawn Andrews has been added to the mix and he will play at left tackle this week for David Diehl, who hurt his hip blocking for an extra point. Kevin Boothe moves inside to left guard off the physically unable to perform list and Rich Seubert moves from left guard to center to play for the underrated Shaun O’Hara.

The Giants wear you out with the size they bring at you at the point of attack. Kevin Boss and fullback Bear Pascoe are difficult to separate from once they get their hands on you.

The receiving crew has been super productive not only this season but games in the past against the Cowboys. Steve Smith was hurt in practice on Thursday and has shown up questionable on the injury report, which would be a huge break for the Cowboys. He has been a killer in the last three meetings with 25 catches for 345 yards and two touchdowns.

Hakeem Nicks has had his share of production as well. Three of his 11 catches against the Cowboys have been for touchdowns. He has 14 catches for 20 yards or more this season.

Offensively, the one player who can derail the Giants or keep them on the track is the quarterback Eli Manning. With this offense, Manning doesn’t need to be great but steady works nicely. This team has the ability to run the football effectively and with purpose. The tight ends are dependable and the receivers are some of the best in the league. Manning just needs to be steady and not make the mistakes that have plagued him in years past.

It will be interesting to see how the Cowboys attack Manning to make him feel rushed. Will you see more zone coverage against these receivers that appear to eat up man coverage?

If the Cowboys are going to have any success on defense on Sunday, it will take a huge effort. If they don’t match the physical play of the Giants offense, then this will be a difficult opening trip to the new Meadowlands Stadium.

At the halfway mark, the Giants have the top-ranked defense in the NFL. It’s not by luck or playing against weak opponents, but a complete and total team effort of using talent and scheme to physically handle opponents each week.

Its starts up front with defensive ends Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell likes to give you different looks up front and the Giants do a nice job of working Umenyiora and Tuck around the defensive front to create different mismatches. The pass rush has been outstanding this season for the Giants and it’s helped them in the secondary as well.

Cornerback Terrell Thomas and Corey Webster both do a nice job in zone coverage of playing their responsibilities but have been equally as good when playing in man. There is not much room in this Giants secondary because of their ability to play tight and stay in route position, but the safety help has been solid too. Antrel Rolle has been an outstanding free agent signing for the Giants and Kenny Phillips can play up or back to help in the running game or work deep with these corners and offer support. When the Giants go to their nickel package, it’s Aaron Ross that comes into the game.

Of the three Giants linebackers, Michael Boley is the one that can really run. Boley plays all over the field and he has the speed to be an effective blitzer as the Cowboys learned in the first meeting with the Giants. Longtime Tennessee inside linebacker Keith Bulluck now plays the strong outside linebacker and is a hard guy to move in the running game. It’s been his physical play that has helped the Giants control the opponents’ running game. The inside three of Jonathan Goff at middle linebacker and defensive tackles Chris Canty and Barry Cofield play with more power than quickness.

It will be a difficult task for the Cowboys to run the ball against this front and we all know the pitfalls if this turns into a passing game for them. The Giants on defense will put a great deal of pressure on the Cowboys and challenge their ability to move the football.

Jason Garrett has to be smart mixing his play calls and not allowing Fewell to put his defense in attack mode.

The strength of this Cowboys offense has been its receivers and their ability to make plays. Protect and get the ball into your playmakers’ hands. Miles Austin, Roy Williams and Dez Bryant can put pressure on the Giants secondary.

Again, the Giants don’t give you much room back there but when given the opportunity, they need to convert on the chances they have. Jason Witten is going to have to play well. When Fewell puts coverage to the outside, it’s Witten working against linebackers that allows Jon Kitna an opportunity to deliver the football for a positive play.

If the Cowboys have to consistently play behind the chains, this offense will suffer too many three-and-outs, which puts their defense in harm’s way. Garrett needs to be aggressive, but he needs to put his players in the best possible situations to make plays.

