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Tag:Tyron Smith
Posted on: March 6, 2012 11:45 pm
 

2012 NFL Free Agency: NFC East preview

Can Jerry get Tony enough help in 2012? (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

Dallas Cowboys

Dallas 2011 season reeked of redemption for a lost 2010 season much of the way through. Despite close (and awkward) losses to the Patriots, Jets and Lions, the Cowboys rolled into December on a four-game winning streak, with a shot at closing out the NFC East. Then things absolutely fell apart: Jason Garrett iced his own kicker in an overtime loss to Arizona, Tony Romo overthrew Miles Austin in a tight Week 14 loss to the Giants, Romo was injured the next week in a meaningless game against the Eagles and Dallas got pounded by the eventual Super Bowl champs on New Years Day. Then Jerry Jones team had to watch the 9-7 Giants march to a Super Bowl victory. Not a fun couple of months for them. And though most of the blame usually finds its way onto Romo or Garrett, significant upgrades on the offensive line and secondary could go a long way towards fixing the Cowboys problems and making them a legit contender.

Free Agents of Note
Linebacker Anthony Spencer was tagged on Monday by Dallas, so he'll be back at least one more year and could get a longer deal ... Tight end Martellus Bennett is a good blocker but hasn't panned out the way Dallas wanted ... Linebacker Keith Brooking is 36 but has drawn interest from Dallas to return in 2012 ... FB Tony Fiammetta is an RFA and needs to be retained, especially given the work he did for DeMarco Murray last year ... Linebacker Bradie James is 31 and could be gone ... Wide receiver Laurent Robinson really clicked with Tony Romo in 2012 and would be a big re-addition ... Punter Mat McBriar could be done in Dallas if the 'Boys want to move forward with Chris Jones.

Needs
Secondary
: Terence Newman, 33, could be a cap/age casualty and Abram Elam, Frank Walker and Alan Ball are free agents. If Dallas plans on remaining as aggressive as defensive coordinator Rob Ryan wants them to be, they'll need to drastically improve the secondary.
Guard
: Tyron Smith and Doug Free flipped sides and are locked in at tackle, but the interior of the line needs improvement.

Targets
Brandon Carr or Cortland Finnegan would be an ideal target for Dallas as longer-term options. Neither is expected to remain with their respective teams. But if the Cowboys can't get Carr, they'll need to pursue some shorter-term options like Carlos Rogers. Guard is deep in free agency too, and it would behoove the Cowboys to invest in a stud like Carl Nicks. Getting Spencer signed to a long-term deal, rather than give him $9 million in 2012, would do a lot for their cap space.

New York Giants

It's crazy to think that the Super Bowl champion Giants looked DOA by the start of the regular season; an almost unbelievable (were it not true) string of injuries hit the team before the season began. The Giants looked even worse off in the middle of a late-season swoon that featured some of the toughest

Free Agents of Note:
Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham is going to get overpaid somewhere else based on his postseason performance ... Secret Super Bowl hero Steve Weatherford got the franchise tag Monday, so he'll be back in 2012 ... Wideout Domenik Hixon's already been re-signed ... Cornerback Aaron Ross says he wants to return but won't commit to a "hometown" discount ... Terrell Thomas was lost in the preseason but is closing in on a deal with the Giants ... Deon Grant is scheduled for free agency as well ... Both Jake Ballard and Bear Pascoe tore their ACLs in the Super Bowl, so the Giants have to sign someone to play tight end ... Kareem McKenzie is 32-years-old and the Giants could be ready to move on after he struggled last season.

Needs
Tight End: This seems like a classic "address it at the end of the first round" issue, since the Giants could have their pick of Cody Fleener, Orson Charles and Dwayne Allen at No. 32. If not, they'll need to get someone from a not-so-attractive free agent pile.
Offensive Line: This is a unit that's getting older quickly. David Deihl can work anywhere on the line, but he's 31.
Secondary: If the Giants get Thomas, they could be fine here, as they've already got Corey Webster and Antrel Rolle. But last year proved how important depth really is, so it wouldn't be surprising to see them beef up the position.

