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Scout’s Notebook: Grading La’el Collins Against Khalil Mack & Other Notes
FRISCO, Texas – Watching the tape always gives you a lot more to digest after a game, and that was once again for Saturday’s win against Oakland.
As the Cowboys gear up for the preseason finale and the roster cuts to come, here are my notes from what was a really interesting dress rehearsal against the Raiders.
- Nice job by Orlando Scandrick, Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson dealing with the Raiders’ bunch formation early in the game. Scandrick had the most difficult of the assignments by having to track Michael Crabtree on the out. By the time Derek Carr had hit the fifth step of his drop, Scandrick was already breaking toward Crabtree. The ball from Carr was a little high, but Scandrick was able to arrive just at the right time to prevent Crabtree from having a chance at the reception.
- La’el Collins had 12 snaps against Khalil Mack in this contest. He was called for hands to the face one time and could have had another. The one that was called on him wiped out a huge completion to Terrance Williams. His best pass set against Mack came after that call on the very next play. He was able to get his hands inside Mack and sit down on him. His head was back and his knees were in a good football position. The other snaps, he was able to maintain position to push Mack wide in the pocket, not allowing him to be a factor. Collins and Zack Martin did handle a twist with Mack and Eddie Vanderdoes that ended up going nowhere. Mack did get inside position one time in the running game when Collins wasn’t able to get his head across the block and his body was in bad position. Other than putting his hands into Mack’s face, I thought he was able to hold his own in what was a tremendous test.
- Amari Cooper managed to drive Anthony Brown off the ball to the point where it appeared that Brown was going to fall on the play. Somehow Brown was able to keep his balance as Cooper broke toward the sideline on the out. Derek Carr was once again high with the pass to the outside, which forced Cooper to have to extend. Just as he tried to bring the ball to his body, Brown delivered his right shoulder into Cooper’s ribs, forcing the ball to pop loose for the incompletion.
- If opponents are not going to play with a safety in the middle of the field in the red zone, Dak Prescott and Jason Witten are going to wear them out. On his touchdown reception, Witten was lined up along the line of scrimmage with Karl Joseph playing outside technique five yards deep. Due to Joseph’s alignment, Witten didn’t have to sell him too much to the outside to move him. Prescott’s eyes never left Witten as he made the play action fake inside that held Jelani Jenkins in place. Prescott threw a strike to Witten chest-high for the easy finish.
- Brilliant defense of an Oakland screen pass by the Cowboys’ defenders. DeMarcus Lawrence was able to get up the field quickly, forcing Derek Carr to unload his pass a little quicker than he wanted to. Stephen Paea had his eyes in the backfield and was watching the movement of DeAndre Washington as he tried to float outside. Just as Washington took the pass, Paea was right on top of him, forcing him to cut back to the inside. Washington was able to escape Paea, but he then to deal with Jaylon Smith driving from the middle of the field. Smith met Washington face-to-face, driving him back and into the ground before the play had a chance to develop.
- The Raiders ran a twist game inside that gave Zack Martin, Travis Frederick and Chaz Green trouble, resulting in a sack. Mario Edwards Jr. and Treyvon Hester were playing on the outside shoulder of Martin and Green. On the snap, Edwards Jr. ripped hard inside of Green, while Hester began to loop to his right. Both Frederick and Martin realized what was happening, while Green was a little late to adjust to his outside. Frederick tried to help Green out by working behind him to pick up Hester, who pushed past both of them. Prescott saw the pressure right in his face, but was unable to avoid Hester -- who finished for the sack.
- Defensively it appeared that the Cowboys were in good shape, numbers-wise, on the touchdown pass to Amari Cooper. In a Two Deep look, they had three defenders to handle two Raiders receivers on the left side, with four to play three on the opposite side. Cooper, on the far left, took an outside release on Anthony Brown. Derek Carr made an aggressive pump fake to his right, which held Byron Jones in place on the hash. Carr then went back to his left to see that a small window had developed between Brown and Jones. Carr made a beautiful throw to Cooper, who never broke stride up the sideline for the touchdown.
- One of Alfred Morris’ better runs of the evening came off an exceptional double-team block by Emmett Cleary and Kadeem Edwards to capture the edge. The block was so well-executed that it allowed James Hanna to turn up the field instead of trapping Shilique Calhoun. Morris made one slight cut to his right, behind Edwards, and was into the second level where he picked up blocks from Hanna and Brice Butler before he was driven out of bounds after a 17-yard gain. Morris has been playing like a different back. With the Redskins he was more of a physical finisher. Today, he’s playing with more explosive quickness and shiftiness.
- One of my rules for cornerbacks is that if you can defend receivers that run inside routes -- you’ve got my attention. Marquez White was able to keep Keon Hatcher from the sticks on a third down slant where it appeared that he had enough for the first down. White was able to read Hatcher’s route all the way and drove on him just as he caught the ball. Instead of allowing Hatcher’s momentum to carry him forward, White wrapped him up and threw him backward, creating a fourth down attempt. In the regular season, I am almost certain that Jack Del Rio would not have elected to go for it on his own 34-yard line.
- For a defensive lineman to record a sack on a three-step drop, you’ve got to have incredible power and quickness. Lewis Neal destroyed Ian Silberman off the snap. Silberman was never able to get his feet set or his hands in position to handle Neal. Connor Cook didn’t have time to set his feet, either, because Neal was in his lap before he even had time to make his initial read. Neal continues to battle Joey Ivie for one of those spots on the roster for the defensive line.
- If you’re a receiver on this club and you don’t block, you will not play. Derek Dooley’s receivers take a lot of pride in their ability to help in the running game with what they do on the outside to spring runs. Terrance Williams doesn’t have the size of Noah Brown but pound for pound, he’s just as tough. On Darren McFadden’s 18-yard run in the second quarter, it was Williams and Brown that secured the edge to allow Jason Witten, La’el Collins and Travis Frederick around the corner. By the time Darren McFadden had the ball in his hands on the sweep, there was a silver hat on each black jersey. McFadden was 14 yards down the field before a defender was able to lay a hand on him. It was a well-executed play take was started by the initial blocks of Terrance Williams and Noah Brown.
- Love the aggressive call by Scott Linehan on Cooper Rush’s touchdown pass to Lance Lenoir. Linehan gave Rush a chance to get the ball off by keeping Geoff Swaim and Blake Jarwin in to help block. With seven blockers to account for five rushers, Rush was able to slide forward in the middle of the pocket to find Lenoir -- who had run past Breon Borders. Lenoir was able to easily track the ball into his hands for the game-winning touchdown.