Posted: 7:09 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013
By Dave Halprin
Watching the Cowboys and Cardinals game again was just as frustrating as the first time because you knew that great plays (Dunbar run, Bryant reception) were going to end the Cowboys' drives and scoring chances. You were going to witness five turnovers in total, and you were going to see a pretty decent effort by the offense in terms of executing plays go to waste. I went back through every offensive snap of the first half of the game and came away with these observations.
1. Offensive line - Like most observers, I came away the impression that the offensive line in the first half did a pretty good job. They were really good in pass protection, but so-so in the running game. In the first half, I thought Doug Free and Travis Frederick played the best overall games. Free got stood up in the running game once, and allowed a semi-pressure, but outside of that had no egregious errors. Frederick got blown up on one run play and pushed back in pass protection once, but he was solid, too. David Arkin was also a solid player in the first half, only getting blown up one time in the running game and was okay in pass pro (except for a mistake in the second half). Mackenzy Bernadeau had two run plays where he was slow to the block, the defender had already crossed his face and headed into the backfield to blow up the play. He was also pushed back into Romo's space on the overthrown pass to Terrance Williams, and gave up another semi-pressure. For this one half, Arkin looked like the slightly better guard. Tyron Smith also didn't have a great game. He gave up a hit on Romo from behind, looked like he missed the key block on what would have been a good run, and had to hold to save Romo's life on an attempted screen. Not stellar. But, overall, the line did play well. Romo for the most part had very clean pockets and keeping him safe is job #1, but the running game suffered in the first half. The one play that DeMarco Murray hit for nine yards was accomplished through a Frederick/Arkin hole.
2. Dez Bryant/Passing Game - Forget the fumble, Dez was a force. He was able to beat Patrick Peterson one-on-one, he was able to find the hole in zones, and he was able to go across the middle. If he doesn't fumble that ball, we're talking about him just plain being dominating. In fact, the Cowboys were very effective in the passing game in the first half until Kyle Orton came in. If they had hit on the Terrance Williams play early, they really might have gotten rolling. And they haven't even really used Jason Witten yet in the preseason. If the Cowboys line can protect Romo, the air attack is beastly.
3. Lance Dunbar - The Cowboys should spend many hours every week thinking about ways to get Lance Dunbar isolated against linebackers in the short passing game. It's just plain larceny. Two short catches, a 43-yard play and an 18-yard play as results. There is no way linebackers can keep up with him, and if a defense is in man with everybody turned away from the QB, he's going to run for a long time.
4. Kyle Orton - Both interceptions were awful. But I'm writing this game off for turnovers just like I am for Lance Dunbar, Dez Bryant, Dwayne Harris, etc. I'm giving them a free pass. But Orton better get back into the swing next time, Alex Tanney is gunning for a roster spot.
I'll have a review of the defensive side of the ball later.