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Cowboys Preseason Film Study Week 1: Chargers

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Despite losing to the Chargers 28-20 on Saturday night, the Cowboys looked much improved as compared to their preseason opener in Oakland. The first-team offense, although posting just a field goal, looked light years ahead of where they were last week, led by a surprisingly stable offensive line.

    After reviewing the Cowboys-Chargers film, here are the rest of my game observations:
    • The Cowboys were in a two-tight end set on six of the first-team offense’s 20 plays.
    The ‘Boys have lined up with two tight ends on only 29.0 percent of plays to start the preseason. We’ll see if that trend continues in the regular season. With the loss of Martellus Bennett, it just might.
    The only thing that might force the Cowboys into more two-tight end sets would be the continued emergence of rookie James Hanna. Hanna has been absolutely sensational thus far in the preseason, showing explosiveness off of the line and natural receiving skills. I’ll make it a point to watch him more as a blocker next week, but I haven’t noticed any hiccups in that area of his game up to this point.
    • The Cowboys have placed three receivers on the field on 41.9 percent of snaps.
    That mark falls in line with their total from 2011. Both three-receiver and two-tight end personnel packages figure to increase during the regular season because Jason Garrett won’t call so many plays with “base” personnel.
    The Cowboys have run the ball four times from three-receiver sets, averaging 5.3 yards-per-carry. I’d love to see more runs from pass-oriented formations, on which the ‘Boys have excelled in the past.
    • Romo threw three passes at least 17 yards.

    The average length of Romo’s passes has been 9.1 yards this preseason; that’s up around 20 percent from the previous three seasons. It’s a small sample size, but I don’t think it’s a fluke. Romo threw the ball at least 20 yards on just 6.6 percent of passes in 2011. With his success on deep passes and Dez Bryant outside, that number is sure to be in double-digits this season.

    A few quick-hitters. . .
    • Cole Beasley looks like he’ll grab a roster spot. His run-after-catch ability from the slot is something the offense is really lacking.
    • Mario Butler had a heck of a game against the Chargers. With his cornerback-safety versatility, I think he’s making his way onto the 53-man roster.
    • In my pre-game “What to Watch” article, I told you to keep an eye on Victor Butler. With a sack on the Chargers’ first drive and multiple pressures, it didn’t take long for him to make an impact. Don’t forget that this is a player with a higher career pressure rate than Anthony Spencer and a tackle rate superior to that of DeMarcus Ware.
    • We didn’t hear much from Morris Claiborne, and that’s a good thing. San Diego didn’t look his way, but he appeared fluid in coverage.
    • Brandon Carr, on the other hand, has already showed play-making ability for Dallas. If Claiborne is as advertised, the Cowboys’ secondary will be significantly upgraded in 2012.
    • Barry Church continues to look outstanding in run support. He needs to improve in coverage, however. In his short career, he has allowed an 80 percent completion rate and over 9.0 yards-per-attempt.
    • If Adrian Hamilton doesn’t make the final roster, I’ll be shocked. He has such a high ceiling that you can’t risk trying to sneak him on the practice squad.
    • The Cowboys have two good quarterbacks. My guess is that, come September, they’ll have just two quarterbacks period. Stephen McGee has shown there’s really no reason to keep him around.

    Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.

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