Scout's Notebook: Assessing The Passing Game, Coverage Miscues & More

ARLINGTON, Texas – I'll know more when I've had a chance to watch the tape, but here are my initial impressions from the Cowboys' loss to the Rams on Sunday afternoon.

  • I loved the play call to open the game for the Cowboys. To put Dez Bryant in a tight slot and give him room to run his route against Trumaine Johnson was well-designed. Johnson had no choice but to grab him on the break, but Bryant fought through the hold. What was really impressive about the play was that Dak Prescott wanted to come off him. He actually looked the other direction, toward Terrance Williams, before coming back to Bryant and giving him a chance on the 50-50 ball -- which he was able to bring in.
  • On Ezekiel Elliott's receiving touchdown, it was a nice job by Jason Witten, running his route to make Alec Ogletree have to work behind to get to Elliott in the flat. Prescott set up like he wanted to throw the ball to Dez Bryant in the middle of the field on the shallow cross. Instead, he quickly flipped his feet around to get the ball to Elliott. It was that little bit of a hesitation with Witten that put Ogletree in poor position, which allowed Zeke to capture the corner to slide down the sidelines for the touchdown.
  • On the touchdown to Brice Butler, both Jason Witten and Cole Beasley were doubled on the play. That left Butler and Bryant in single coverage, which Prescott was able to take advantage of. Prescott's first look was at Bryant, to see if he had a chance there, but Trumaine Johnson was all over him. Prescott, feeling pressure from Robert Quinn to his left, spun in that direction. The spin actually helped him see Butler, who had separated from Kayvon Webster. Prescott was able to get enough on the ball and Butler did a great job of getting both of his feet down on the play.
  • There weren't many opportunities for the Cowboys' pass rushers to affect the way Jared Goff played. I thought coming into the game that DeMarcus Lawrence would have had some opportunities, but they just weren't there for the most part. His one sack/fumble on Goff really could have been a disaster for the Rams if Tyrone Crawford could have fallen on the ball. Lawrence did a great job of capturing the edge on Rob Havenstein and reaching back with his right hand to knock the ball loose. For a split second you could see Crawford looking for the ball, but Havenstein -- who was beaten on the play -- saw it between Crawford's hands and dove on it.
  • There appeared to be some confusion about who had Todd Gurley out of the backfield on his 53-yard touchdown reception. Both Damien Wilson and Kavon Frazier stepped up on the play fake to Tavon Austin, never looking at Gurley, who split right between them on the play. There is no question that Jared Goff was going in that direction, and he threw a perfect pass to Gurley. There were four defenders around Gurley when he caught that ball, with Jeff Heath having the best chance to make the tackle. Heath tried to break down, but he slid right by the play. All Gurley needed was one block -- and he received it from Josh Reynolds on Jourdan Lewis to waltz into the end zone. It was a well-designed and executed play by the Rams to take advantage of the Cowboys' personnel on the field.
  • After the game, Dak Prescott was talking about his lack of accuracy, especially in the second half. A great example of that was the third down throw he made to Dez Bryant, down the sideline, when the offense only needed six yards to covert. Prescott's eyes never left Bryant on the outside, although he was locked up in coverage with Trumaine Johnson. It would have been a really tough completion to begin with due to how tight Johnson was on Bryant, but the pass Prescott delivered never had a chance. It was too far up the field and way wide of Bryant. If Prescott was a little more patient, he had Elliott underneath for a much easier pass that would have easily picked up the third down.
  • To start the fourth quarter, we saw a missed opportunity by the defense to get off the field on third down when they had Goff backed up. Robert Woods was going to run a route to the middle of the field on what appeared to be against zone coverage. Jaylon Smith took his drop initially straight back -- but then reacted up to Gerald Everett to his left. As Smith was moving forward, Woods' route came in behind him. Goff, facing no pressure, fired the ball on the break to Woods in front of Jourdan Lewis and Xavier Woods. If Smith had held his ground and allowed Orlando Scandrick to take Everett, Goff was going to have to throw the ball through him for the completion.
  • On the Mark Barron interception, I am not sure if Dak Prescott was trying to fit the ball to Cole Beasley behind Barron -- or was he going a little deeper to Dez Bryant? Travis Frederick did a good job of trying to get out of his way as he climbed the pocket to give him some room. But give Michael Brockers a lot of credit, because he was able to spin back to the inside against Zack Martin. As soon as he made that move, it got Martin off balance and he was right on Prescott's arm to affect the throw. The play was initially called a fumble, but after the game it was switched to an interception.
  • Chalk up another touchdown for a receiver where Jason Witten was the reason for it. James Hanna was wide open on his scoring play, mainly due to the route that Witten executed in the middle of the field. Safety Mo Alexander was dropping to the left side of the field where Hanna was running his route. He shot a glance in the direction of Hanna, but then his eyes quickly went inside to Witten in the middle of the field. Alec Ogletree thought he was passing Hanna off to Alexander, but he was preoccupied with Witten. It was a really nice job, too, by Dak Prescott seeing the route develop all the way and making the accurate throw for the touchdown.  
  • No excuse for Ryan Switzer to misplay that ball on the punt return -- but he did. Switzer never had the ball cleanly in his hands when he started up the field. He was fumbling with it as soon as he planted his foot to make his cut. Once Blake Countess stuck his hand in there, it was going to the turf. Something I didn't notice the first time on the play was that Damontre' Moore nearly blocked the punt. Johnny Hekker took a path that almost punted the ball right into Moore, which would have been a huge turn of events.   
  • On the two-point play, Ramon George – this game's umpire -- was looking right at Travis Frederick when he made the call. Frederick's right hand was inside on Tanzel Smart, but his left hand was outside the framework of the body and on the shoulder pad. If Prescott had broken to his right instead of his left, there is a chance that George doesn't make that call. With Jonathan Cooper blocking out, there was a clear line of sight by George to see Frederick's hand placement to make that call.
  • The Rams' kickoff return unit did a really nice job of walling off the Cowboys' cover men inside, to allow Pharoh Cooper to get the ball outside. They were able to wad up Jeff Heath, Damien Wilson and Kyle Wilber on the play and kick Rod Smith out with a double team. That gave Cooper the alley he needed for the return. Dan Bailey did a really nice job of holding up Cooper to allow Byron Jones and Damien Wilson to get back to make the tackle. What was really unfortunate about the play, was Kavon Frazier as the first man down but lost balance as he went through the wedge and couldn't recover to make the play.        

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