ARLINGTON, Texas – We'll learn a lot more about this game when we have a chance to break down the tape, as usual.
But for now, here are my 12 main impressions from my vantage point in the radio booth at AT&T Stadium:
Loved the pace the first offense played with. They did a nice job of taking the game to the Colts' defensive, especially with the offensive line. They were able to control the front, which allowed Dak Prescott to operate efficiently. Their ability to run the ball opened up other opportunities down the field. Prescott did a nice job of executing, whether that was from the pocket or on the edge. He was able to keep the Colts on their heels during the snaps that he was in the game.
Cole Beasley is going to make things difficult for slot corners to have to deal with him this season. Telvin Mitchell drew the assignment this evening and he wasn't even in the same area code as Beasley on his two receptions. Beasley spun him so badly on his last reception, that I thought Mitchell might have hurt himself. Dak Prescott calls Beasley quarterback-friendly, and after the two hooked up this evening uncontested, I could see why.
Jaylon Smith played 12 quality plays in his continued recovery from a knee injury that he suffered some 595 days ago. Smith appeared to be comfortable with his movements overall. There was only one snap where he appeared a little wide in the hole, and he overran the back which resulted in a nice gain. What I wanted to see from Smith was his ability to play with his hands and eyes, which I thought he was able to do. I wasn't worried about his knee or foot, because I knew that was in good shape. It was the mental side of the game where I felt like he needed to make the most progress and he was able to do just that. I am interested to study the film and check out his lateral burst – which, from the naked eye, appeared to be good.
Felt like Charles Tapper was more active in this contest than Taco Charlton. With the problems the Colts had last week with the Lions and their pass rush, I was expecting more from both of these young guys. Tapper appeared quicker off the ball, especially when he worked down inside on the move. Charlton had a good pass rush where he was able to capture the corner on Anthony Castonzo. He also had a couple of snaps where he lined up as the under-tackle and rushed from that spot in the nickel with some success.
Rod Smith continues to make a case for himself to secure a spot on this roster. Where I have been the most impressed with Smith has been his ability to finish runs. He wore down this Colts defense with his power. Those form tackles early in the game became arm tackles the more that Smith carried the ball. The Colts defenders wanted nothing to do with him by the end of the night.
I was once again impressed with the poise that Cooper Rush continues to show with his opportunities. He appears to be unfazed by the pressure to perform, and when they call on him to move the offense, he is able to do just that. It hasn't mattered when the coaches have inserted him into the game, he has shown an ability to finish drives. His best throw of the night was the sideline pass to Uzoma Nwachukwu where he was rolling to his left, squared his shoulders and threw a strike on the move. Rush might not be the most natural-looking athlete but that was an athletic play that most quarterbacks have trouble making.
I was disappointed for Mark Nzeocha and the night he had. Where he has had his struggles in camp has been with his space play. He tends to have problems when he gets in it and can't come under control to put himself in balance in order to finish. Physically, he is everything you want in a linebacker. But if you tend to miss more tackles than you make, it's hard for the coaches to put you on the field and rely on you.
Alfred Morris stepped up a couple of different times on blitz pickups, which is what these coaches are looking for. Morris has not only improved on his awareness of where he needs to fit, but his execution has improved as well. Morris has been square, patient and delivered a blow when it has been required. Where he has been really impressive has been his willingness to work to be a more complete back. I don't believe he's a liability at all in this area.
Heck of a route by Noah Brown on the touchdown reception from Cooper Rush. Brown executed one of David Helman's favorite routes -- the Sluggo. Basically, it is when a receiver fakes like he's going to run a slant inside, but heads up the field when the cornerback commits. Brown was able to get Tyvis Powell to bite on the fake and once he was clear, all he had to do was locate the ball from Rush -- who put it in a perfect spot for the reception.
Duke Thomas is doing all he can to make this team as the sixth cornerback. Thomas had another night where he played well in coverage and was around the ball as a support player. What I like about Thomas' game is his ability to finish plays. He is a sure, dependable tackler. He is good in space and rarely fooled. The coaches will play him on the inside or outside with confidence that he can handle whatever is thrown his direction. I don't see many snaps where he is making mental mistakes and that says a lot about him as a player.
· I tend to get nervous when I see Jason Witten have to execute those trap blocks on those running plays. It's not that Witten can't do the job, but he is so valuable to the offense that I don't want to see him have to take the extra wear and tear on his body. What has been impressive about Witten is the older he has become, the better job he has done as a blocker. This running game is going to need him, James Hanna and Geoff Swaim to be especially good if Ezekiel Elliott does miss time during the season.
· I saw more flashes from Joey Ivie in the game than I did from Lewis Neal in that battle for a defensive tackle spot. Last week, it was Neal that showed up more. I am interested to see if the film shows the flashes were real or in fact Neal was able to hold his own. It just appeared that Ivie was more on the active side, especially when it came to working those line stunts and games.