Wk5 Pre-Game Thread: Patriots @ Cowboys

pokey_reese

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I know that Hardy and McClain are good players in terms of individual skill, but having not followed the Cowboys that closely over the past few seasons outside of Thanksgiving, can any of you Dallas fans mention anything about how their absence/return affects the defensive schemes or alignments that the Cowboys play? Have they just been running out the same formations and coverages with less skilled guys plugged in at those spots, or did not having them contribute thematically to the defensive struggles over the last few weeks?
 

Bosoxen

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Two immediate changes stand out, which may or may not answer your question:
 
1) McClain would immediately plug in at MLB, allowing Hitchens to slide over to the spot vacated by Lee (grumble grumble). Once Lee returns, a linebacking corps of Lee/McClain/Hitchens sounds a metric fuckton better than Wilbur/Hitchens/Wilson - which was the three linebackers on the field on the final play last night. Gachkar can move back to a depth role which is better-suited for him, Wilbur can go back to being a pass rushing specialist and Wilson can go back to learning where the fuck he's supposed to be while stapled to the bench.
 
2) Hardy would allow Tyrone Crawford to move back inside in obvious passing situations. I saw him lined up outside a few times last night, which made for a very ineffectual pass rush what with Lawrence struggling all night to beat the hobbled Armstead. The other benefit is it would allow Lawrence to move over to the left side of the line, giving him the opportunity to go against the lesser right tackles of the world.
 
The addition of both players should also help the run defense because that is an area where McClain excels and Hardy would allow Hayden and Crawford to focus more on taking up blockers, rather than trying to add to the nonexistent pass rush. They also give the front 7 more depth for rotation, which will be even more critical up against the fast-paced offenses they'll face, like New England, Philly and Green Bay.
 
Unfortunately, I can't really speak to the scheme. I don't know where Hardy would fit in, since he's new to the team, and I'm not that schooled in football (luckily, our friends at ITP could probably help). I like to pretend I know what I'm talking about but I never played organized football, so the X's and O's are still somewhat outside of my area of expertise.
 

pokey_reese

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Thanks, just knowing the personnel a little better and who they would come in and replace, or move around the formation, is helpful.
 

soxfan121

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Bosoxen said:
 Wilbur/Hitchens/Wilson - which was the three linebackers on the field on the final play last night. 
 
Keith Smith was in for Wilber. 
 
So, it was actually worse than you think it was. (Note: don't read all the ITP articles tomorrow). 
 

Bosoxen

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soxfan121 said:
 
Keith Smith was in for Wilber. 
 
So, it was actually worse than you think it was. (Note: don't read all the ITP articles tomorrow). 
Yeah, that is definitely worse. And that's the position on the team with the most depth.

That's a depressing thought.
 

Rough Carrigan

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BigSoxFan said:
Any idea how the Cowboys will go after the Pats? Even though Brady is pretty good against the blitz, I still expect the Cowboys to bring the pressure to see if they can force a few miscues.
By now, isn't it pretty well proven that that approach won't work?
The only defenses the Pats have had trouble with are the ones who can bring pressure with 4 and drop 7 into coverage and do a decent job of coverage.
 

Bosoxen

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BigSoxFan said:
Any idea how the Cowboys will go after the Pats? Even though Brady is pretty good against the blitz, I still expect the Cowboys to bring the pressure to see if they can force a few miscues.
 
Rough Carrigan said:
By now, isn't it pretty well proven that that approach won't work?
The only defenses the Pats have had trouble with are the ones who can bring pressure with 4 and drop 7 into coverage and do a decent job of coverage.
 
This is how I would expect them to approach it. They're not a heavy blitzing team anyway and that's what they've done all season - with spotty results. I imagine the hope is that the inclusion of Hardy lights a fire under the pass rush and they're able to put some pressure on Brady with just their front 4. The secondary isn't necessarily the strength of the defense and blitzing would leave them vulnerable. The occasional blitz might serve to disrupt some plays but I wouldn't go into this expecting a heavy blitz package.
 
The other side of it is if they drop coverage and can't put any pressure on Brady, he'll have a field day. I mean, we all saw what Julio Jones did, right? I shudder to think what Gronkowski would do in that scenario.
 