Targets
The Giants are tight up against the salary cap this offseason, but are also coming off a year where they won the Super Bowl. The pressure isn't too intense on them to make a big splash with outside guys in free agency (nor should it be). If they can find value in a some cheaper offensive line options with a little upside (Geoff Schwartz anyone?) that would make the most sense in terms of an outside pick up.

Philadelphia Eagles

You know what happened here: a dream-team season quickly turned into a nightmare out of the gates, and the Eagles were the laughingstock of the NFL as they fell to 1-4. They finally turned things around with a four-game winning streak to close out at 8-8, giving Philly fans plenty of hope for 2012. (Not to mention helping Andy Reid's job security.) But there are still concerns here, because the Eagles have to get some linebackers and safeties in order to stop the run, manage their high-priced cornerbacks in a more efficient manner and keep Michael Vick from getting tattooed by opposing defenders. It's unlikely that Philly will make the same splash in free agency as they did in 2011, but that could actually be a good thing.

Free Agents: Running back Ronnie Brown might've thrown away (literally) any chance he had of returning to Philly ... DeSean Jackson got the franchise tag, and the team could still sign him long term or seek to trade him ... King Dunlap and Evan Mathis are both free agents on the offensive line; Mathis wants to return and should be priority No. 1 ... Trevor Laws, Juqua Parker and Derek Landri would depart the defensive line's depth if they all left ... Vince Young and Steve Smith, two big-name additions that didn't contribute much in 2011, seem likely to bolt.
Needs
Linebacker: Luke Koechly is the hot name for the Eagles in the draft, but his stock is rising and might not be available. Getting a middle linebacker who can stuff the run is absolutely essential for the Eagles defense in 2012. Adding some help at outside linebacker would be a bonus; acquiring linebackers isn't really Andy Reid's forte though.
Defensive Line Depth: The Eagles still have Mike Patterson, Cullen Jenkins, Jason Babin and Trent Cole starting, but as noted above, they're going to need depth to keep those guys fresh throughout the year.

Targets
Linebacker, as noted, is the biggest need. Fortunately for the Eagles, there are some nice names out there. Stephen Tulloch and Curtis Lofton represent pricier, albeit talented, options at middle linebacker. Dan Connor's a name that's been rumored with Philly and he could make sense as a run-stopping specialist who doesn't cost that much.

Washington Redskins

As Clark Judge recently wrote, the Redskins are running out of options for 2012. Either get Peyton Manning, Robert Griffin III or prepare to move on from Mike Shanahan. They'll have their chance at each, as Manning will be a free agent soon and the Rams are willing to deal the No. 2 pick in April's draft. And the Redskins success really could come down to the quarterback position: if they can get Manning or RG3 and put suitable weapons around one of those guys (I personally prefer RG3 for them), Washington could net a few more wins and at least challenge for the division title that Rex Grossman guaranteed before 2011 started.

Free Agents
Fred Davis was franchised and remains the team's most explosive offensive weapon but he needs to stay out of trouble ... Tim Hightower fits what Mike Shanahan wants to do but wasn't as effect ... London Fletcher is old but remains effective and the Redskins need him back ... Rex Grossman seems destined to remain with Shanny forever, even if it's just on one-year deals ... Graham Gano was tendered and should be back ... Washington's already re-signed center Will Montgomery ... LaRon Landry can't stay healthy but Washington might gamble on him at a cheap price ... Roy Helu makes Tim Hightower expendable, though Hightower was decent in his five starts before being injured.
Needs
Quarterback: Quite obviously.
Wide Receiver: Jabar Gaffney shouldn't be anyone's No. 1 wideout. If the Skins go with the Manning route, it's entirely possible they can lure other free-agent wideouts into town. Either way, reports indicate they want to get a "high-profile wide receiver" and that's a good thing. Pairing Manning or RG3 with a viable wideout could make this offense explosive in 2012.
Offensive Line: Washington's set at several slots on the front, but could use an upgrade on the right side, where Jamaal Brown in particular has not been as good as they'd hoped.
Targets
Manning's the main target here. If they can't get Peyton, then the Skins have to get RG3. Both are attainable, it's just whether or not the cost is prohibitive. Vincent Jackson, Reggie Wayne and Marques Colston would all qualify as "marquee" wideouts. Ben Grubbs and Carl Nicks would be obviously be tremendous adds and allow the Redskins to shift some personnel and improve their line. Evan Mathis would take away from a division opponent as well.

