There were many storylines to look at from the O-line perspective on NFL opening night. The Bucs were one of the best lines last season so today's film study will focus more on the Cowboys, who are looking to bounce back now that their line is healthy. Two things today's film session will focus on is, why the Cowboys struggled to run the ball and how their starting tackles looked in pass pro after missing most of last season.
Several factors contributed to the Cowboys' poor rushing performance in last night's game. On the play below, coaching and a bad play situation is most at fault. The Cowboys are in 11 personnel but, it is a tight formation. The biggest problem here is that Tampa Bay has seven in the box and the Cowboys only have six to block them as none of their receivers block any of the players in the box. As the play rolls, notice how number 26 (Andrew Adams) is left unblocked and meets Zeke in the hole for an easy tackle. Ideally, the Cowboys would have a pass play or a different run play they could check to and, that is on the coaching staff or either Dak for not doing it if the coaching staff prepped him to do so.
On the next play, Blake Jarwin is most at fault as he missed an easy block against a backup safety. However, Zeke also deserves blame for this play. Unlike the first play, where Adams met Zeke in a confined space, Adams made an open field tackle to bring Elliott down. A guy who is considered by some to still be an elite RB has to beat that defender and score in that situation either by making the defender miss or overpowering him.
This run was Zeke's longest gain of the night. Elliott gets 13 yards but he also was not touched until he was 13 yards past the line of scrimmage. He did a good job on this play of outflanking the defense to the edge, but he mostly got what was blocked for him thanks to the work of Cooper and Schultz blocking on the edge.
The fourth play shows how Zack Martin was missed in the run game. Every other Cowboys O-lineman at least makes contact with a defender, with Smith and Collins especially doing a great job. However, Connor McGovern, who filled in for Martin, stumbles and is unable to make contact with Devin White, who makes an easy tackle.
The last run play we look at was the rare example in last night's game of Zeke creating more yards than were blocked as he lowers his shoulder and powers through the smaller Jamel Dean, turning what could have been a one-yard gain into four.
From watching the game, it is clear to see that Elliott struggled to create extra yards beyond what was blocked for him. While there were some missed blocks, bad play situations, and a downgrade at RG, the run blocking on most plays was good enough for a RB that is elite to have gotten more than 33 yards on 11 carries.
Now let's take a look at Smith and Collins in pass pro. The Cowboys' offensive line as a whole did a great job considering there was no run game, they were without Martin, and they threw it 58 times. Dak was only sacked once, and that one was not on the O-line.
The Cowboys' coaching staff was not worried about Smith or Collins in pass pro because on the very first play of the game, despite being backed up at their own two-yard line, they elected to go Empty and throw it. The blocking held up and Dak dropped a nice throw in the bucket to Cooper for a 28 yard gain. The Bucs brought a blitzing LB from Smith's side and he looked great first working to his right to help with the interior rush and then working back left to pick up the blitzing Joe Tyron.
On this next passing play, Collins is matched up one on one with Shaq Barrett and wins the matchup. Barrett makes Collins work, but Collins never gets beat and does just enough to keep Dak clean.
In the last play we look at, Both Smith and Collins do a great job. It is a crucial passing play on the Cowboys' last full drive of the game and Smith is matched up one on one with JPP, Collins is on Barrett. Neither gets help and both do a great job, especially Smith who completely walled off JPP.