This is going to be ugly.
 

RedOctober3829

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Look for the Patriots to spread the Cowboys out just like they did the Bills.  This will be a big Dion Lewis game.  Dallas' secondary and linebackers can't cover the Patriots personnel and their pass rush will be neutralized due to how fast Brady gets the ball out of his hands.    
 
Defensively, I would think you'll see a lot of big 4-3 fronts to counter the Cowboys' rushing attack. To me, a front four of Hicks-Branch-Siliga-Jones would be a solid DL to go up against a great Cowboys OL.  Obviously, they'll rotate others in but that group of 4 would have the best chance to not get pushed around.  Easley would figure not to have a big role this week other than obvious passing downs.   I would also think that Mayo will have a bigger role than in the past 3 games and that Jon Bostic will see some snaps on 1st and 2nd downs because their strength is against the run. The Patriots can also afford to keep an extra safety around the LOS this week due to the very weak passing attack.  Witten is not healthy as he's playing with sprained ankles and a sprained knee.  He's not the threat he once was, but he can still make an impact within 10 yards of the LOS using his body to "post up" smaller defenders at the sticks.  As banged up as he is, he still leads the team in catches with 28.  The receivers are very weak with Terrence Williams and Cole Beasley being the top 2 threats.  They actually lost their 2nd leading pass catcher in RB Lance Dunbar with a torn ACL/MCL.  
 

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NE has promoted Khyri Thornton (315 lbs) from the practice squad and traded for Akiem Hicks (324 lbs). Assuming these two guys are active for the game, is NE's strategy to try and stuff this great offensive line at the point of attack and dare Weeden to beat them through the air? 
 

Bosoxen

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ShaneTrot said:
NE has promoted Khyri Thornton (315 lbs) from the practice squad and traded for Akiem Hicks (324 lbs). Assuming these two guys are active for the game, is NE's strategy to try and stuff this great offensive line at the point of attack and dare Weeden to beat them through the air? 
 
Yes. That's what everyone will be doing to the Cowboys until Romo returns. The Falcons and Saints did this with overwhelming results. I really don't think there's any question that's what we'll be seeing.
 

SeoulSoxFan

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Bosoxen said:
Yes. That's what everyone will be doing to the Cowboys until Romo returns. The Falcons and Saints did this with overwhelming results. I really don't think there's any question that's what we'll be seeing.
 
I know we discussed this a bit in the Cowboys forum, but O-line is not getting the love in Dallas:
 
http://www.dallasnews.com/sports/dallas-cowboys/headlines/20151005-rainer-sabin-grades-the-cowboys-in-ot-loss-to-saints-offensive-line-receives-team-s-worst-mark.ece
 
And an excellent breakdown by Bob Sturm, with tons of examples & analysis. A must read, as keeping the number of possessions low for the Cowboys must be priority #1:
 
http://www.dallasnews.com/sports/dallas-cowboys/20150929-bob-sturm-cowboys-offensive-line-shockingly-mediocre----this-cannot-happen.ece
 
And the simple reality is this - through 3 weeks, the offensive line has not played to its abilities. 
 

If everything is built around the fact that this offensive line is so good that you can put any Running Back back there, then we are going to hold them to a higher standard than what we have seen in these 3 weeks.  It is easier to blame a backup QB than it is to ask your 1st round picks what their deal is, but the fact is there have been too many blown blocks and penalties from this group to be throwing roses at their feet when the offense has stuttered in September.  Sure, Dez Bryant and Tony Romo would be a great quick fix, but if everything in this offense is built on the strong foundation of this front, then let's see it.
 

Bosoxen

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I read that Sturm piece and was actually disappointed. I expected better of him because he usually takes a more complete approach to his analysis. He completely glosses over the fact that the Falcons completely abandoned any semblance of trying to defend the pass. Not even the Cowboys line of the 90s could overcome those odds.
 
There's a lot of blame to go around - the offensive line included - but pinning it all on the line is a gross oversimplification. Why not mention that Weeden attempted all of five passes beyond 10 yards or that they didn't attempt a single play action pass (that I can recall)? If anyone thinks that the line would look this bad with a competent quarterback under center, they're not really paying attention.
 