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Posted on: February 24, 2012 11:12 am
 

Tyron Smith, Doug Free to switch sides for Dallas

Dallas coach Jason Garrett said Thursday he would move Smith to left tackle next year. (US Presswire)
By Josh Katzowitz

When the Cowboys selected Tyron Smith with the No. 9 pick in the 2011 draft, they certainly didn’t make that move to keep him at right tackle. So, after only a season in that position while Doug Free manned the left side, Dallas coach Jason Garrett said the team has decided to make a change, moving Smith to the left side and returning Free back to the right.

"The versatility that Tyron has coming out is something that we were really attracted to,” Garrard said Thursday at the scouting combine (via the Fort Worth Star Telegram). “He was a right tackle in college. We felt like he had the physical traits to play left tackle and the same thing with Doug Free. We felt like he could play either side."

While Smith was playing well enough to be considered one of the top right tackles in the game last year, according to Pro Football Focus, Free struggled on the left side, allowing 10 sacks and 34 quarterback pressures. The Cowboys also gave Smith a few snaps at left tackle last year, and obviously, he impressed Dallas enough to make the move a permanent one. 

While CBSSports.com’s Andy Benoit pointed out in December that Smith was exploited at times early in the season by “wily defenders,” Benoit also wrote that Smith improved faster than some could have expected.

"We feel like he is ready to make that move now,” Garrett said. “We're just trying to come up with the best combination."

As PFF writes, it’s the move that makes the most sense, writing in December, “Regardless of how Dallas’ season ends they will feel reassured in the knowledge that  they’ve found a stud of a tackle for the future in the shape of the youngest player in the league, Tyron Smith … The rookie right tackle has been exceptional all year …  It’s rare to see a tackle come out and play so well, but Smith has been just that good. A move to the left side next year will surely provide him with some new challenges. If he handles the transition in the same manner that he’s handled his move to the NFL coming from Southern California I’ll be betting on him to succeed.”

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Posted on: December 7, 2011 10:43 am
Edited on: December 7, 2011 12:05 pm
 

Film Room: Cowboys vs. Giants preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit


A hallmark rivalry renews Sunday night with the first of a two-game series between the Cowboys and Giants that will likely decide the NFC East. We’ve recently grown familiar with the Giants as they’ve spent the past few weeks on football’s center stage (Patriots-Eagles-Saints-Packers!).

In examining whether they can break their slump and get back above .500, we take an in-depth look at how they match up with this week’s familiar foe.


1. Stopping DeMarco Murray
New York’s most valuable contributor Sunday night might just be Jason Garrett. The Cowboys’ play-caller unwisely drifted away from Murray in the second half against the Dolphins on Thanksgiving, and he all but abandoned Murray against the Cardinals last week (12 carries, just seven after the first quarter).

Garrett’s pass-first decision at Arizona was likely in response to the aggression of the Cardinals linebackers. They recklessly attacked downhill much of the game, often as part of designed blitzes. Garrett may have felt that passing against an iffy and over-leveraged Cardinals secondary was the best response.

That said, Garrett can’t simply let Murray become an afterthought. The rookie running back has been the stabilizing force of the Cowboys’ offense. In recent weeks, the Cowboys’ front line has played with enough power in the ground game that, with the help of fluid H-back John Phillips, it’s realistic to think they could push the pile against aggressive linebacking. Even if they couldn’t, Garrett could still feature his young back in the passing game. Murray has soft hands and is smart in protection. Screen passes are a great way to punish fast downhill linebackers.
 
Expect the Giants to attack with their second level defenders much in the same way the Cardinals did. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell knows that this might make Garrett one-dimensional in his play-calling. What’s more, the way to contain Murray is to make him go east and west early in the run. He has decent lateral agility and change-of-direction but only if he’s already built momentum.

