FRISCO, Texas – There's so much to unpack from Thursday night's game against Seattle, and that's without even discussing Tony Romo's back.
Upon arriving back in Texas, I spent my morning re-watching the game, and – as always – there's plenty to discuss about what we saw up at CenturyLink Field.
As we prepare for the final week of the preseason, here's a few notes on what stood out – both good and bad – from the game.
- Jason Witten continues to amaze me with his ability to make clutch plays in the red zone. His touchdown catch from Dak Prescott was vintage Witten. There are very few pass catchers in this league that have the understanding of how to run routes in space like him. Even at his advanced age, if you try to cover him in zone he going to work for the open spot. If you play man coverage against him like the Seahawks did, he will use his body to separate. K.J. Wright couldn't have covered Witten any better than he did. The only thing that he didn't do was intercept the pass from Prescott, and that was because Witten went right over the top of his head and took the ball away from him. What made the finish special was the reaction of Wright sitting on the ground and him just staring at Witten and Brice Butler celebrating the touchdown.
- Ezekiel Elliott didn't get many opportunities to carry the ball, but he made the best of it when he did. Elliott had a stretch where he ripped off three straight runs of nine yards or better. Two of those runs were finished with impressive power. First, Elliott was able to capture the edge and turn the corner running behind a Jason Witten seal block. Then he lowered the shoulder on Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, sending them flying. Finally he ran through the tackle of Kam Chancellor, who tried to lower the boom on him. The rookie held his own, knocking Chancellor to the ground.
- It was a shame that Dak Prescott and Terrance Williams couldn't connect on that long pass early in the second quarter. Williams has had a flair for the dramatic during the preseason, but he let one get away when Prescott put the ball in a perfect spot for him to grab and he dropped it. What hurt even more about the miss, was Williams sold the "Out" route so strongly, he completely turned Jeremy Lane around to where he had four yards of separation between them. Only Kelcie McCray coming from his safety spot saved the day. McCray was able to get just enough of Williams to have him lose concentration on the ball, which resulted in the drop. It was a beautiful throw from Prescott after sliding forward in the pocket in order to get the momentum to get it out there.
- I thought Terrell McClain was the best defensive lineman of the starters. He was active, quick off the snap and disruptive. He chased plays outside the tackle box -- which put him in position to finish. There were even snaps where Christine Michael tried to cut the ball back and he was square to the line, ready to make the play. The Seahawks guards struggled with him throughout the contest.
- There was nothing Morris Claiborne could have done any better to defend the pass that Russell Wilson threw to Paul Richardson in the corner of the end zone. The play was well-designed with Wilson rolling to his right with the flow and then having Richardson running to his left. Against a defense that is playing man coverage – it's tough because the Seahawks run the tight end across the field in the same area to create a downfield pick. Claiborne was able to beat the pick, but the ball was far enough down the field, where Claiborne couldn't get his off hand to it to knock it down.
- I know it was only the first preseason game for Justin Durant, but I have seen him play better. It didn't appear like he had the anticipation that he has shown the past. It was like he was a step slow in reacting when he was in the game. His calling card is his ability to read, react and finish -- and he was lacking in all three. This staff could be betting on what he was instead of what he has might become – need to keep an eye on him.
- Some really bad run fits by Damien Wilson in this game. If the line is slanting one direction, the linebackers will compensate for the linemen going away. Much too often, Wilson found himself going so far over, he was overlapping Anthony Hitchens and the ball was breaking when he should have been. If Wilson is in the correct position, the runner hits him in the chest and the hole.
- Russell Wilson hit a huge play to Tanner McEvoy in that was a back breaker for the defense. McEvoy is listed as a receiver, but on this particular play, he lined up tight right in a wing position with his hand on the ground. J.J. Wilcox lined up over him but very deep. It appeared that the secondary lost track of where McEvoy went -- up the field and across. Wilcox turned to adjust, but he was running to the deep middle. Jeff Heath was deep toward the sideline, but he was in no-man's land -- caught between playing the back out of the backfield and McEvoy. Wilson had his eyes on McEvoy the entire way, like it was a designed route, and delivered a perfect ball between Heath and Olatoye before they could react.
- I have to give Brice Butler and Lucky Whitehead a lot of credit for the completion that Dak Prescott was able to pull off when Richard Sherman smashed him in the stomach. It was Whitehead who had stayed in to help with the protection that allowed Prescott to get to the outside. His block on Kelcie McCray allowed Prescott to keep his eyes down the field to pick up Butler coming across. Once Butler saw his quarterback in trouble, he never stopped running, which gave Prescott the option to make the throw. It took a lot of courage to make that play before he took the hit.
- Thought it was a tough chance for Andy Jones on the deep ball from Jameill Showers. Quarterbacks are taught to throw the ball to the outside and away from the defender -- which is where Showers put it. Jones ran his route two-to-three yards off the sideline while the ball ended up just a yard away. Jones tried his best to track it, but his body position was poor. It appeared that he really wasn't sure where he was on the field as he was trying to drag his feet and adjust at the same time. All of that combined to make the play more difficult than it already was.
- If I were working in a scouting department for another club and I wasn't happy with my punt returner – I would see what the Cowboys want for Dax Swanson. I don't believe that he is going to make the squad as a cornerback, but he has some unique talent as a returner. There is a fearless nature in the way he returns these punts right up the middle of the field. It takes courage, vision along with quickness to do this job and there is a side of me that believes he has all of those traits and maybe a little more.
- Something to keep an eye on – Austin Traylor took first team snaps with the offense when they went with their "12" and "13" personnel groups. I said this last week that Traylor is the most physical blocker of the tight ends not named Jason Witten and he is capable of doing the things that James Hanna does at the point of attack.