First of all, the blog Houston Sports and More was kind enough to ask for my thoughts on the Redskins and the upcoming matchups with the Texans. Click here for a discussion of the Dallas win, McNabb, Kyle Shanahan's familiarity with the Texans (and vice versa) and, of course, Albert Haynesworth.
As you know I spent the week going over the replay of the Dallas game (here are links to the first quarter, second quarter, third quarter, and fourth quarter game reviews). To wrap things up here are a few notes on what stood out to me the most from week 1.
- Trent Williams looked very, very good. He got beat a time or two by DeMarcus Ware, but he more than held his own. He also did very well tracking down defenders at the second level. Feeling very good about this first round pick.
- Clinton Portis' pass protection may be the only reason we had any passing game at all last week. He wasn't just picking up blitzers, but also repeatedly bailed out the linemen when they were beaten by a regular four man rush. And as always, the violence with which he hit pass blockers made him even more effective - on one occasion a linebacker actually stopped dead in his tracks when he saw Portis waiting for him and then retreated (Portis pursued him and hit him anyway). And he did not hesitate to take on much bigger defenders, including Jay Ratliff, as soon as they started to make it past the line.
- As a runner, Portis' vision failed him as he missed a couple of good holes.
- I spent much of my time last year criticizing Cooley's blocking, especially run blocking. He was personally responsible for many of the failed running plays in the early part of 2009. And yet against Dallas he was a key part of the running game - he walled linebackers to the outside, he led through holes and drove linebackers out of the lane - the improvement is dramatic.
- This shouldn't be surprising at all, but Dallas nose tackle Jay Ratfliff repeatedly manhandled Casey Rabach.
- DeAngelo Hall has a reputation as a player who shies away from contact, but it was not on display last Sunday. He attacked ballcarriers, and may not always have had great form (he was hitting rather than tackling), he prevented a number of plays from developing.
- LaRon Landry was all over the field, and while he made some big hits he resisted his urge to fly past easy plays while trying to make SportsCenter.
- Graham Gano's 49 yard field goal with less than two minutes left was key. If he had missed Dallas would have had excellent field position while only needing a field goal to force overtime - meaning RT Alex Barron would not have been forced to hold up against Brian Orakpo for long-developing plays while the Cowboys took repeated shots at the end zone.
- The defense played well, but it was because of the players' talent rather than Jim Haslett's scheme. Dallas knew what was coming constantly. Futile corner blitzes - by the guy lined up on at outside receiver, not just in the slot - were called repeatedly despite the fact that Dallas had clearly built a gameplan around quick releases from Tony Romo. And they were all telegraphed early, so Romo simply threw over the blitzer's head. Rocky McIntosh were repeatedly sent on the same doomed blitz up the middle - Fletcher would attack the center, with Rocky crossing behind him. Dallas simply saw it coming and slid the protection so Rocky ran smack into a lineman. And that formation with Vonnie Holliday as the only lineman among five linebackers fooled nobody, despite being called at least ten times. The Cowboys had no trouble identifying where the pass rush, and when Haslett mysteriously called this formation on third and short (twice) they simply ran up the middle.