By shooting the gaps, the Giants will push Murray to the perimeter, where he’s less dangerous. If the Giants continue to operate out of their big nickel package (two linebackers, three safeties), they’ll have enough speed on the field to chase the outside runs.

2. Cowboys passing game
Shooting the gaps against Murray will leave New York more susceptible to play-action passing and one-on-one matchups downfield. That’s a risk the Giants should be willing to take. They have a quasi-shutdown corner in Corey Webster.

They likely believe they can cover Jason Witten with one of their three safeties, or even with athletic linebacker Jacquian Williams. Williams was matched one-on-one against Jimmy Graham and Jermichael Finley the past two weeks. He was defeated in both matchups, but the Giants may be inclined to trust him again this week. Witten is elite, but he’s a prototypical tight end, not an insanely athletic hybrid wideout like Graham or Finley.

The Cowboys’ passing attack is interesting. Early in the season, it flowed through Witten. A few weeks ago, most noticeably on Thanksgiving, it was flowing through Laurent Robinson (a graceful, long-striding, deceptively fast street free agent who has blossomed now that he’s finally stayed healthy). Last week, it flowed through Dez Bryant, even though Bryant was defended by rising star Patrick Peterson. And keep in mind, last season, the passing attack flowed through Miles Austin, who may return this week from his hamstring injury.

In Dallas’ system, the go-to target is often determined by whom Tony Romo feels most comfortable with. Romo’s comfort may be influenced by the rhythm of the game. When things are grinding, Witten’s the guy. When everything flows, it’s Robinson. When it’s a sporadic, sandlot type game, he likes Bryant. The Giants will have studied the Cowboys’ offense all week. Whom they decide to put No. 1 corner Webster on will tell you who THEY think Romo likes most.

3. Tyron Smith
The first-round rookie right tackle from USC has been better than advertised, showing improvement with every start. Smith, the youngest player in the NFL, has uncommonly light feet for 310-pounder. He’s dripping with athleticism, which is evident when he lands blocks off short-area movement in the run game. His technique continues to be a work in progress – he was exploited by wily defenders early in the season and had a tough time against Cameron Wake two games ago – but it’s much better at this point than most expected.

That said, there may not be a worse player to face in a war of fundamentals than Justin Tuck. The seventh-year veteran has had a down season, but he’s still one of the craftiest – if not THE craftiest – ends in football.

If the Giants cared about our viewing entertainment, they’d move Tuck to the defensive right side and let Jason Pierre-Paul, the most dynamic young athlete playing defensive end today, go mano-a-mano against Smith.

4. Rob Ryan’s pass-rush tactics
Rob Ryan’s primary focus is on creating one-on-one situations for DeMarcus Ware. The league’s most prolific sack artist over the last five years almost always aligns on the open side of the offensive formation (i.e. away from the tight end).

To help ensure more one-on-ones for Ware – and to simply generate as much pressure as possible – Ryan walks safeties down into the box (Abe Elam’s physical strength is a plus for this), uses fire-X blitzes with his inside linebackers (where the left linebacker attacks the right A-gap and the right linebacker attacks the left A-gap) and often brings cornerback Orlando Scandrick off the edge from the slot (Scandrick is an excellent blitzer).

Ryan may want to be a bit cautious this week. Eli Manning is superb at identifying blitzes and audibling. Plus, it was on a double A-gap blitz that Ryan got outsmarted by Ken Whisenhunt with a screen pass for LaRod Stephens-Howling on the overtime touchdown last week. Ahmad Bradshaw is very good in the screen game.



5. Defending Cruz
Over the years, the Giants have had a field day going after Orlando Scandrick with slot receiver Steve Smith. Scandrick has drastically improved all-around in his third season. But the Giants also have a more dynamic slot weapon in surprising 1,000-yard receiver Victor Cruz. Cruz has big, ball-plucking hands and sinewy body control that allow him to make late adjustments to the ball. His powerful elusiveness after the catch makes him a threat to score on any play.

If Scandrick is blitzing or outside, the Cowboys are more likely to play a zone or some sort of off-coverage in the slot. The Cardinals had their outside and slot receivers align tight to one another last week, which the Cowboys defended by playing off-coverage inside. That left easy eight-yard completions on the table. Manning will gladly take those if given the opportunity.

