Dallas Cowboys vs St. Louis Rams Preview: Offense

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For those of you who look forward to my weekly preview with eager anticipation, I apologize for being late this week. A very close friend got married, so I have been busy with the stag and wedding. Congratulations and best of luck to Rayshack and MinJoo. (GO All-Blacks!!!!)

Writer’s update:  The New Zealand All-Blacks did indeed win the World Cup.

As the Dallas Cowboys prepare to play the St. Louis Rams, it is a bit of a shock that it is the offense that is losing games. After the horrendous performance by the defense last year, I don’t think even the most optimistic fan could have predicted how good the defense has played. The best thing is: the defense will continue to get better. The offense appears to finally be at full strength, with the exception of losing Nagy for the season. This week is a chance to start some momentum against a team that is clearly over-matched.

Can Tony Fiammetta provide a spark in the running game?

The running game desperately needs his blocking.

I, like most of the Cowboy Nation, am a huge fan of John Phillips. But, he was less than effective as a lead blocker. I don’t think it was lack of ability, and it certainly wasn’t a lack of effort; he is just too tall. At 6’6” he is just too far from the ground to get leverage when blocking. It is almost trite to point out that whoever gets their pads lower, usually wins the leverage battle, and therefore either blocks effectively or sheds the block. Phillips was unable to get his pads low enough to win the one-on-one blocks in the hole.

Tony Fiammetta is a true blocking full-back; that is why they signed him. At 6’0” and 240 pounds, he is built for blowing up tacklers in the hole. He has to be an improvement over Phillips. Given how new he is on the team, his recent injury, and the demotion of Harris to the practice squad, I don’t think that Fiammatta’s job is completely secure. Look for him to come out with something to prove this week.

I will be watching to see how anxious he looks to put a hurt on someone. I will also be watching for two specific things: can he move the LB out of the running lanes when needed, and will he miss any blocks in the passing game?

Can Demarco Murray be the lead horse?

Can he make the most of this opportunity?

Last week I predicted that the bye week should have given Murray enough time to learn the offense so that Garrett would trust him more on 3rd downs. I argued that he would see more carries. Murray certainly got more carries last week, but that was more the result of the injury to Felix Jones.

When I watch the highlights of Murray’s days in college, he appears to have a good mix of speed, power, elusiveness, quickness and vision. He looks to have the skills necessary to be a successful RB in the NFL. The one concern I have about his running style is that he has a tendency to run very high; he doesn’t keep his shoulder pads as close the ground as I think he needs to. This worries me because it can potentially lead to two things: injuries and fumbles. I am sure that Skip Peete, the RB’s coach, has been working on this with DeMarco. I have seen a slight improvement in the way he runs already this season, but it is not an easy thing to change. He has been successful running the way he runs naturally for his entire life, and now he has to change to a style that probably doesn’t feel right or comfortable for him.

I will be watching Demarco intently this week in an attempt to answer several questions: has Peete been able to force him to lower his shoulders when he runs? How many carries can he handle before he starts to look tired? What kind of run plays will Garrett call? Will it be between the tackles, counters and delayed draws, or will they try to get him out on the edges more with screens, tosses, and sweeps?

I will also be watching to see how often Tashard Choice carries the ball.  He averaged over 6 yards a carry in limited opportunities against the Lions, and he ran hard against the Patriots.

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