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Scout’s Notebook: Lawrence’s Best, Lee Making Plays, Elliott’s Fourth Down, More
Sunday, December 31, 2017 10:53 PM CST
- Outstanding game for DeMarcus Lawrence. He was matched up with one of the better offensive tackles in the league in Lane Johnson and he owned him. Johnson had no answer for Lawrence’s first step, and that was surprising. The strength of Johnson’ game is his athletic ability to kick wide to keep rushers off his quarterback, but Lawrence was on him at times before he even had a chance to react. As good as Lawrence has been all season, in my opinion this was his best game – not from a numbers standpoint, but because of the quality of player he was able to have success against.
- Can’t say enough of what Sean Lee means to this defense. Even with backup defensive linemen in front of him, he was still able to make plays all over the field. I am not sure there is a better linebacker in the league when it comes to defending the screen pass. Lee has such a feel for how to read, react and then finish. It will be interesting to see if the front office is able to re-sign Anthony Hitchens or chooses to get him help through the draft.
- It was a shame that Dak Prescott missed Dez Bryant earlier in the game on that out cut. Bryant ran a beautiful route that spun rookie cornerback Rasul Douglas around and was in great position to make a big play, but the ball sailed on Prescott. Those are the types of plays that Bryant was talking about, after studying himself on tape, when it comes to route running. There are times where he is good but doesn’t get rewarded for his execution.
- Never thought that I would have seen Ezekiel Elliott stopped on a fourth-down try. It appeared that Byron Bell was beaten badly inside by defensive end Vinny Curry. I am sure that Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz had some type of inside slant called, which was able to get Curry home. We’re so accustom to seeing Tyron Smith cut off that backside on those types of plays, but Bell just wasn’t quick enough to get his head across Curry to give Elliott a chance to hit the play hard front-side.
- Excited for Chidobe Awuzie getting his first career interception. Really nice pressure by DeMarcus Lawrence to force Nick Foles into the poor pass. But Awuzie was right where he needed to be in zone coverage to make the play. His drop and sink was textbook for what the coaching staff teaches. There have been some highs and lows for him, but there is no reason to believe that he won’t be the starter at cornerback when this team is back on the field next season. His physicality and ball skills have been special.
- No Cole Beasley meant that Ryan Switzer was going to get more of an opportunity, and I don’t think he disappointed. I think what helped Switzer this week was that he took the majority of the snaps in practice. He was actually more a part of the game plan where before he was just a small piece of it. He did a nice job of getting open, not only underneath for some receptions, but he was also able to make some plays down the field. This is where I think that he and Beasley are different when it comes to making those types of plays. There needs to be more of an effort by the staff to get Switzer more involved. He’s just too good of a player with the ball in his hands.
- This team needs a better option at swing tackle, especially if Smith and La’el Collins are going to miss time. Bell has done the best he could, considering what happened in the Atlanta game. It was clear that they could have called holding on every play in which Prescott dropped back. It has been a rough couple of weeks for Bell. To his credit, he lost weight in the offseason to give himself a chance if called on, but they need to move on. I don’t see them signing a tackle in the offseason, but drafting one early is not out of the question. Can’t let the position hold you hostage.
- Liked the call by Scott Linehan on the “Sluggo” to Terrance Williams that Prescott just missed. I studied back-to-back games where the Eagles cornerbacks gave up touchdowns on double-moves. Williams executed a perfect route and had the separation but the ball wasn’t there. Maybe the conditions had something to do with the pass, but it would have either been a touchdown or put them in shape to score shortly thereafter.
- I got a kick out of the broadcast when Ronde Barber said that the slot blitz was his favorite call. Nobody ran it better for Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli than Barber. It was a blitz that we’ve seen Orlando Scandrick execute well, but this time it was Anthony Brown who pulled it off. To be good at it, you need a cornerback who has a feel for how to time his run just right. This is where Barber and Scandrick were at their best. If the quarterback sees it coming, like Philip Rivers did several weeks ago, it can be a big play for the offense. Nate Sudfeld never saw Brown coming, and the play resulted in a big sack that got the defense off the field on third down.
- Impressive play by Jaylon Smith to tackle running back Wendell Smallwood for a 5-yard loss when it appeared that the Eagles were mounting a drive. Smith read the play perfectly and made a run through the line with a burst to bring Smallwood to the ground. It’s a pattern from Smith that we’ve seen here the last half of the season. He is doing a better job of playing with his eyes and reacting to what he is seeing. It also appears that his physical skills are on the way up too by the way he has been moving not just straight ahead but sideline to sideline.
- I am not surprised that Brice Butler had the type of game that he did. I was told on Thursday that Butler had one of his better practices since training camp. With Bryant missing, Prescott and Butler hooked up several times during the day. It took a little while, but Prescott and Butler were able to get some things going in the second half when the offense was looking for a spark. Butler ran an excellent route along the sideline and showed tremendous body control and balance for a huge reception when it appeared that they were going to have to punt again. Then he runs a slant on third down with separation for the game-winner. It’s been a strange run for Butler here in Dallas with the ups and downs, but for one day he was everything you thought he could have been.
- I am sorry, but I have no answer for what’s wrong with Dan Bailey? We can talk about conditions all we want, but missing extra points and short field goals has nothing to do with that. I don’t believe that Bailey is injured because his kickoff after the missed extra point went into the end zone. I do know that Bailey is one of the hardest working players on this squad, and he will do whatever it takes to get back on track, but these last several games have been shocking for him.
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