Scout's Eye: New Wrinkles In The Scheme?


FRISCO, Texas – There's not a lot of time to dwell on this one.

As fun as it was, Sunday's win in New York didn't affect the postseason, and the Cowboys are now on a short week as they start to prepare for the Seattle Seahawks.

Before we jump into prepping for Seattle, though, it's important to take a look back at this game. Obviously, the Cowboys are pleased with the work they got in an exciting win against the Giants, particularly their much-maligned passing and red zone offense.

Here's a closer look at what I saw when I studied this game again:

·             I can't begin to tell you what an athletic move it was for Antwaun Woods to grab that ball out of the air on the sack/fumble created by DeMarcus Lawrence. Woods was battling along the line and then in a split second was extending for the ball. Most linemen would have tried to cradle or body catch the ball and then likely it would have ended up on the ground. Where Woods is going to need a little work is on his ball security during the return. That ball was coming loose as he was going to the ground, but he managed to gather it back up to prevent the turnover.

·             What a move by Dak Prescott to spin away from Olivier Vernon on the game-winning pass to Cole Beasley. Cam Fleming was beaten badly off the snap, but he recovered just enough to get a hand on Vernon to give Prescott a chance to spin. If Vernon was able to get a little further up the field, he would have been right on top of Prescott. The throw that Prescott made was his classic -- open up completely and just let it fly with all arm. Prescott anticipated where Beasley was going to end up and the result was spot on. 

·             Randy Gregory is not at the level of DeMarcus Lawrence when it comes to defending the run, but there were snaps in this game where he showed some flashes. Gregory might appear to be thinly built, but there is some power in the way he extends. The Giants tried to test him with some toss plays to his side and Gregory was able to set the edge with some power. By not getting washed on the play, he allowed his teammates to rally to the ball for the tackle.

·             A scheme package that we might see in the playoffs is what they call "01." That means no running back and one tight end. It puts four receivers on the field with two of those guys being Cole Beasley and Tavon Austin in the slots. The Cowboys used this against the Giants, and both guys ran hard pivot routes -- which left Prescott the option to make the more comfortable throw. On this particular play, he chose Austin, who had left Tae Davis in his wake for the first down.

·              Nice third down dime package with Randy Gregory, Taco Charlton and DeMarcus Lawrence all on the field together. Charlton lined up inside with Maliek Collins at the tackle spot to work the twist stunt. The rush didn't get home, but all the movement in front of Eli Manning forced him to quickly try to get the ball to Saquon Barkley before it did get there. The pass was poorly thrown, allowing the defense to get off the field.

·             I still don't know how Blake Jarwin was able to run through four defenders without being tackled on his final touchdown. Jarwin made an incredible extending catch off a pass that honestly had no business being thrown back to middle of the field. When Jarwin turned up the field, B.W. Webb and Curtis Riley were in position to make the tackle. Jarwin was bracing for the hit that never came. Both Webb and Riley allowed Jarwin to continue running without laying a hand on him -- which was amazing. 

·             I don't know how much you want to play Taco Charlton in coverage on Evan Engram, but Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard got away with it. Eli Manning was trying to connect with Engram on an out route past the sticks, but Charlton took such a good angle to Engram that Manning had no window to complete the pass. He was forced to deliver the ball wide, which gave Engram no chance to track it down. Usually, defensive linemen that drop in coverage are exposed, but that wasn't the case for Charlton. He played it like a natural.

·             Jamize Olawale would have had a touchdown on a well-executed screen if Lorenzo Carter wouldn't have tipped the pass. La'el Collins did his best to try and cut Carter down at the line, but he was able to maintain his balance and redirect back on the play. Connor Williams and Joe Looney were out in front of the play and would have walked Olawale into the end zone. It was a tough break for Collins, who tried to do the right thing with the cut block.

·             I don't know how Sean Lee could have played the touchdown pass to Evan Engram any differently. If he looks back for the ball, he's likely not able to get his right hand in position to defend the pass. Lee waved at the ball, but he was just a split second too early. Manning put it in a great spot and Engram was able to extend on it. The only other chance is if Kavon Frazier somehow would have been able to launch himself into Engram to make it a contested play while he was extended. I'd just chalk this up to the Giants making an excellent play. 

·             Tip of the cap to Dalton Schultz, Cam Fleming and Adam Redmond for the blocks they were able to make on Rod Smith's touchdown run. They were able to cave down that side of the Giants' defensive line, which allowed Jamize Olawale the clean look on B.J. Goodson to give Smith the crease he needed to get the ball into the end zone. There was nothing fancy about the play, but it was very well-executed by a group that has had their struggles this season.

·             Nice pressure by Caraun Reid to force Eli Manning to unload the ball early, preventing what might have been a big play on the out-and-up by Evan Engram. Manning was attempting to set the play up off the play action by keeping his eyes to the right of the field. Reid had beaten Jamon Brown so quickly that he had no choice but to throw it away to avoid the sack.

·             Before you wonder what happened to Amari Cooper in this game, let's break it down. He ran two "sluggo" (slant and go) routes that were wide open for touchdowns if the ball had been on target. Both times Prescott had pressure in his face just as he was attempting to deliver the ball. Darius Jackson got destroyed on the blitz pickup, which affected the first throw. The second one, Adam Redmond was pushed into Prescott's lap. It appeared that Redmond stepped on or brushed Prescott's plant foot, which forced him to throw the ball at a strange angle. Connect on those two plays and everyone is singing a different tune about Cooper's game.

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