First Impressions: Dallas all about Defense

The Raiders got a long hard look at the Dallas Cowboys yesterday, not only were they introduced to them for the first time in practice via the scout team, but then they got to watch the Cowboys suit up and play the Cincinnati Bengals in the Canton, Ohio Hall of Fame game. The game started about 20 minutes after their practice ended.

“We’re still doing a little bit of install work for our team and then we’ll do a little bit of Dallas,” said head coach Tom Cable on Sunday.

There’s a lot of similarities between the Raiders and Cowboys, here’s what one Cowboys’ blogger wrote:

“The Cowboys possess a deep, talented defense and have strong skill position offensive players, but face a shortage of offensive line depth.”

The Cowboys nearly tripled the Bengals offensive yardage in the first half of the game. The stingy defense held the Bengals offense to just 179 total yards in the game on 57 plays. That’s an average of just 3.1 yards per play, which explains why the Bengals only had 10 total first downs in the entire game. They were held scoreless until a mercy score was allowed on a two-yard TD pass after an exciting Jordan Shipley 64-yard punt return.

Also, in their preseason opener, the Cowboys lost a TE, John Phillips to a torn ACL. This is an area where the Raiders and Cowboys differ; the Raiders have plenty of depth at tight end, while America’s team has already had problems with Martellus Bennett and Kevin Brock due to ankle injuries at this early stage of the year.

Tony Romo threw 10 passes in the game and only completed five. Adam “artist formerly known as Pacman” Jones held the Dallas receivers in check on his side of the field and was only beaten one time on a back-shoulder hook-up between Patrick Crayton and Tony Romo. The Cowboys put an extra emphasis on getting the ball to Roy Williams, who has struggled since he joined the team. Williams only ended up with one catch (although a nice one) in four targets.

Former teammate of Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, only had one carry for four yards and will not likely get many more carries against the Raiders. Tashard Choice got the bulk of the carries for the Cowboys halfbacks with 7 carries for 41 yards, but nevertheless Choice is capable of doing some damage out of the backfield. Even if the Raiders defense doesn’t see much of Marion Barber (2 carries, 7 yards) and Jones, Choice will give them a good opening game effort to test that new rushing defense.

ESPN NFC East blogger Matt Mosley wrote:

“You have to find a way to get (Choice) more involved in the offense. He’s too good to only have two or three carries per game.”

The Bengals rushing attack, on the other hand, was stifled by the Dallas defense. The Cowboys only allowed an average of 2.5 yards per carry. The Bengals leading rusher, Bernard Scott, only had 19 yards on seven carries.

The Cowboys defense will also be a good test for the revamped Raiders passing attack as they intercepted 3 passes in the game. They held the Bengals quarterbacks to just 44.4 percent completions and only gave up 3.8 yards per pass. They allowed the Bengals offense to stay on the field for a mere 23 minutes, 49 seconds and held them to a meager 2-13 on third down conversions; something the Raiders have been working on diligently in practices.

I’d love to say we’ll get to see how the Raiders offense is going to look this year early on in this one, but my early interpretation is that it will be a defensive minded game. The Raiders must avoid the costly turnovers that gave the Cowboys the advantage against the Bengals on Sunday night in order to get this NFL season off on the right foot in their first preseason game. Last year, the Raiders beat them down in the preseason opener, so I’m not sure how much leeway you can grant to a victory at this stage of the season anyway.

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