More importantly, he needs to find a way to have his team play a physical game on both sides of the ball. They will need to match the intensity of their opponent this week down after down. If not, this Giants team will put a physical beating on them.

Scout's Eye: Giants-Cowboys review

October, 27, 2010
In my preview for the New York Giants matchup, I wrote about the importance for the Cowboys to find a way to get their record to 4-4 by the next time these teams met again in the new Meadowlands Stadium. Despite the fact that the Cowboys had some difficult matchups with the scheme and personnel of the Giants coming into this game, I felt that it was a game that the Cowboys were capable of winning on Monday night football in front of their home crowd.

Scout's Eye
The Cowboys needed this game more than the Giants. My thinking was the intensity and determination would carry the Cowboys on this night.

The game couldn’t have started any better for the Cowboys with the early turnovers and the building of the lead, but to the Giants credit, Tom Coughlin’s squad was able to weather the storm of the early mistakes and make plays.

With the Cowboys up 10-0 late in the first quarter, the Giants are faced with a second-and-goal from the Dallas 7. Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride through scouting knew that if he uses his heavy or goal line package that Wade Phillips was going to match him with his personnel. Gilbride has Shawn Andrews, Kevin Boss and Travis Beckum all in the game as tight ends with Ahmad Bradshaw as the lone running back and wide receiver Hakeem Nicks in the huddle as well. The call from upstairs in the coaching booth is for the heavy personnel group but fails to identify that Nicks is still on the field.

In this Cowboys’ goal-line or short-yardage group, there are five linebackers and three safeties but no corners. The linebackers were DeMarcus Ware, Keith Brooking, Sean Lee, Bradie James and Anthony Spencer. The safeties were Gerald Sensabaugh, Barry Church and Danny McCray. Mike Jenkins, Terence Newman and Alan Ball, the one safety who has cover skills, were off the field.

When the Giants broke the huddle, Nicks went wide to his left, McCray originally lined up in front of him but then began to look inside to Sensabaugh, who was lined up to the side of the three-tight end set to the right. In the three-tight end set, Andrews was on the line, Boss was in a wing to the right of Andrews and Beckum was lined up as a wing next to Boss. Clearly the strength of the formation was to the Cowboys’ left.

Church was lined up on the line over Andrews, but as Manning begin to set the protection, Sensabaugh and McCray switched positions with Sensabaugh now lined up over Nicks. At the snap, Nicks starts out like he is going to run a slant, then works to the fade. Manning looks like he wants to throw the slant but double pumps the ball, waiting for Nicks to complete the route. Sensabaugh gets no jam on Nicks, who now plants off his left foot then works back outside. Sensabaugh is too far away from Nicks to make a clean play on the ball. Nicks is able to snatch the ball out of the air from Manning for the Giants first touchdown.

The play was successful and much too easy for the Giants, who were able to take advantage of the Cowboys and the personnel group they had on the field at the time. In the postgame press conference, Phillips was asked about the matchup that led to the touchdown and said that the staff did not realize that Nicks was on the field at the time and the normal corner that would have been on the field to match, Terence Newman, was injured.

Give the Giants credit for the matchup and how they were able to get one of their best receivers in position to make a play while the Cowboys were left wondering what personnel group the Giants were in.

*In the NFL, there is a saying that mistakes will get you beat, rookie mistakes will get you hurt.

It’s the second quarter and the Cowboys are holding onto a 10-7 lead with the football on the Dallas 43. Cowboys break the formation in an off set “I” to the left. Miles Austin and Jason Witten are lined up wide left with Austin on the ball and Witten off. Witten starts in motion inside. Dez Bryant is up top by himself. Giants are in a base or regular front with linebacker Michael Boley lined up on the outside hip of rookie defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.

As Romo takes the snap, Giants defensive tackles Chris Canty and Barry Cofield run a twist stunt on the inside that Andre Gurode, Leonard Davis and Montrae Holland are able to sort out and keep the two defensive tackles along the line. The linebacker to that side was Jonathan Goff, and he begins to drop in coverage so now you have three blocking two.

