The Cowboys’ preseason opener in Oakland was perhaps the most boring game of football ever played, but it won’t stop me from breaking down the film. Below, I’ll explain two plays from the first-team offense—one good and one not so good.
With a 2nd and 10 at their own 37-yard line, the Cowboys are lined up with base personnel (one tight end, two wide receivers, one tailback, and one fullback) in a formation I label as “3 Wide Left I.” Everyone knows the basic I-formation, and this is simply a variation of it with Jason Witten kicked out into the slot.
The Raiders showed a blitz on the right side of their defense prior to the snap. Tony Romo adjusted by moving his protection to the left side of the offense. DeMarco Murray and Lawrence Vickers both dashed to the left side of the offense to help pick up the blitz. It was one of the few plays on which the Cowboys provided Romo with solid protection.
Immediately after receiving the snap, Romo noticed the Raiders indeed blitzed up the middle and to the left side of the offense, so he rolled out to the right to buy himself more time. This wasn’t a designed rollout, of which Jason Garrett has called fewer than one per game over the past three seasons.
On the outside, the cornerback covering wide receiver Dez Bryant was playing with outside leverage. Despite trying to force Bryant inside, Dez works wonderfully to get outside of the cornerback. Bryant and Romo both knew that the Raiders were in straight man coverage following the blitz, and beating the cornerback outside allowed Bryant to get in position to catch a tremendous back shoulder throw from Romo.
On a 2nd and 12 from their own 18-yard line, the Cowboys lined up in “Ace” formation. Felix Jones was the running back, and rookie James Hanna accompanied Jason Witten as the second tight end.
At the snap of the ball, Romo gives a playaction look. The designed play was actually a screen pass, and the playaction/screen combination is something that Garrett calls a lot. Actually, the Cowboys are three times more likely to throw a screen pass following a playaction look as on a straight dropback.
As with any play, one mishap often kills the chances for success. Center David Arkin, whose normal position is guard, allowed the Raiders’ defensive tackle into the backfield almost immediately following the snap. On this particular screen pass, the interior linemen were supposed to trickle out after initially blocking their defenders, but Arkin never made his block.
You can see the only players continuing to block two seconds after the snap were the two offensive tackles and the backside tight end. The screen looked to be set up nicely, but unfortunately it never got started.
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