The Cowboys may defend the seam with safety help – which could keep Cruz, as well as surprising downfield producer Jake Ballard, in-check. In that case, Scandrick would be an underneath defender, where he’s most comfortable. The cost here is that this safety help would either water down some of the blitz designs or leave one-on-one coverage against Hakeem Nicks outside.

Rob Ryan’s best bet might be to mix and match with disguise, in hopes of setting up a Manning turnover.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 14 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: September 28, 2011 2:52 pm
Edited on: September 29, 2011 2:30 pm
 

Film Room: Cowboys vs. Lions preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

For the first time seemingly since their Portsmouth days, the Detroit Lions will enter a nationally-followed non-Thanksgiving game with high expectations to live up to. They’re taking their 3-0 record to Dallas to face Tony Romo’s Ribs and a Cowboy defense that is getting more potent by the week in Rob Ryan’s scheme.

You’ll hear plenty this week about how the Lions can bring some much needed joy to the struggling Motor City, and about how they have crawled out of a miserable past decade, and about the wonders of NFL parity and turnaround stories.

These human interest stories are nice, but they’re only relevant because of what the Lions do on the field. Here’s a look at that.



1. Open formations
The Lions have lined up in shotgun 67 percent of the time this season, mostly in a 2 x 1 single-back set (two receivers to one side, one to the other). Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has taken this approach because it plays to the strength of his two young backfield stars: Matthew Stafford and Jahvid Best.

The semi-spread formations clarify the reads for Stafford and propagate a lot of quick-strike throws (which he has the arm strength and compact release to execute). Because defenses are compelled to roll coverage to Calvin Johnson (by far the most athletically gifted wideout in the NFL), Stafford has opportunities to exploit the seams.

This is a big reason why Detroit drafted Titus Young in the second round. Young is an unrefined route runner at this point, but route running precision is not the end-all, be-all when you’re attacking zone coverages from the slot.

Also helping spread the field is the way Detroit crafts sideline routes for Johnson. When a receiver runs a downfield pattern outside the numbers, safety help over the top often becomes irrelevant due to the nature of the limited spacing. Thus, you get a one-on-one matchup by default. Johnson has never been great at beating double teams.

That’s partly why the Lions specifically send him on isolation patterns outside. They’ll do this at least five or six times Sunday because the Cowboys, like most teams, don’t have a corner who can handle Megatron alone.

Detroit’s running game also benefits from the three-receiver shotgun sets. The very nature of the formation creates extra spacing, which is what a finesse runner like Jahvid Best needs. It also aids Detroit’s blocking. Receiving tight end Tony Scheffler often aligns in the slot as the third receiver. Scheffler has never been a great run-blocker, but as a slot receiver he doesn’t have to rely on strength and technique as much.

When it’s a wideout in the slot, it means the Lions get to run against a nickel defense, something they’ve done with alacrity thus far. Best’s rushing numbers aren’t great, but the Lions’ run game overall is not the weakness it was a season ago.

2. Receiving X factors
Detroit’s second and third best receiving weapons are not wideouts. Tight end Brandon Pettigrew caught 11 balls for 116 yards against Minnesota. He’s a plodding runner with softer hands and more effective agility than you’d guess. Stafford loves when Pettigrew is matched up on a linebacker. It will be interesting if that’s still the case after he watches outstanding Cowboys inside linebacker Sean Lee on film this week.

Pettigrew ranks third on the team in receiving. Ranking second is Best, who has 15 catches for 182 yards. Best, who has great elusiveness and acceleration, hurts opponents as a true receiver out of the slot, and he kills them as a screen receiver out of the backfield. One of the unheralded reasons Best thrives on screens is Calvin Johnson is a superb downfield blocker.

3. The much-ballyhooed defensive line
The Lions front four is as good as advertised. And it may only get better this week if Nick Fairley debuts as a pass-rushing defensive tackle (the first-round rookie has been out since undergoing foot surgery in August). Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch plays with great leverage and tenacity. Opposite him, Cliff Avril is a vastly underrated athlete who has recently gotten faster and stronger. Inside, underrated Corey Williams can play both a one-and two-gap style.
 
