By: Cory Mageors
I saw and heard a lot about Dez Bryant only getting five targets Sunday against the Giants, so I decided to focus solely on why the Cowboys did not attempt to force him the ball more. The argument keeps popping up, teams find ways to get their beast the football, but the Cowboys can’t find ways to get it to Dez.
Before we start suggesting that Dez is inept, which I heard somebody say, or that this offensive coordinator and head coach are incapable of designing a Dez-scheme to beat a defense, let’s take a look at what they were dealing with.
First, a defense that typically lines up in a shell with two high safeties, they keep their athletic LB’s close to the line and basically say “You can have all the short stuff but you won’t beat us deep.”
Second, you have a rookie QB who knows that if Dez is in double coverage, then he has better options for protecting the football underneath with Jason Witten and Cole Beasley. The Cowboys mantra is ball and clock control, they don’t want to take too many risks. So, going into this game Dak said if I see one-on-one coverage I’m putting it up, there were 17 times at least that Dez was double covered throughout the game. There were also some learning moments where Dak may have thought Dez was covered, but in the NFL he’s open. That being said, all week his mental clock was taught to drop back, look at Dez, see if coverage was still what he saw pre-snap, hit the second progression and throw.
If the Cowboys are going to play that type of game, where they take whatever is underneath all the way down the field, they must do a better job executing in the Red Zone to score TD’s. However, this team is reliant on “BIG PLAYS” or “Toxic Plays” and Jason Garrett has mentioned that before, Dez is their game breaker, so they have to be able to find him on the occasions that he can explode for one of those plays.
Also, for some reason, Dez never runs a route less than 10 yards, more often than not he’s 15 yards away, that takes time and Dak’s clock is saying move quickly.
So let’s take a look at the type of coverage Dez and Dak were dealing with through the game.
On the first pass of the game, Bryant is being pressed at the line with a safety high. The Giants send a corner blitz opening up Dez on the comeback.
On the second pass, the safety is high, not necessarily in double coverage on Dez, but not allowing a deep pass, Dak sees the space clear out up top and hits Witten underneath.
And then on the next pass, you can see the safety’s body is completely turned to make a move to take Dez out of the options, and Dak hits Beasley underneath to keep moving the ball and the clock.
This next one is my favorite coverage, Dez is boxed in by four different guys. Now with great anticipation and a thread of a needle, this is a TD, but likely it’s Dez getting his clock cleaned and the ball bouncing into the hands of the Giants.
They hit Witten for short yardage, but this is proof, the Giants are trying to keep Dez out of the end zone.
Now for the killer, you are going to hate this. Remember when that Dak pass to Beasley came in a little high and hot, and Beasley dropped a TD. Look at this.
In the top picture, Dez is open on the seem, he recognizes it despite the slot corner and safety. He makes eye contact with Dak, and if Dak throws, it’s a TD to Dez though a little tight. But what Dak sees is Beasley walking into the endzone. The safety bites on Dez, has his back to an open area in the field, and Beasley is in full sprint across the 5-yard line. If the pass is a little more out in front and has a little more touch, Beasley scores on this.
Here’s some more double coverage on Dez near the end zone.
On the pass in the second quarter where Dez ran a Go route to the end zone, he was single covered and it was broken up by Cromartie. Dez had a chance but Cromartie made a good play to break up the pass.
The next pass below goes to Lance Dunbar but Dez was bracketed by a safety and linebacker, if Dak anticipates the linebacker coming off then he hits Dez in stride, but the safety was biting hard and the pass rush pushed Dak out of the pocket where he lost Dez.
Later, Dez gets 15-yard penalty on Jenoris Jenkins facemask…so that’s positive.
On the touchdown that was reversed, they saw Dez single covered by Landon Collins lined up in the slot. If he catches this, the story changes completely regarding Dez’s day.
A few plays later, they tried it again but with Dez on the outside, but Collins switched off and Jenkins took him in coverage. It didn’t matter, the pass rush got to Dak and he threw it at Witten’s feet.
On the last possession in the first half, Dez is covered by two guys and Dak throws into double coverage on Witten. You can see Dak look his way first, then bounce into his progression where his next receiver is Witten.
On this play, Dak gets the defense to bite on the pump to Terrance Williams, but looks Williams all the way, on the other side of the field, Dez made his double move and is wide open. Prescott never looked Bryant’s way.
To start the fourth quarter, Dak let loose a bomb to Bryant on a fly route, but the pass went out of bounds over Bryan’t head, and there was good coverage by Jenkins.
Then, midway through the fourth, the Cowboys had just gotten bitten by a holding call on La’el Collins. The next play, they were buried deep and basically just wanted to move the ball forward for field position. So they threw a screen pass to Jason Witten. Unfortunately that was the presnap call, because this is what Dez was looking at.
My overall assessment is, whether conservative game planning by the coaching staff or a specific mindset of protecting the football by Dak, (which I think there was a little of both) the Giants did a serviceable job of taking Dez out of the game. The Cowboys lined Dez up all over the field, but that didn’t matter, the Giants knew where 88 was at all times.
Were there opportunities to find Bryant open? Yes.
Can there be more anticipation on the part of the quarterback in the future? Yes.
But as this young QB grows, there will be more trust, more development and more explosive success for this Cowboys offense.
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