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Scout’s Eye: Freedom For Lee And Hitchens, Hanna’s Fingertip Catch, More
Sunday, December 10, 2017 10:04 PM CST
- Wasn’t surprised about the way that Sean Lee played his first game back after missing several games with a hamstring injury. In my film study leading up to this game, I didn’t see anyone along the Giants offensive line who was going to be able to handle him on the second level. Lee’s ability to play on the move was going to give the Giants trouble all day. What I didn’t expect was the type of game that Anthony Hitchens had. If not for Lee, he would have been the leading tackler on defense. It appeared that Hitchens enjoyed the same freedom to the ball that Lee had against this Giants offensive line.
- It was clear that Steve Spagnuolo wanted to make Dak Prescott throw from the pocket. There were only a handful of passes where Prescott got to the outside to make throws. Where Spagnuolo’s plan failed him was without cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple in the lineup, the Cowboys receivers were able to find some more space, especially in the second half. To Prescott’s credit, despite having to make those pocket throws, he was able to come up with some completions for some sizeable gains.
- Don’t always get to point out a nice play by James Hanna but his fingertip catch against cornerback Ross Cockrell was a big-time play. Prescott put the ball in a spot where only Hanna could have made the catch. It was far enough to the outside where Hanna was able to extend his hands just enough to bring it in. If Prescott delivers that in any other spot, Cockrell is going to knock it away due to the position in which he was in.
- Dez Bryant will be the first one to tell you that he just flat misplayed the ball down the sidelines. What was encouraging on the play was that he won off the line against cornerback Brandon Dixon, and when that’s generally the case, it puts him in better position to make the catch. Everything about the route was on point except Bryant coming down with the ball. I will be interested to see, once I get to study the tape, if maybe Prescott could have thrown the ball farther up the field to let Bryant just run underneath it and into the end zone.
- Had to be a bust on the Eli Manning pass to tight end Evan Engram for 35 yards. It appeared pre-snap that Manning signaled to Engram to adjust his route, knowing that he was going to have to get rid of the ball in a hurry. Watching the drops, it was as if Sean Lee was expecting some type of help from Xavier Woods, but that help never came, leaving Engram wide open. We’ve seen this happen before in previous games where a blitz comes and receivers are running down the field uncovered.
- Like what I am seeing from Jourdan Lewis and his technique. In this game he did a much better job of playing in position. Lewis tends to struggle finding the ball, and when that happens to him, then he’s grabbing on the receiver drawing flags. Lewis had a clean game in which he made these receivers have to fight through him to get to the ball. He did a much better job with his eyes and footwork.
- It was good to see Prescott get Cole Beasley the ball on that pivot route against safety Landon Collins. Teams have been keying on Beasley all season, making it difficult to really get anything going. The last few weeks the Cowboys put him in the backfield, trying to buy him some space by creating picks, which I like. But what I’d like to see from the coaching staff is getting it to him more on early downs and just not on third down. Without Ezekiel Elliott, not all the second-down runs have been successful. Finding ways to strike with Beasley while he’s in that one-on-one coverage like we saw today just makes better sense.
- Heck of a throw by Prescott to hit Jason Witten down the seam for a touchdown. This was the play just after Collins went off the field. Jason Garrett was asked if that was the intent to attack the spot where Collins once was, but he said no. Nothing against Garrett, but I would have called exactly what they did with Collins off the field. Witten was doubled on the play by linebacker Devon Kennard and Dixon, but neither was even in the same area when Witten nodded to the outside. Prescott knew exactly where to throw the ball and Witten was in perfect position to bring it in.
- Nice job by Prescott to move Rod Smith to the right slot to create an “empty” situation and force the Giants to have to cover him with a linebacker. Prescott’s pre-snap read told him that there were no safeties in the middle of the field, and if he could get Smith inside, they had a chance for a big play. Smith was outstanding on his release and the protection held up nicely to allow Prescott to get him the ball on the move for the touchdown.
- Have to be impressed with the way that Chidobe Awuzie has played these last two weeks. For a guy that I thought they were going to just groom as a future safety, he’s held up very well at cornerback as the starter over Anthony Brown. When I evaluate cornerbacks, if they have the ability to deny those inside routes, they’ve got my attention. A great example of this was the ball that he drove on in which Lee ended up with the interception. Wide receiver Darius Powe is a big-bodied guy, and generally when those types of players go inside, they’re tough to deal with. But not for Awuzie, who battled Powe the whole way, making it a contested ball, which got knocked into the air and into the waiting hands of Lee. Awuzie is making the front office and coaching staff appear very smart for making that change.
- Should have known better getting ready for this game that Manning was not going to take any sacks. The Giants offensive line was a mess, but to their credit, they did a nice job of keeping him upright. Their ability to run the ball with Wayne Gallman helped them to a point, and Manning’s ability to get rid of it quickly was also a factor. Half of Manning’s completions on the day went to either a running back or tight end. He was just not going to hold the ball and let this Dallas pass rush tee off on him. It sounds like DeMarcus Lawrence was upset after the game due to the lack of holding calls, so I will be interested to see if he’s correct once I get the film. In previous weeks, he’s had a legitimate complaint.
- I don’t know how La’el Collins has done it, but that’s two straight weeks of taking no snaps during practice and playing well on a Sunday. To basically hold defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon in check says a lot about him and the way he played. Pierre-Paul was visibly upset and likely frustrated in the way that things were going for him. I heard the report that he was upset at the offense, but he was a non-factor as a pass rusher when the Giants needed to make some stops in the second half. Next week it doesn’t get any easier with a trip to Oakland and a date with Kahlil Mack, but with the way that Collins has shown up, the coaches have to feel good about his chances of pulling this off.
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