Friday, September 11, 2009

ESPN Scout's Inc.: Dallas-Tampa Bay Preview

By Ken Moll
Scouts Inc.
Dallas at Tampa Bay
When: 1:00 PM ET
Watch: FOX
More scouting reports: Week 1
Scouts Inc. Position Advantage
QB = Dallas
RB = Dallas
WR = Tampa Bay
OL = Dallas
DL = Dallas
LB = Dallas
DB = Dallas
ST = Tampa Bay
Coach = Dallas

After breaking down film of both teams, Scouts Inc. offers 10 things to watch in this week's Cowboys-Buccaneers matchup.

1. Dallas needs to establish thunder and lighting: The Cowboys have an excellent running back tandem in Marion Barber and Felix Jones. Barber is a punishing back who can wear down a defense, and Jones has the explosiveness to make a big play any time he touches the ball. Look for offensive coordinator Jason Garrett to establish the ground attack versus the Buccaneers' 4-3 defense under new coordinator Jim Bates.

2. Expect Dallas' defense to pressure a stationary Buccaneers signal-caller: Tampa Bay has decided to go with seven-year veteran Byron Leftwich, and we'll likely see a good dose of zone blitzes and stunts to flush the immobile quarterback out of the pocket. Leftwich will have some rust to knock off as he has seen limited time behind center over the past three years.

3. Look for Romo to get on track early: Cowboys QB Tony Romo, who didn't play well down the stretch in 2008, appeard to be a bit more judicious with his passes in the preseason. Romo doesn't have the same downfield threat he has had in the past few years and will likely take what the Buccaneers' defense will give him. Garrett may call more bubble screens, crossing patterns and high-percentage passes early in the game to get Romo on track.

4. Look for Dallas' defense to guard against the big play: Dallas' defense, which appears to be more talented than the Buccaneers' offense, could set the tempo of the game if it can make Tampa Bay methodically drive the length of the field. Thanks to the Bucs' acquisition of tight end Kellen Winslow and the presence of talented wide receiver Antonio Bryant as targets for Leftwitch, the Cowboys will likely play a good dose of zone coverage to guard against the big play. Head coach Wade Phillips will dial up pressure, but will pick his spots and likely keep two safeties deep.

5. Matchup to watch -- Cowboys OLB DeMarcus Ware vs. Buccaneers LT Donald Penn: Ware was arguably the best defensive player in the league in 2008, and will be a tough task for Penn. Ware has excellent initial quickness and explosive speed to close to the quarterback and has developed a variety of pass-rush moves and counters that offensive coordinators have to game plan for. Penn is a smart, hard-nosed, technically sound lineman with enough athleticism to give Ware a battle, but new offensive coordinator Greg Olson will likely give Penn help with an extra blocker in some schemes.

6. Tampa Bay will try and establish its ground attack: The strength of the Tampa Bay offense is its depth in the backfield. Look for the three-headed tandem of Earnest Graham, Derrick Ward and Cadillac Williams to see lots of action with a variety of off-tackle and interior power plays as well as schemes to attack the perimeter of the Dallas defense.

7. Expect Olson to take shots downfield: Olson will likely take several shots downfield in the passing game. Olson realizes he has a tight end who can stretch the field in Winslow and talented perimeter targets in Bryant and Michael Clayton. Both Bryant and Clayton can be a tough matchup for the shorter Dallas cornerbacks. Olson may design calls with maximum protection to give his veteran quarterback time to get the ball deep to Winslow, Clayton and Bryant.

8. The Bucs will try to make Dallas one-dimensional: New Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris is defensive-minded and will want to stymie the impressive Dallas ground attack. Given the inconsistent play of Romo late in 2008 as well as the departure of Terrell Owens, Bates (defensive coordinator) and Morris will likely devise a game plan full of zone run blitzes, interior stunts and eight-man fronts out of their base 4-3 scheme.

9. Look for the Buccaneers to play field position: Field position will be a key to success for this new-look Tampa Bay team. Look for an extra emphasis on special teams for Tampa Bay with a possible wrinkle or two involving return specialist Clifton Smith and Sammie Stroughter. Both players have explosive speed and could give the Buccaneers the edge in winning the field-position battle.

10. Matchup to watch -- Buccaneers CB Aqib Talib vs. Cowboys WR Roy Williams: This matchup between should be intriguing to watch. With T.O.'s departure, all eyes will be on Williams to see if he can fill some of the void. Williams hasn't shown the explosive speed needed to stretch deep zones, but now that he's the No. 1 receiver, Williams will have a chance to show why Dallas gave up so much to acquire him during the 2008 season. Talib has the size and talent to shut down Williams, but this won't be an easy task for the second-year defender.


Dallas 23
Tampa Bay 17