I will give him this, the missed blocks and penalties are a concern, but we also need to remember that this is still mostly a young line that was dependent on Romo's pre-snap reads. If this were a veteran line, I would be more inclined to direct ire at them. But Frederick and Martin have all of three years of experience between them, so I'm more willing to cut them a little slack and give them some time to get their feet under them. Especially considering they're adjusting to a new offensive line coach (also briefly discussed in the Cowboys thread).
 

dcmissle

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As noted here last night, Callahan may loom large. He has achieved near deity status in DC already. The line is playing well despite some deficiencies and injuries, and the lineman cannot say enough good things about him and his coaching ability.

We have several connoisseurs here on O-line play. I'm interested in their opinions of Callahan.
 

Stitch01

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I think Buffalo took the don't blitz very much approach/drop guys into coverage and got buried that way, its very hard to get pressure with 3 or 4 with how fast Brady is getting the ball out this year.  Its a very hard offense to stop right now.
 

Super Nomario

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RedOctober3829 said:
Defensively, I would think you'll see a lot of big 4-3 fronts to counter the Cowboys' rushing attack. To me, a front four of Hicks-Branch-Siliga-Jones would be a solid DL to go up against a great Cowboys OL.  Obviously, they'll rotate others in but that group of 4 would have the best chance to not get pushed around.  Easley would figure not to have a big role this week other than obvious passing downs.   I would also think that Mayo will have a bigger role than in the past 3 games and that Jon Bostic will see some snaps on 1st and 2nd downs because their strength is against the run. The Patriots can also afford to keep an extra safety around the LOS this week due to the very weak passing attack.  Witten is not healthy as he's playing with sprained ankles and a sprained knee.  He's not the threat he once was, but he can still make an impact within 10 yards of the LOS using his body to "post up" smaller defenders at the sticks.  As banged up as he is, he still leads the team in catches with 28.  The receivers are very weak with Terrence Williams and Cole Beasley being the top 2 threats.  They actually lost their 2nd leading pass catcher in RB Lance Dunbar with a torn ACL/MCL.  
I agree with a lot of this. I think Easley can still be a factor against the run, however. He can knife into the backfield and blow up a running play before it gets going, helping create second-and-longs and third-and-longs. He's not a big body at the point-of-attack but he can still disrupt Dallas' rushing game.
 
The offense can also help the D a lot here. If they get up two scores early and force Dallas to throw the ball, yikes. This could get ugly. If they make mistakes and let the Cowboys hang around, however ...
 
SeoulSoxFan said:
And an excellent breakdown by Bob Sturm, with tons of examples & analysis. A must read, as keeping the number of possessions low for the Cowboys must be priority #1:
 
http://www.dallasnews.com/sports/dallas-cowboys/20150929-bob-sturm-cowboys-offensive-line-shockingly-mediocre----this-cannot-happen.ece
 
Generally speaking, a low number of possessions for the Cowboys = a low number of possessions for the Patriots. Since the Pats figure to be the better team, a low number of possessions introduces more randomness and I'd probably rather each team get more possessions.
 

edmunddantes

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RedOctober3829 said:
We get the Nantz-Simms broadcasting duo this week as well.  The map isn't out yet, but the only areas of the country that won't get this game will be the Denver and Oakland markets.
Son of a bitch!!!
 

Kevin Youkulele

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pokey_reese said:
Ditto. Especially frustrating since it is crazy that Oregon is considered part of the Oakland market to begin with.
Yeah, they need to move back to LA already.
 

Bosoxen

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GregHarris said:
This thread on the Cowboys forums is actually more depressing than anything:
 
http://boards.dallascowboys.com/topic/54115-official-cowboys-vs-patriots-pre-game-thread/page-1
 
General Cowboys forums are the worst. Think NYYFans but with the delusion that Joe Torre would come back to manage the team and re-kindle the glory days. Seriously, it has only been in the last five years that the pining for Jimmy Johnson has subsided.
 
As for that particular board, I used to help moderate it. Let's just say it's a miracle I didn't put a bullet in my face.
 

mwonow

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I liked this one:
 
"Tom Brady vs. Brandon Weeden.
 