Of course, Ndamukong Suh is the driving force of Detroit’s front four. Suh’s greatest asset is his ability to quickly exert power off of movement. Elite defensive tackles like Vince Wilfork, B.J. Raji or Haloti Ngata often overpower opponents with their sheer size and force.

But those guys all weigh 330-plus and are wide enough to play the nose. Suh, at 307 pounds, is a beast, but he doesn’t quite have that exceptional raw power to dominate every down in a phone booth. However, he compensates by having the initial quickness and agility of a Pro Bowl caliber defensive end (that’s end, not tackle).

Suh is off to an incredible start this season because he’s now learned to consistently use that quickness to create favorable positioning immediately off the snap. Moves that take most players two seconds to execute, he executes in less than one. Thus, he’s always facing blockers who are caught just a little bit off-guard. That’s all Suh needs to take their manhood.

For the most part this season, the Lions have relied on straight four-man pass-rushes. But last season, against upper-tier offensive lines, defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham would have a few of his linemen roam around before the snap in order to create confusion. Given Dallas’ inexperience, it would not be surprising to see Cunningham move Suh around on Sunday.

But Cunningham won’t dig too far into that bag of tricks if he doesn’t think it’s absolutely necessary. He knows there are also plenty of ways to create matchup problems with his traditional fronts. For one example, see the illustration below:


From this alignment, Suh creates a mismatch either for himself or the defensive end next to him – it depends on how the Cowboys choose to block it.

In this formation, the Cowboys have three players to block two. But personnel is still a problem. By splitting the defensive end out wide (in what’s called a nine-technique) and putting Suh in the B-gap (between the offensive guard and tackle) the Cowboys have three options here, all of which put them in an unfavorable position.

Option A: They double-team Suh with guard Kyle Kosier and tackle Tyron Smith, which leaves their tight end (either Jason Witten or Martellus Bennett) overmatched one-on-one against Cliff Avril.

Option B: They let OT Smith block Avril, which leaves a terrifying one-on-one matchup for G Kosier against Suh.

Option C: They send the tight end on a passing route, but it will have to be a short one because they’re still dealing with a one-on-one matchup between G Kosier and Suh.

Option D: The Cowboys slide protection to the right side, which is unlikely because it makes life too easy for Detroit’s other two defensive linemen and could also compromise the left side of the field for passing route options.

4. Lions pass defense
The secondary has been the Lions’ Achilles heel the past two years. But this season, the Lions are allowing only 188 yards per game through the air, fourth best in the NFL. That could just be a function of weak opponents, though. In Week 1, the Lions faced a Bucs receiving group that lacks speed. In Week 2, the Lions faced a Chiefs offense that was without dynamic tight end Tony Moeaki and thin behind the seemingly detached Dwayne Bowe.

In Week 3, the Lions faced a Vikings team that humorously believes Michael Jenkins and Bernard Berrian form an adequate one-two punch outside. A true test for the Lions secondary may have to wait another week, as the Cowboys without Miles Austin have a fairly feeble receiving corps.

Quality of opponent aside, give this secondary credit for its improvements. The Lions play a lot of Cover 2, but their corners have performed well in man coverage on third downs. Plus safety Louis Delmas has sharpened his ball-man prowess against tight ends.

5. What to expect
The Lions have not seen a defense as conceptually difficult as Dallas’. Against the Bucs and Vikings, Stafford had to only read zone coverages behind basic four-man pass-rushes. This Sunday, he and his offensive line will have to decipher more blitzes and sub-package personnel.

They have an ultimate resource in Calvin Johnson, though. The Cowboys simply can’t cover him.

If the Lions can exploit that mismatch early and play from ahead, they’ll make the Cowboys offense one-dimensional and vulnerable in long-yardage situations. That should be enough to get to 4-0.

So who will win? Check our expert picks for all Week 1 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: September 7, 2011 3:27 pm
Edited on: September 8, 2011 4:45 pm
 

Film Room: Jets vs. Cowboys preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



The Ryan Brothers are about more than oversized mouths and midsections. They’re two of the craftiest defensive scientists in today’s NFL.

