Game Notes: Cowboys, Broncos, Lions, Packers

This off-season, we spent some time watching each and every NFL team again, trying to pinpoint strengths and weaknesses with players we might have missed in the rush of the regular season. The intention was to feel more confident in our analysis for what turned out to be our biggest player profiles ever.We spent more time on some teams than on others, and even the teams we spent the most time on we were only able to watch a handful of games. But we thought it might be cool to publish a series of blogs detailing what we saw from the teams we watched with our raw notes.

These notes were never intended for publication, so forgive grammatical errors or the occasional poor language. Nor were they intended to be comprehensive, or definitive takes on fringe players (especially WRs, who are difficult to watch on TV angles). We simply thought it’d be a neat way to show a little extra insight into some of the players that we might not have felt like we had a great grip on this season.

Dallas Cowboys

Week 2 – @SF

Tony Romo
- First play, slightly overthrew Austin on potential big play, but Austin slowed down and probably should have caught pass.
- Dez Bryant out of this game.
- First drive two big plays to Witten… one a fantastic throw the other great pocket movement
- LT Doug Free had a poor game. He looks lazy at times.
- Romo injured in first half, Jon Kitna actually started 2nd half, Romo came back late 3rd quarter after two Kitna INTs.
- Romo was incredible in the 4th quarter and OT… major throws under duress. He’s fun to watch when he’s on.

Felix Jones
- Injured early in this game… hurt shoulder on first series but returned.
- Total non-factor… couldn’t even get a read on him in this game. Afterthought in the gameplan.

DeMarco Murray
- Stiff + straight line, very tight in his hips, similar running style to Raiders Darren McFadden but not as fast or explosive.

Miles Austin
- Romo/Austin struggled to get on same page early. Frequently targeted early on but either Romo’s throws were off, Austin dropped ball, or there was miscommunication. Maybe why Austin a frustrating fantasy player?
- Caught 3 balls on Cowboys final series of first half — Austin 53-yard TD well designed by Cowboys. Motion to 3×1 set dictated nickel corner Tramaine Brock on Austin in the slot, Brock fell down, Austin easy TD.
- Austin good route and good reaction on 25-yard 4th quarter TD… Fantastic throw by Romo, but S Madieu Williams made horrendous read and play.

Jason Witten
- Match up on CB Carlos Rogers in slot on first 3rd down…created a little bit of space, great throw by Romo, 25 yards.
- He’s not explosive or fast. But he’s strong and has great chemistry with his QB, both Romo and Kitna. They trust him to find space and pick up YAC.
- A lot of Witten’s value comes in the team’s ability to run 2 TE sets… dictating that defenses stay in base personnel.

Week 12- Mia

DeMarco Murray
- Felix was back in this game, but Tony Fiammetta was out. A lot of one-back runs for DeMarco, some with backup TEs in the backfield.
- I think in this game Murray had a lot more subtle lateral movement… was able to find some space.
- There was an element of patience in his game this particular week.
- Exhibited the ability to “get skinny” to get through holes, a good sign.
- 18-yard 2nd quarter run, he went left tackle and then made CB Sean Smith miss in the open field. Lateral agility… we didn’t see this from Murray all season.
- Murray good at picking up the blitz and a capable receiver… for fantasy we like to see this because it means he can stay on the field on third downs
- He didn’t have the huge stats in this game because he didn’t have the huge runs/holes, but I feel like Murray played a “complete” game this week. Can he put that together into a full season?


Week 2 – Cin

Kyle Orton
- Notice he’s comfortable making all the throws… this is important as a backup to Tony Romo, because Cowboys won’t have to try to change offense.
- Effective on the play action fakes, knows where to go with the ball.
- His quick throws were usually pretty accurate. With the weapons in Dallas, he could be a great Waiver guy if he needs to play.
- I think his pocket awareness is a little shaky… 3rd quarter fumble could have been prevented.

Willis McGahee
- Knowshon Moreno injured this week.
- Thought the Bronco line got pretty good push. McGahee great behind a line that can get a little push because he makes decisions so quickly.

Lance Ball
- Not much lateral movement to his game at all. He’s a one-cut guy who invites contact. Didn’t see any moves in this game.

Eddie Royal
- On both of his receptions on opening drive, he was put in motion… not strictly a slot guy with Orton at QB.
- Actually came out of the backfield in this game at times.
- Injured early 2nd quarter – Tim Tebow had to play WR

Eric Decker
- Fumbled on his first reception, great throw by Orton after great PA fake, opened up middle of the field but Decker lost it
- He’s a really “aware” receiver… knows when the play has worked the way it’s supposed to, communicates with his QB. This will fly with Peyton Manning.
- 25-yard 3rd quarter TD, created separation from CB Nate Clements at line of scrimmage with effective swim move, saw this move twice in this game. Creates just a little space.
- 52-yard 4th quarter TD, came back to the ball, good back shoulder throw by Orton.

NOTE: We didn’t make any extra effort to watch Tim Tebow again. We feel like his strengths and weaknesses have been discussed ad nauseam, and we watched plenty of him to try to figure him out during the season.


