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Scout's Notebook: Assessing Dez, The Pass Rush, Punt Return Duties & More

IRVING, Texas – As has been the case this season, we've got a lot of moving parts to figure out as we head into another Cowboys game weekend.

The Dallas coaching staff did us the favor of ruling Joseph Randle out ahead of time, but it's going to be an interesting wait to see if Dez Bryant returns to the field this weekend. Personally, I believe he's going to play, and that's what my Friday report will reflect, as you'll read below.

With the Cowboys desperately needing to break a four-game losing streak, let's take a final look at this matchup with the Seahawks.

  • It's going to be interesting to see if the Seahawks have Richard Sherman carry Dez Bryant in this game. My initial thought was that was going to be the case, and they'd have Cary Williams match the other receivers with help from Earl Thomas over the top. But they could also just play him straight up and keep the corners on the left and right side. If I am Scott Linehan and I see that the Seahawks are more willing to play straight up – then I am putting Bryant to Williams' side as much as possible and taking my chances even with Bryant having to fight that double coverage.
  • I believe there are three pressure points along this Seattle offensive line: Garry Gilliam, Justin Britt and Drew Nowak. This is where Rod Marinelli needs to take advantage of what he has with Greg Hardy and his ability to line up at different spots to go to work on these Seahawks linemen. I would not be one bit surprised to see Hardy at the one-technique, three-technique and his normal end spot. I just don't see them being able to handle him one-on-one.
  • Rookie Tyler Lockett is the most dangerous downfield threat the Seahawks have. Cowboys have to be alert of him lining up on one side of the field and carrying his route all the way across, then vertical. If Russell Wilson is going to take a shot, this is where it is going to come from. No one else on this Seahawks roster has the speed to pull this off like he can. Big challenge here for the Cowboys secondary.
  • Just like the Cowboys move Greg Hardy around, I believe we will see the Seahawks doing the same thing with Michael Bennett. Bennett will line up inside at times, but where he is the most dangerous is on the edge. Doug Free's health has improved to the point where he is moving better, but Bennett will test his ability to get all the way to the outside. I don't see the Seahawks wasting rushes over Tyron Smith, so Free appears to be the likely target in trying to get Bennett home.
  • Jason Garrett in his press conference told us that Barry Church is dealing with a high ankle sprain, but I think he is playing. Church is one of the toughest guys on this squad and it would be hard for him to sit out. This defense needs him to play down in the box and handle those snaps where the Seahawks decide to run Marshawn Lynch and Thomas Rawls. With Church playing, it also allows them to keep Byron Jones in that nickel/dime role at safety.  
  • My gut tells me that Cole Beasley will be the starter at punt returner, but don't be surprised if Lucky Whitehead is thrown into the mix quickly. Garrett said that both should be ready and can be used. I just feel like Beasley is going to see more action in this game and taking that off his plate will likely help him.
  • In studying the Seahawks this week, I feel like running the ball right at them is much better than trying to work it off the edges. Their front seven is all about attacking the gaps and getting up the field. They want to be as disruptive as possible and this is where you have to take advantage of them. It is easier to pop runs going at them than trying to go wide. Last week against the Giants, the game plan was to try to the ball on the outside. I still think you will see a little of that but not as much. This game is going to be about being more physical than their front and to do that you have to take the ball at them.
  • Keep an eye on the matchup of Jason Witten and Kam Chancellor. The Seahawks have had their share of problems dealing with tight ends that have the ability to get up the field. In the Cincinnati game a few weeks ago, Chancellor had two busts where he flat-out dropped coverage and it resulted in a touchdown. The Seahawks have a tremendous amount of faith in Chancellor and his ability to handle these tight ends one-on-one. Even with Chancellor's ability I expect Witten to have a big game, not only working the middle of the field, but across it as well. Linehan is going to make Chancellor have to chase Witten in this game.
  • I keep going back and forth on whether this team is going to carry six receivers on the 46-man roster on game day. Devin Street has been the starter opposite Terrance Williams while Dez has been out – but with Bryant returning, they might only dress five. If they do dress only five, I am thinking Street might be inactive. But Brice Butler is working through a hamstring issue as well – so he could sit. If you go just on production or potential production – Butler would be the guy to dress, in my opinion, over Street. They might also go ahead and dress six to protect themselves if something were to happen to Bryant in the game. I am starting to talk myself into them going with six.  
  • You have to get Russell Wilson to play backward in this game. He is a different player when you force him to have to throw off his back foot. His best plays are when he can slide forward in the pocket and throw on the move. This Dallas defense cannot allow him to play that way. Teams have been able to control him better when they build a fence around him and push him from the middle. Wilson is not the type of guy you want to blitz because if he escapes the pocket – he is going to create problems with his feet. They need to make him throw over the rush.
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