The Week 1 defensive film shows that this unit could be the Dallas Cowboys’ saving grace in 2018. They played well overall in their season-opening loss to the Panthers. Here are my defensive notes after watching the coaches film:
-On the second play of the game, Panthers came out in 12 personnel. Cowboys stayed in nickel.
-Defensive end Randy Gregory came in at right end on the first passing down. Only played 15 snaps as he suffered a concussion.
The biggest challenge facing the #Falcons defense in Week 2 is Cam Newton's running ability. Here he gashes the #Cowboys early in Week 1 with everyone's fave: read option. Soft box & man coverage made it too easy for #Panthers to get numbers advantage pic.twitter.com/JUScbqnAdm
— Aaron Freeman (@falcfans) September 11, 2018
-Curious defensive formation on Newton QB sneak on next play. Anwaun Woods was at 3-tech defensive tackle and Maliek Collins at 1-tech (shaded nose). With Panthers using 6 OL, Marinelli could’ve played Daniel Ross instead of Collins who was easily pushed back by center Ryan Kalil.
-Cowboys gashed by two Newton runs off read-option for 16 and 29 yds in a span of three plays. First time, Jaylon drawn out of position. Second time, Sean Lee.
Cam Newton haters be like “These yards don’t count they weren’t passing yards!” pic.twitter.com/wtTs0V4HEG
— Johnny Kinsley (@Brickwallblitz) September 12, 2018
–Christian McCaffrey lost a fumble at the goal line, it was forced by Daniel Ross. Slanted across RG Turner’s face, executed a swim move into the backfield. Recovery by Lawrence.
-Cowboys often aligned a safety in the box towards McCaffrey’s side.
He doesn’t get much credit for his coverage ability, but @Kay_BlackSimba does an excellent job vs Christian McCaffrey here. Stays patient reading the release, closes on the near hip and chops to break up the pass. pic.twitter.com/QSt2z8u6mM
— John Owning (@JohnOwning) September 11, 2018
-Lawrence made noise in both the pass and run game, continuing his stellar performance from last year. His hand usage and motor are elite.
-Taco Charlton also flashing in the passing game. Beat LT Moton on an inside move earlier, then played with awareness to deflect a pass on 1st & 20.
-Dallas LBs looked completely out of sorts on Newton’s QB runs. Converted a 3rd & 1 with a bootleg run for 12 yds.
-McCaffrey was mostly an effective decoy in the 1st qtr. That changed in the 2nd qtr.
-Cowboys sent an effective LB blitz on the first 3rd down of the 2nd qtr. Pass incomplete.
–Leighton Vander Esch rotated in at LB for Jaylon and Lee. Played 17 snaps on defense.
–Jeff Heath dropped an INT near the red zone. Panthers ran a mesh concept vs Cover 3. Lee deflected the pass but Heath couldn’t hold on. He often makes those plays.
-McCaffrey 13-yds was a trap run. Dallas has been susceptible to trap and wham runs the past couple years.
-Newton 4-yd TD another read-option. Cowboys LBs and DEs not on same page on how to defend those. On next drive, they finally stopped one.
-Cowboys predominantly in single high coverage, either Cover 3 or Man-Free, as expected. Last year, they often showed a 2-high shell, then rotated to single high at the snap. This game, they rarely disguised it.
-Cowboys’ defensive backs were very active in the run support.
-Sean Lee with some notable missed tackles and misreads in this game. Not up to his normal standard.
-In Cowboys’ Cover 3, Sean Lee often tasked with carrying any over routes across the field. Held up well in this regard.
-Maliek Collins sack to end opening drive of 3rd qtr., good inside move on LG Van Roten who passed him off to C Kalil. But Collins got through before Kalil could stop him.
— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) September 11, 2018
-Blitzing one or more LBs on 3rd down has been fairly effective for Dallas in this game. They’ll likely continue doing it throughout the season.
-McCaffrey 15-yds was a triple option run. Both Jaylon and Justin March-Lillard went after Newton, March-Lillard was supposed to stay with McCaffrey.
-Panthers’ goal-line TD set up by a read-option hand-off to CJ Anderson for 9 yds. Both Lee and Lawrence played the QB keeper, this opened a lane down the middle of he field.
-Charlton with a beautiful spin move to beat LT Moton inside. Newton threw the ball a split second before Taco arrived. Later won on an outside spin move but also lost contain on next drive.
Taco Charlton is looking so much more fluid with his movement patterns as a pass rusher. Beautiful spin move again, but the LT gets bailed out by the help of the LG.
Taco haters may want to start quieting down. pic.twitter.com/cdEPWULuCk
— John Owning (@JohnOwning) September 10, 2018
-Lawrence with a perceptive inside move on Newton’s QB draw mid 4th qtr. He beat RT Silatolu who replaced Daryl Williams after an injury. Loss of one.
-Lawrence critical sack on 3rd & 14 late 4th qtr. Double A-gap look pre-snap. Lawrence runs an E-T stunt (he moves inside first), pushes RG Turner aside and opens a lane for himself to the QB.
The defense played well overall but had a notable number of mental errors, particularly on read-option runs. They also missed tackles that turned minimal gains into big ones or 1st downs. The talent is evident at every level and the secondary performed well in both the run and pass game. However, to be an elite unit in this league, they must clean up those mental mistakes.
You can follow Allan on Twitter at @AllanUy22