On the outside, Pierre-Paul is now rushing Doug Free wide and to his left shoulder. Fullback Chris Gronkowski begins to release to outside the left side of Free as Boley begins his charge through the gap created by the widening Free and Holland working on the twist inside. There are three to four yards of separation between Boley and Gronkowski, who is unable to adjust back to pick up the Giants’ linebacker that has the best speed.

Romo sees that Boley is a free rusher and bravely hangs in the pocket to deliver the ball to Austin on the outside. With Romo’s right arm and ribs exposed, Boley catches him right in the side and drives the quarterback into the ground. Boley lands with his entire weight on Romo’s body, breaking the quarterback’s left collarbone and putting him on the shelf for the next six to eight weeks.

When you study this play, it was a perfect call by defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. Where Gronkowski was lined up in the formation, it was going to be difficult to complete that block and the path he took at the snap did not help the situation as well.

Later in the game, Cowboys safety Gerald Sensabaugh has an opportunity to get a similar type of hit on Eli Manning. As he is coming forward in the blitz -- a well-designed one by Wade Phillips -- Sensabaugh checks up slightly in the hole and doesn’t get there in time or lay the wood to Manning. The result of the play was that Manning was able to deliver the ball to wide receiver Steve Smith for a touchdown. Smith was able to work around Orlando Scandrick, who was in man coverage and unable to handle the adjusting Smith.

Boley took an opportunity to deliver a huge blow to Romo and to the chances of the Cowboys’ hopes this season by knocking the quarterback out of the game. For the Cowboys, a well-designed blitz again was unable to get home -- not what the defense needed on a night when knockout blows were needed.

Scout's Eye: Giants-Cowboys preview

October, 22, 2010

Scout's Eye
If the Cowboys are going to make any kind of run this season, it needs to start against the Giants on Monday night.

The goal of the Cowboys should be to even their record at 4-4 by the next time these two teams meet on Nov. 14 in New Jersey.

Three weeks ago, the Giants were in the same shape that the Cowboys are now. A loss to the Titans left the Giants with the reality that penalties and turnovers were killing their season. Tom Coughlin stood before the media after that Titans loss and took the heat for the struggles of his squad and vowed there would be changes the following week.

The Giants have since won three straight, while the Cowboys have lost two of their last three. It’s the Giants that are getting the turnovers and committing fewer penalties. The Cowboys on the other hand, have talked about making corrections and changes but still have been unable to get past those issues that have caused them defeat.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw
AP Photo/Evan PinkusThe Giants' running back tandem of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs has been carving up opposing defenses.
In studying the Giants on offense, there are some areas of this offense that really stand out. When they run the ball now, Ahmad Bradshaw not only does it with power but with more speed than Brandon Jacobs. The ball gets to and through the hole quicker than it had in the past.

The Giants’ offensive line is that of “mauler/brawler” types and not that of a sleek, athletic group. The Giants’ front likes to push and lean on you. When they go to extra tight end packages, they bring in tackle Shawn Andrews as an extra blocker. There is nothing pretty about the way they look or play, but they are effective.

In this contest, I will be interested to see how DeMarcus Ware plays against tackle David Diehl. If Diehl has problems, it’s when rushers take him down inside. In watching Diehl, he really fights hard to work outside with his footwork and set. Ware has the ability to take Diehl up the field then counter on him inside.

The Giants will do all they can to keep Manning upright in this game. Backup tight end Bear Pascoe will line up in the backfield and play as the “F” and help in protection if needed. Manning has been sacked 27 times in career games against the Cowboys.

Manning struggles the most with turnovers when he feels pressure. There are times where his decision-making is poor because of the way he handles pressure. There are times when faced with a rush that he is nowhere near as accurate as he needs to be. He will make his receivers work for the ball way too often.

In going back and studying the first game that the Cowboys and Giants played in 2009, Manning used a quick game to his wide receivers and allowed them to break tackles to make plays. It was a solid game plan by the Giants and their receivers showed the ability to make the Cowboys defenders miss and gain positive yards.