Rob, in his first season as Dallas’ defensive coordinator, is hoping to build the same type of confounding defense that his brother has constructed in New York.

That’s a tall order.

The Jets have had two full years of experience in The Ryan System; the Cowboys, thanks to the lockout, have not quite had two months. The Jets also have the luxury of designing coverages around Darrelle Revis, the best shutdown corner since Deion Sanders.

The Cowboys, on the other hand, are just hoping that Terence Newman, who showed signs of decline last season, can recover from a groin injury in time to play. Whether he does or not, the Cowboy corners figure to need safety help Sunday night.

The Cowboys defense will improve under Rob Ryan, but it’s a question of when. The Jets defense, we already know, is ready to go. For this reason, we’ll focus our five key points on Cowboys O vs. Jets D – a matchup that, as you’ll see, drastically favors Gang Green.

1. Selling Out
What Rex Ryan does as well as any coach in football is attack tendencies. In other words, for simplicity sake, say that on second-and-10, data shows that the opposing offense uses play action 75 percent of the time. The Jets, on second-and-10, will employ a defensive tactic that goes all-out towards stopping play action.

This might seem like an obvious move. But a majority of NFL coaches are hindered by fear about that 25 percent chance of getting burned by a non-play action call. Not Ryan. He always looks to feast on an offense’s predictability. That’s one reason his players love him. Worth noting is that last season, the Cowboys often clang to basic personnel formations and had a tendency to be predictable.



2. The Disguise
While it’s true the Jets are one of football’s blitz-happiest teams (especially on third down), it’s a myth that their playbook is thick with myriad blitz designs. In actuality, the Jets use a relatively modest collection of blitz packages. The difference is that they execute these blitzes with a wide variety of personnel. Insiders call this "cross training", when a team has multiple players from multiple positions performing the same techniques. The Jets have nearly mastered it. This versatility is why defenders can roam around before the snap and disguise their looks.

3. The Execution
A lot of Ryan’s pass-rush designs look like blitzes but actually involve only four pass-rushers. Often, the pass-rushers are overloaded to one side. For example, the Jets might place seven defenders on the line of scrimmage (say four to left and three to right).

But when the ball is snapped, three of the four defenders on the left side drop into coverage, while all three defenders on the right side rush. This creates confusion for offenses in pass protection, which results in pass-rushers getting a clear path to the quarterback or being blocked by an overwhelmed running back.

The Jets make great use of a variety of zone exchanges. As our illustration shows, much of the work is done simply with the presnap alignment.

In this alignment, even if three of the four defenders on the left side of the line retreat back into coverage, they still create a pass-rushing advantage for the defense. The very nature of the pre-snap configuration forces the offense to waste blockers on the left side and also creates one-on-one matchups on the right.

Those one-on-one matchups dictate that the running back pick up the outside linebacker, which is a mismatch favoring the defense. On a related note, the running back also has reason to first look left (1. above) immediately after the snap, which makes him a half-beat slower in identifying his actual assignment on the right (2. above).

4. Cowboys Achilles Heal
Pass protection recognition figures to be a bugaboo for the Cowboys – at least early in the season. Two of Dallas’ starting linemen are rookies: first round right tackle Tyron Smith, who, at 20, is the youngest player in the league, and seventh-round left guard Bill Nagy.

What’s more, new center Phil Costa might not be overweight and overpaid like predecessor Andre Gurode, but he’s also not battle-tested. The undrafted second-year pro has played in four games, with just one start that came at left guard. Front line questions are ominous considering Tony Romo has always had some trouble diagnosing blitzes.

The only saving grace in Week 1 is that with Rob Ryan running the Cowboys D, this callow offensive line has had a chance to practice against some of Rex Ryan’s defensive concepts. But we’re still talking about an untested group coming off a shortened offseason and facing one of the most confounding defenses in all of football.

5. A Scintillating Raw Matchup
The ever-fluid Miles Austin figures to be blanketed by Darrelle Revis Sunday night. Thus, the Dez Bryant-Antonio Cromartie matchup takes center stage.