I know where my money would be going..."
 
This is a tough league for teams that don't have a real NFL QB. Makes BB winning 11 with Matt Cassel even more remarkable in hindsight than it was at the time - and it was pretty remarkable at the time.
 

DJnVa

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Seeing this as Pats -9 on the road. Wow.
 
I feel for the Dallas fans. Completely different team that what they'll likely have by end of season.
 

H78

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I'll never feel for Cowboys fans.

And isn't the +9 effectively +12 because Dallas is playing at home?
 

DJnVa

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Yeah, that would be Pats by 15 in Foxboro. That's a bigger line than the Jags game.
 
I'm not saying that to gloat or anything, but point out how the injuries have hit Dallas hard.
 

Norm loves Vera

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Fluff piece on BB in the WSJ today discussing BB's style of motivating and praising his players.. as in it's rare to get praise from BB, and when it happens, it's a big deal:
 
"But, players say, doing your job is an expectation around the practice facility of New England, meaning anyone who does their job won’t get overly praised. Thus, hearing “good job” is a heavenly experience for even the most decorated Patriot players."
 
http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-patriots-white-whale-praise-from-belichick-1444149892
 

pokey_reese

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Man, I would be tempted to take those points... but I mean, the drop from Romo to Weeden has to be about 6 points on its own, right? We are going to learn a lot about the Dallas coaching staff this week, given how easy it would be for that team to rollover, coming off a tough loss to NO and facing a hot Pats team off the bye. Honestly, if DAL wins (or loses by less than a touchdown), my hat will be off to that staff.
 

pokey_reese

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BigSoxFan said:
I must be pessimistic because I'm expecting a close game. Patriots' run defense is still pretty mediocre and Dallas should be able to run a bit to keep Brady off the field. I also think Hardy could prove to be disruptive.
You are probably just being realistic. Blowouts are less common just in terms of a probability distribution, especially with the road team doing the blowing out. Plus, the Cowboys have some skilled players, even if they are wracked by injuries these days. I think it's more that the Cowboys and Steelers have shown us in the last few weeks that the step down from a top-tier QB to a replacement QB is huge, and the Pats might have been expected to win by 2 or 3 even with Romo.
 

E5 Yaz

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Yeah, I think it's going to be close, within 10 at the most. 
 
Especially since the Patriots headsets won't be working.
 

soxhop411

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Jon Machota ‏@jonmachota  33m33 minutes ago
Greg Hardy: "I love seeing Tom Brady. You seen his wife? I hope she comes to the game. I hope her sister comes to the game..."
 

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http://weknowmemes.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/hide-yo-kids-hide-yo-wife-nfl-edition-meme.jpg

Damn iPad
 

SeoulSoxFan

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soxhop411 said:
Jon Machota ‏@jonmachota  33m33 minutes ago
Greg Hardy: "I love seeing Tom Brady. You seen his wife? I hope she comes to the game. I hope her sister comes to the game..."
Not sure if that's the quote you want to have Brady hear about. Especially from Hardy.
 

Greg29fan

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I'm relatively confident it won't be a blowout.  Outside of the Thanskgiving game last year which was kind of unique with the short rest and Romo looking awful, it just hasn't happened at home under JG's tenure.  Obviously this is a great opponent that's playing very well but Garrett and Marinelli always have the team playing hard, no matter what you think of them as coaches.
 

H78

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This feels like a 34-20 game to me.
 

Devizier

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Although it helps their (winning) cause, I'm a little annoyed that the Patriots are going to be playing a very depleted Cowboys team.
 

Al Zarilla

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RedOctober3829 said:
The map is up.  Denver, Oakland, and a lot of the upper Midwest and upper Rocky Mountain regions don't get the Patriots game.  Also parts of Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee don't get it either.
Blue state - red state, Oakland can't move to LA fast enough for me. Thing is, St Louis and San Diego may beat them to it. Anybody ever see a split of least favorite NFL teams of fans? I guess the Bills, Browns, Jags, Lions, Bucs (who else?) may challenge, but the Raiders have to be in there for least liked. 
 

Bosoxen

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Says the guy that's always posting Tweets from crap sources.