I watched yesterday's Cowboys-Eagles game from my couch and tried to look at the game the way a coach would. I tried searching for tendencies, looking for patterns, anything I could to find potential chinks in the Dallas armor.
It was a tough task, particularly because I'm not a coach and the telecast was centered on wide receiver Terrell Owens' return to Philadelphia. But I did come up with some observations.
First of all, if Drew Bledsoe has time, he can be an assassin. Fortunately for the Eagles, they were in his face all day with a combination of blitzes and plain-and-simple four-man rushes that confounded the Cowboys' offensive line.
I once heard that a quarterback's completion percentage dips at least 20 percentage points when he's under duress. That means either a QB hurry, pressure or sack. I think Sunday's game in Philadelphia lent some credence to that argument. When Bledsoe was being harassed, his accuracy was noticeably worse. Plus, it seems that he fumbles any time a defender hits his arm.
Another point worth mentioning from the game is that the Cowboys' defense is good, but vulnerable. Safety Roy Williams is a head-hunter (not to say he's a dirty player), but he can be susceptible to the long ball. Safety Pat Watkins also seems prone to the deep passes—he got beat for an 87-yard touchdown by Eagles rookie Hank Baskett.
Otherwise, the Cowboys' defense is stout up front. Greg Ellis and Demarcus Ware are the kind of outside linebackers that any defensive coordinator would love to have. Ware plays a nasty style of football similar to five-time Pro Bowler Kevin Greene. Ellis is a savvy veteran with a lot of moves. Jason Ferguson does what a nose tackle in a 3-4 is supposed to do – he takes on double teams to free up linebackers Bradie James and Akin Ayodele. It's hard to move Ferguson.
There's no doubt the Texans will have their hands full on offense. Protecting Carr will be crucial, as always. But with Andre Johnson hitting his stride, and Carr growing each game, I think it will be the Texans' defense that will determine the game's outcome.
Wide receivers Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn, along with tight end Jason Witten and running backs Julius Jones and Marion Barber, will be a handful to contain. If Bledsoe remains the starter, which he should (according to this story in the Forth Worth Star-Telegram), then the Texans will need to get into his face and disrupt him. Of course, applying pressure on passing downs won't be possible without stopping the run, and nobody recognizes that better than head coach Gary Kubiak.
"They've run the ball probably as well as anyone playing football right now with those two backs and they've got two big-play wide receivers," Kubiak said after practice today. "They're a very well-built football team."
The story of Bennie Joppru took another turn Monday. The Texans released the oft-injured tight end, replacing him with fullback Vonta Leach. Kubiak didn't feel comfortable having only one fullback (Jameel Cook) available on game day, and the team had four active tight ends on the roster with Joppru, Mark Bruener, Owen Daniels and Jeb Putzier.
But for all you fans rooting for the underdog, Joppru could be back with the Texans soon. If nobody claims Joppru off the waiver wire, Kubiak hinted that the Texans could re-sign Joppru to the practice squad.
If I've learned anything from Joppru over the years, it's that you should never count him out. He's battled through more injuries than any player I've heard of. So don't expect his NFL saga to end. **