Cowboys at Dolphins Film Review: Standouts, Notes and Observations


The Cowboys traveled to Miami for a chance to right their wrongs and get back in the win column. After reviewing the film, here are Sunday’s standouts, notes, and observations

The Dallas Cowboys welcomed back their faithful leader, Tony Romo, on Sunday in Miami. Romo, out the past seven games with a broken collarbone, came in to provide the spark this otherwise dead team needed in order to get back in the playoff race.

The game itself is of great importance to the Cowboys since they essentially need to “run the table” in order to remain in playoff contention. But the purpose of this article is to dig in a little deeper and review player performance along the way. We review the film to see what the simple statistics miss – player execution. Here are Sunday’s standouts, notes, and observations:

  • Brandon Carr struggled most of the day. Clearly in the midst of his best season as a Cowboy, Carr struggled with man coverage and was all-too-often in chase mode after falling victim to yet another bump on a pick route.
  • On the same note, it’s important to give credit to all the accomplishments that Byron Jones has had in his rookie season but this game was a stinker (as my grandad used to say). It wasn’t just the big plays he gave up in man coverage but it was the complete body of work. It was not a good game from the starting CBs regardless of what Ryan Tannehill’s stats look like.
  • It’s going to be tough to see James Hanna leave next season. The free-agent-to-be is likely playing his last season since Gavin Escobar is still playing under his rookie deal in 2016 and Geoff Swaim is a player the staff wants to give a bigger role to. Hanna is a stubborn and seasoned blocker in both the running game as well as the passing game. He had strong game on Sunday.
  • La’el Collins was making some veteran reads as a pass blocker, pulling and protecting from the opposite side when the defense showed an unbalanced rush.

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  • Rolando McClain’s pick-6 was a great example of what talented linebackers can do within Rod Marinelli’s system. In the single high safety nickel scheme, McClain faked a blitz and dropped back into zone coverage. Dolphin’s QB, Ryan Tannehill read man coverage since both McClain and Lee were showing blitz and the defense backs were obviously in man coverage. On that play, only Rolando McClain and deep safety Barry Church were in zone, while everyone else was in man.
  • Something that really jumped out on film is the effort exhibited by the bookends, Demarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory. The past few weeks the two have looked as though they lacked effort. Injuries may have been the real culprit, but whatever it was, they looked like different players on Sunday in Miami, using double moves, extra effort, and some run-stopping savvy. They didn’t rack up the numbers but they looked like different players. This is a very good sign toward their development.
  • Tyron Smith was eaten up throughout the day. This has been his worst two game stretch in recent memory. The good news is Zack Martin had a very positive performance against the league’s best defensive tackle. Doug Free, La’el Collins and Travis Frederick also logged positive grades for the day.
  • As a side note: it’s more difficult to a grade zone blocking scheme than a run blocking scheme. Most of the plays Suh made against the run were against a zone blocking scheme where he had a step on the moving gap.
  • Next: The Next 5 Days Will Decide the Cowboys Fate

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    • Robert Turbin played well enough to earn extra carries against Carolina on Thanksgiving. He didn’t show much from a pass-protecting perspective, since most times he was on the field on passing plays he was a check-down option.  McFadden will still have primary responsibilities on passing downs that may require blitz pick-up until Turbin proves himself in those critical situations.