A Second Look at the Cowboys Tape: Tracking the New Guys

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OL coach Bill Callahan and new
LG Mackenzy Bernadeau (73)

New Cowboys left guard Mackenzy Bernadeau had a solid debut against the Chargers.

While we wait for the ”dress rehearsal in two days, it’s a good time to review the Chargers’ video and get an early read on some of the new guys.

Today, I want to look at new right guard Mackenzy Bernadeau, the subject of so much spring angst, all because of a dubious rating he received from a major site last year.  The Bernadeau I saw at Oxnard was quick and steady in pass protection.  He accurately handled stunts and set a tight pocket for Tony Romo.

With fellow free agent guard Nate Livings out with an injury, Jason Garrett and Bill Callahan called for an early game plan that ran behind the new money, Bernardeau and free agent fullback Lawrence Vickers.  Here are several cut ups from Dallas’ first two series which offer a positive view of Bernadeau’s game.

Play One

The situation:  1st and 10.  This is Dallas’ first offensive play from scrimmage.  The Chargers know the Cowboys’ line struggled badly against the Raiders and want to test them immediately.  Dallas opens in a vanilla set, two backs, two receivers and one tight end, and line up in queen right, and off-set I with the FB Vickers opposite the tight end.  The Chargers are in their base 3-4, but take a look at the strong safety in still one.  He’s walked up to the line of scrimmage and is flanking the strong-side outside backer at the snap:

Dallas has called a pass, and when Tony Romo drops the defensive end over Bernadeau and the outside backer over RT Doug Free will run a twist; the DE will charge wide of Bernadeau, hoping to pull him outside, while the OLB loops behind the DE and inside.  Meanwhile, the strong safety will blitz outside of them.  The Chargers hope that either the SS or one of the twisters breaks free — or that both succeed.
Look at Bernardeau in still three.  He’s jabbed his right fist into the DE’s chest, holding the defender up for Free.  He’s also set up to block Shaun Phillips (95) looping inside.  Bernadeau and Free handle the twist easily.  Outside, DeMarco Murray is running a hot route, releasing wide when he sees the safety crashing.  The Chargers are playing zone behind the blitz, and Romo’s quick dump-off pass sets up Murray one-on-one against a linebacker in the right flat.  Murray makes the first defender miss and gains eight yards:

Play two

The next play.  It’s 2nd and short, and Dallas calls a simple isolation run to the weak-side, behind Bernadeau, Free and Vickers. It’s man-on-man, and notice how each Cowboys blocker gets his man.  At the point, Free and Bernadeau immediately turn their men outside, while David Arkin is riding the NT down onto his knees.  Vickers has the ILB to the play side and it’s DeMarco Murray’s responsibility to win the duel with the weak-side inside backer crashing down.

In stills two and three of this play it appears that the Chargers have created a giant pile-up at the line of scrimmage, but notice two things.  First, Vickers is in the process of putting his man on the turf and next, all the other Cowboys blockers play-side are keeping their feet and sustaining their blocks.  Several Chargers seem to have Murray surrounded but none have a hand on him, or are in a good position to bring Murray down:
In still four, you can see Vickers and the ILB on the ground.  Bernadeau is finishing his block and the patient Murray is breaking out of the scrum and into the open. He’ll get five yards upfield before a Chargers defender can wrap him up. 

This isn’t the blow-em-out, rock-’em, sock-’em push the old ’90s Cowboys generated, but this is nonetheless much better point of attack, short-yardage blocking than we’ve seen in recent seasons.

Play Three

The sprint draw.  It’s 2nd and 10 near mid-field on Dallas’ second possession.  Felix Jones has replaced Murray as the lead back and the Cowboys have spread the field with an ace set — three wideouts, a tight end and Jones as the lone back:

The call is a sprint draw to the weakside, again behind Bernadeau and Free.  Watch Bernadeau sell the draw in still two.  When Romo drops, Bernadeau drops backwards, feigning that he’s pass blocking. This causes the inside linebacker on the play side to dither in space; he’s not sure whether to drive on a draw play or drop into coverage:

After taking two steps back, Bernadeau plants and charges hard at the linebacker.  Bernadeau had an angle and momentum.  Note how the ‘backer reacts in still three.  He’s trying to absorb and fall off the block.  He’s not interested in a major collision:

Bernadeau gets a good punch at the LB, creating a nice seam for Felix Jones, who rips eight yards upfield.  2nd-and-10 is now 3rd-and-2, giving Dallas a very manageable down, with run and pass options.
The new right guard wears Larry Allen’s number.  He doesn’t have old number 73′s violent punch and speed, but Mackenzy Bernardeau looks like a solid, well-schooled alternative to Kyle Kosier.  If Nate Livings can play at Bernadeau’s level when he returns, the guard “crisis” in Cowboys land will look a lot less severe.
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Rafael Vela

Rafael Vela

Started covering Dallas Cowboys @ TheBoys.com in '95 and '96. Two more stops along the way and here I am. Senior Analyst for SportsTalkLine.com