Where the Cowboys also have to be alert in this game is when the Giants try to run vertical and hit plays down the field. All three of the Giants’ receivers can get down the field and make plays. Hakeem Nicks is the most dangerous of the group, then Steve Smith.

Nicks is an impressive player because of his size and his ability to cover ground. Nicks has been Manning’s go-to guy. He plays with dependable hands and will take his routes all over the field.
Galloway & Company go behind enemy lines with Giants defensive end Justin Tuck as he prepares to face the Cowboys on Monday Night Football.

Listen Listen

Smith was a Cowboys’ killer in 2009 with 16 catches in two games. He, like Nicks, will go anywhere for the ball and has the ability to take short catches and make them into huge gains due to his 4.44 speed coming out of USC.

Mario Manningham is not the fastest of the three receivers, but he has averaged 16 yards a reception this season.

The Cowboys secondary has struggled with the ball going down the field. To combat that last week, safety Alan Ball was playing 23 yards deep. Terence Newman has been the Cowboys’ most consistent defensive back and along with Mike Jenkins will need a huge day against this talented group.

When these two teams met last December, nickel back Orlando Scandrick played much better than he did in September. Scandrick is going to have a key role in this game because the way that the Giants like to use the three-wide receiver packages.

As important as it is for the Cowboys to focus on the Giants’ running game, how they play against these wide receivers could determine if they win the game on Monday night.

*Last week against the Vikings, the Cowboys faced a defense line that had the ability to take over a game and control the line of scrimmage. This week, they face a Giants defense that might not have the inside power of Pat Williams and Kevin Williams but their outside rushers, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck, are just as difficult to handle as Jared Allen or Ray Edwards.

When you study Umenyiora and Tuck, they are both playing at a high level. Umenyiora is back to that attacking style that gave offensive tackles so much trouble over the years. Umenyiora has a wide variety of moves so there will not be one move that Doug Free can sit on.

Against the Lions last week, he carried Jeff Backus up the field on one move, he drove hard inside on another and then he used a spin move free himself from a set. Free will need to be on his toes on Monday night.

The Cowboys as a whole across the line will need to do the same because defensive coordinator Perry Fewell will move Umenyiora and Tuck all over the defense to try and get matchups they could win. When the Giants give the Cowboys one of those looks on defense with Umenyiora and Tuck standing up inside, it will be important for Romo to set the protection and the communication of the offensive line takes over to handle the games the Giants play out of those looks.

Terence Newman
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images Terence Newman, a 2-time Pro Bowler, has been the Cowboys' most dependable defensive back.
Something to note that could be a problem for the Cowboys, with Montrae Holland starting for Kyle Kosier at guard, watch how well, he, Gurode and Davis are able to communicate and handle what is going on inside. The Giants like to use their linebackers and defensive line in games and stunts to create confusion in blocking schemes. If the Cowboys struggle with the communication of these calls, the offense can get exposed and the results can kill a drive or create a turnover.

I would not be the least bit surprised to see Jason Garrett once again roll out the game plan that he used in Minnesota with the quick passing game, the screen packages and selective running plays to keep their rush off Romo.

Where the Giants are better than the Vikings is in the secondary. Corey Webster and Terrell Thomas are solid corners, but where the Giants have made the most improvement and upgrade is the addition of Antrel Rolle from Arizona at safety.

Rolle paired with Kenny Phillips has been a good combination. Rolle and Phillips are always around the ball. They do a nice job with the range plays as well.

The Giants really struggled last season with the play of their safeties. When Phillips went on IR after the Dallas game in September, it was just one bad game after another for the defense, but you no longer see that for this defense. If you study the numbers, the Giants are ranked as one of the top defenses in the NFL.

The Cowboys can go toe to toe with them on several offensive areas, but if they continue to not protect the football and suffer untimely penalties, it will not matter how many third downs they convert or how many yards they throw for, it will just become another loss.