This will be like watching football’s version of a great impromptu dance-off or pickup street ball game. Both players are unrefined but dripping with natural talent and confidence. Bryant’s inexperience figures to limit his route tree; Cromartie’s refusal to use his hands in press coverage drives Jets coaches crazy. But both players have natural game-changing abilities.

So who will win? Check our expert picks for all Week 1 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: July 27, 2011 12:28 am
 

Report: Cowboys give big contract to Doug Free

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

For the Cowboys, it seems like the starting offensive line is falling into place quite nicely.

After telling RT Marc Colombo the club would be cutting him, Dallas shored up the tackle position Tuesday night by, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports, agreeing to terms with Doug Free on a contract worth four years and $32 million ($17 million of that is guaranteed).

As CBSSports.com’s Andy Benoit told you after the draft, the plan for Dallas was to get rid of the “slow-footed” Colombo. Then, the Cowboys would use their first-round pick Tyron Smith at the other tackle spot opposite Free.

And that’s exactly what seems to be happening (assuming Smith signs his contract as well).

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Posted on: May 6, 2011 7:25 pm
 

Hot Routes 5.6.11: Count Javier Arenas as lucky



Posted by Josh Katzowitz

  • As a devastating tornado raged around him in Tuscaloosa, Chiefs DB Javier Arenas took shelter in a bathtub. Arenas was fine, but a block away, the weather caused complete devastation. Said Arenas: “I want to thank the makers of my tub.
  • Although Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz turned down a contract extension from the club, he still says he badly wants to stay in Chicago. He’s just letting his negotiator do his thing.
  • TV broadcaster Gus Johnson isn’t necessarily gone from CBS quite yet. Here’s hoping he and CBS can come to sort of agreement on a new contract.
  • Legendary Dolphins coach Don Shula speaks to the Miami Herald about a variety of topics, including how he was disappointed when Bill Parcells abruptly bailed on the organization.
  • If the Buccaneers end up on Hard Knocks this season, Tony Dungy has some advice for the players: Don’t try to be like Sidney Poitier.

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Posted on: May 2, 2011 11:15 pm
 

NFC East draft truths revealed

Posted by Andy Benoit

One of the best things about the draft is that from it we can find out what teams really think about their current players. Excluding examples of teams filling obvious needs, here are some of the more revealing draft picks from 2011, with a quick blurb of what the team was really saying by making this pick.

Dallas Cowboys

1st round, Tyron Smith, OT, USC
Many believe this pick means that our left tackle Doug Free will move to the right side. That could be. But we can cross that bridge later. Right now, we’re just glad to have an upgrade over slow-footed right tackle Marc Colombo.
 
3rd round, DeMarco Murray, RB, OklahomaP. Amukamara (US Presswire)
The rumors about Marion Barber being on the way out are true.
 
New York Giants

1st round, Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
We are tired of waiting on Aaron Ross to polish up and stay healthy.
 
2nd round, Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina
Does RFA Barry Cofield want to play hardball for a long-term contract now?
 
3rd round, Jerrel Jernigan, WR, Troy
OK! OK! Sinorice Moss was a bust.
 
6th round, Tyler Sash, SS, Iowa
We haven’t been pleased with the play of Michael Johnson the past few years. Now, thanks to one of the highest rated safeties in the draft falling clear down to Round 6, we can do something about it.
 
Philadelphia Eagles

2nd round, Jaiquawn Jarrett, FS, Temple
Free agent Quintin Mikell might not be back after all. We historically get rid of defensive players a little too early rather than risk holding them a little too late. Mikell will be 31 in September.
 
3rd round, Curtis Marsh, CB, Utah State
We need some competition for starting corner Dmitri Patterson.
 
4th round, Alex Henery, K, Nebraska
We gave David Akers a transition player tag because we don’t want him here past 2011 (if that).
 
Washington Redskins

1st round, Ryan Kerrigan, OLB, Purdue
We don’t like Andre Carter (he’s a free agent anyway). And we acknowledge that Lorenzo Alexander is a versatile role player, not a starter.
 
Check back throughout the week for other division’s Draft Truths Revealed. To see all Draft Truths Revealed, click the “Draft Truths” tag.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com