Gameday (Week 2) - Three things I'll be watching

The NFL has really done a number with the scheduling this year...  Cowboys in week 2, Skins in October, G-Men in November, then all three again in December?  Whew

Last week was nice.  An opportunity to get a sense of what our team can do against an inferior opponent.  This week is a whole 'nother kettle of fish.  In his Rivalry Renewed Series (pt1pt2pt3pt4) MidnightGreen33 has broken down the rosters pretty well and riled up both fanbases.  I don't really care to rehash someone elses good work, so I'm going to hit my three things after the break - Nice Job - MG33.

Is Roy Williams really that bad?

A quick google and you'll find that the safety who made the horse collar a 15 yard penalty may be a Pro Bowler, but it's not for his pass coverage skills.  Roy is tremendous in run support, but he's considered a liability against the pass.  It's such a problem that his own teammate called him out on national television

Donovan is not affraid to audible if he sees something about the D he likes - see Brian Westbrook's first TD against the Rams last week.  If Donovan reads Roy in coverage, might he audible L.J. deep?  Last week, L.J. Smith had a decent game with 5 catches for almost 40 yards.  He did however have a couple of drops - one that would have been a touchdown..

This week the Birds are up against much better corner backs than the Rams field so the passing game will have to exploit other areas of weakness.  L.J. will find himself matched up against one of those supposed areas tonight and hopefully he'll find himself saying, "I'd like to thank my hands for being so great" after the game tonight rather than, "I had it, it was right there but then #31 came in and..."

How good is the Birds D against the run really?

Last week the Eagles got out to such a commanding lead so quickly that we never really got to see Steven Jackson running the football.  That's fine.  Hopefully there'll be more of the same this week, but for some reason I expect a better game.  

A better game means more from the running backs than we saw last week.  Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice have the ingredients to be an ugly three headed monster.  Brodrick Bunkley and Mike Patterson will have to hold the point of attack so that the linebackers can make plays.  If the Dallas running game gets going, does Jim Johnson play more Darren Howard at end?  If we can stop the run, and force the pass, I'd say it'll be good news for the Birds.  

What will Jim Johnson do with his Safeties?

This last one is actually one I've been watching since the preseason game against the Patriots.  In that game I noticed Quintin Mikell split wide in man coverage on David Thomas, Ben Watson's back up at tight end.  In that formation, Sheldon Brown actually lined up at what I'd call the Free Safety position.  I never posted much on it - a comment at most, but when Sheldon layed out Steven Jackson last week, I thought he must have been back there again.  Then reading a post over at Bountybowl I found my overly obsessed eyes were probably right:

We had both safeties down in the box and I had an opportunity to play in the middle of the field.

Rewatching the short highlight video, Sheldon isn't on the line of scrimage at the snap and seems to come from out of nowhere on the hit.  How many times were there requests to move Sheldon to Safety after we signed Asante?  Seems Jim Johnson listens to the fans after all.

In his weekly video rewind Igglesblog also noted an interesting formation where Jim Johnson rolled out 3 safeties (Dawk, and Mikell close to the Line of Scrimage and Considine deep).  If you take a look at Derek's post, you'll see how versatile that formation really is and if we see it tonight expect Romo to be scratching his head.  

Final Thoughts

I feel that this game will boil down to the Cowboys' offense against the Eagles' defense with an assist from field position.  Offensively, I think we've got a bit of an edge against their defense, however I am not as confident about our defense with respect to their offense.  Last week I forecast the game score, but this week I think I'll refrain.  My hope is for a good game and I want the Birds to cover the spread.  In fact, even if we lose but play a good close game I'll be happy - we get 'em at the Linc in the last game of the regular season.

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