Detroit Lions

Week 2 – KC

Matthew Stafford
- Lions clearly designed to get him going early. Two WRs screens to open, then a pass to Best in the flat.
- Horrible decision on 1st quarter INT. Threw ball while wrapped up by DL Wallace Gilberry, just floated into air. Lucky S Jon McGraw fumbled it.
- Perfect throw on 1st quarter TD to Calvin between two defenders… chemistryy here is just absurd.
- 2nd quarter TD throw to Scheffler even better than his throw to Calvin… perfectly fit ball into zone, understanding throw would be there because 3-TE formation brought S McGraw to the line of scrimmage. Made stick throw into closing window.
- If there’s an issue in Stafford’s game, it’s his tendency to sail throws. They didn’t hurt him in this game with turnovers, however.
- Underrated elusiveness. You think of Stafford as a stand-in-there passer but he can move away from the rush, and he uses his strength to shake off defenders. What you like about him is he’ll always look to set his feet and throw downfield if possible, even if he breaks the pocket.
- Masterful performance.

Jahvid Best
- Actually a pretty strong runner… he’s small but he’ll keep his legs moving to try to pick up extra yardage. He won’t run somebody over but he’s capable of breaking a few tackles in addition to making guys miss in space.
- Does a good job keeping his focus forward.
- Picked up blitz nicely.
- Lions did give him carries up the gut, and he picked up yardage, they just didn’t do it often.
- Have a feeling most of his “fantasy damage” in the future will be in the passing game. Played a lot in the slot, and/or motioned out wide. He’s a nightmare matchup for a LB, ran right by LB Derrick Johnson in 3rd quarter for huge gain in passing game. Faked route to the flat and then cut it up inside. Johnson had no chance.
- Burned Johnson again on a double move for 9-yard 4th quarter TD. These are the matchups the Lions want.
- Really sudden route runner. Watching this game, felt like Best was a better route runner than Titus Young.
- Had 2 TDs and a big second half, but you almost feel like Best was an afterthought in Lion offense… function of Stafford really mixing it around the field.

Calvin Johnson
- 15-yard 1st quarter TD came when he was the only receiver separated from the formation. Just ran right by CB Brandon Flowers and a perfect throw from Stafford before safety help got there.
- Scored twice, but was not really a huge factor in this game, at least from a yardage standpoint. If Chiefs took him away, they paid for it with big production from other weapons.

Nate Burleson
- He was most effective on short patterns – curls, outs, screens. Stafford way overthrew him on 2nd quarter deep ball.
- Really good after the catch, has a good feel for when a defender is behind him and can slip a tackle.
- Lions clearly didn’t trust their run game – three WR screens to Burleson in the first half alone.
- Reliable receiver for Stafford… we might have been disappointed with his season because he wasn’t explosive for fantasy, but he made a lot of key plays for the Lions and Stafford trusts him in tight windows, which is important.

Titus Young
- Lions spent a lot of time in three-wide. In this alignment, Young often on the outside with Burleson or Calvin in the slot.
- Spectacular catch 43-yard in 2nd quarter… went up and beat CB Brandon Carr falling backwards for ball on great throw by Stafford.
- Got a 28-yard pass from QB Shaun Hill late in game. Not much separation from CB down sideline, just a great throw by Hill, good control by Young to stay inbounds.
- Doesn’t look to be a particularly crisp route runner.

Tony Scheffler
- TE in name only. Rarely lines up in formation at LOS. Usually split into slot, out wide, motioned into backfield, or stacked behind another receiver.
- 36-yard TD reception in the 2nd quarter was one of Stafford’s first shots down the field. Scheffler was one of 3 TEs on the field, became separated from formation when Will Heller motioned into backfield. Scheffler busts out of three-point stance and just splits the zone. Unbelievable throw by Stafford down the seam.

Brandon Pettigrew
- Really a non-factor in the passing game in this one.


Green Bay Packers

Week 2 – @Car

Aaron Rodgers
-  What can you say about this guy? He’s unbelievable. Throws better on the run than many do from the pocket. 2nd quarter 38 yards to Finley great example.
-       Actually felt as if he rushed some throws in this game.

Ryan Grant

James Starks
- Clearly has more juice than Grant but he’s not very sudden… choppy when he makes a move.
- Lacks breakaway speed.
- Better receiver than Grant.

Greg Jennings
- When Packers went three wide, he was often the ISO receiver on one side with Nelson and Driver (in the slot) on the other.
- Love watching him create space in the short area. This is why he’s so effective in the red zone… he can stick his heel in the ground and change direction.
- CB Chris Gamble strong in coverage in this game, often drew Gamble 1-on-1.
- 49-yard TD was out of 2-tight, 2-RB personnel. Designed shot route against nickel, matched up on safety Jordan Pugh and owned him. Easy throw for Rodgers.

Jordy Nelson
- First time you really noticed him was on 84-yard TD, Nelson was X and slanted under CB Captain Munnerlyn… no coverage across the middle because of great PA fake.

James Jones
- Packers like him as the Z… allows him to build a head of steam.

Randall Cobb
- Really quick after the catch… is he the most natural slot WR on this team? Breaks tackles in the short area.

Jermichael Finley
- Separated from the formation more often than not… Packers ran designed misdirection screen with him 2nd quarter.
- Motion a lot.
- Packers clearly tried to get him going early in this game, he was the primary read on a lot of plays.
- 38-yard 2nd quarter reception lined up in formation as a TE, ran down the seam and found void. Rodgers great throw on the move.
- They LOVE splitting him out wide in red zone.
- In the red zone, motioned him out wide for fade pattern to end zone. Singled up on S Sherrod Martin, Martin called for PI.

Category: Joe Dolan

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