Commentary

Romo forcing ball to Owens; Broncos can't stop anybody

Gary Horton looked at film and tells you what to pay attention to during Week 5.

Originally Published: October 2, 2008
By Gary Horton | Scouts Inc.

After breaking down the film and critiquing the teams heading into Week 5, Scouts Inc. tells you what to watch for this weekend.


Romo is forcing passes to Owens
When you watch the film, it's obvious the Cowboys were trying to force the ball to WR Terrell Owens versus Washington, no matter if he was open or not. And even when QB Tony Romo threw to a different receiver, he made sure to look Owens' way first. Redskins CB Shawn Springs played tight press coverage and was very physical with Owens. Springs constantly got his hands on him, redirected his routes and wouldn't allow him to separate. Owens also ran some lazy routes, didn't plant or break sharply, failed to come back to the ball and wasn't overly competitive.

The Bengals don't have the type of secondary that can play tight coverage and don't have a corner who can do what Springs did to Owens, so it will be interesting to see if the Cowboys' coaches continue to force the ball to him. Owens should be able to prosper this week, but offensive coordinator Jason Garrett should put it on him to get separation -- rather than throwing his way no matter what.


Titans don't allow plays on the perimeter
By now, everyone has heard about how dominant DT Albert Haynesworth and the Titans' front four are, but when you look at the film you see that the Titans' back seven are nearly as impressive. The Titans' linebackers are very active and have excellent range, while the secondary players are physical and instinctive, and they break on routes quickly. What is unique about the back seven is that they always force everything between the hash marks and rarely allow a play to be made on the perimeter. This is key because it limits the opposing offense's amount of big plays.

This strategy will play a key role versus the Ravens and rookie QB Joe Flacco in Week 5. Flacco is more comfortable throwing outside, but he won't be able to versus the Titans' back seven. And when he does eventually throw inside the hash marks, there is a strong possibility that the Titans will pick it off.


Edwards' ability to adjust
Bills QB Trent Edwards' best quality is his ability to adjust during the game. This is a big reason why Buffalo is so good in the fourth quarter and when coming from behind. If Edwards struggles early, he has the ability to read the defense and understand how it's attacking him, and that knowledge helps him later in the game. He has a great feel for every situation, recognizes down and distance situations and has a good sense of when to tuck the ball and run. He isn't a very flashy quarterback, but he has a great sense of what he is doing.

He should have good success this week versus the Cardinals, who will blitz him a lot. However, Edwards should be able to make adjustments, recognize the blitz, identify the matchups and go to his hot read.


Why is Denver's defense struggling?
Denver's defense is playing so poorly because it has four major problems:

• The Broncos' defenders are not breaking down in the open field or wrapping up when they tackle. Plus, they are not being physical, and good running backs are running over them. That will be a problem this week versus the punishing style of Buccaneers RB Earnest Graham.

• Denver's front four is easily blocked one-on-one and never gets to the quarterback. You hardly ever see them blitz, and when they do it is picked up quickly. This lack of a pass rush also creates problems on the back end because their corners are forced to cover for longer than they should have to. This is going to hurt them versus Tampa Bay because QB Brian Griese will have all day to process his reads.

• If you get a body on the Broncos' defenders, it is easy to create holes in the running game because they can't get off blocks. They don't use consistent leverage, have poor hand usage and don't fight to make a play.

• Denver's defense also routinely overruns plays and lacks gap integrity, allowing offenses to seal the backside -- so cut-back runners have a field day. However, this is surprising because the Broncos' defense faces a one-cut-and-go running scheme every day at practice.

Gary Horton, a pro scout for Scouts Inc., has been a football talent evaluator for more than 30 years. He spent 10 years in the NFL and 10 years at the college level before launching a private scouting firm, The War Room.

Gary Horton spent 10 years in the NFL as a scout and another 10 years at the college level as an assistant coach and recruiter. He is the founder and most seasoned member of the Scouts Inc. staff, and his extensive experience at all levels of football make him an excellent talent evaluator.