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Scout's Notebook: Defensive Awareness, Strides By The WRs; More

FRISCO, Texas – It's always amazing what you'll catch during a second or third viewing of a game.

It's easy to make snap judgments during the live action, and it's part of the fun of football. But as you go back and take a look, you'll find plenty that will surprise you – both good and bad.

After calling Saturday's game against the Colts from the broadcast booth at AT&T Stadium, I spent Sunday with the tape, and that was exactly the case. Here are my notes:

  • Here is a great example of the awareness Byron Jones is playing with right now. On their first possession of the game, the Colts tried to pick him on a route underneath to Jack Doyle in the flat on third down and short. Jones split Donte Moncrief and Orlando Scandrick, all while keeping his attention on Doyle. Jones arrived at Doyle just as he was trying to turn it up the field. Jones wrapped him up with such violence, it killed any momentum Doyle had going up the field. Jones brought him down a yard short of the first and forced the Colts into a punting situation.
  • Really nice job by Dak Prescott holding Darius Butler in the middle of the field on the touchdown pass to Dez Bryant. Butler's eyes were on Prescott the entire time as Prescott dropped back. By holding Butler there, it allowed Bryant time to run the "stutter-go" on Vontae Davis. What was even more impressive about the play was that Prescott didn't come back to Bryant until the very last possible moment with pressure bearing down on him from the inside. Bryant was outstanding tracking the ball, then finished the reception by running over Butler.
  • There is a good reason why Rod Marinelli trusts Orlando Scandrick as a blitzer. Scandrick has a sense of where to position himself in order to disguise the blitz and the timing to execute it. The Colts attempted to run a quick screen to the outside, with Scandrick coming off the edge. Scandrick was able to get into the throwing lane and extend his right arm in order to knock the ball into the air. What was even more impressive about the play was the reaction by Byron Jones and Leon McFadden to the pass. Even if the ball had gotten through to T.Y. Hilton, Jones and McFadden were going to make the stop for a loss.
  • Travis Frederick has to be one of the best in the league when it comes to hand use and body positioning as a blocker. On one particular Darren McFadden run, Frederick was locked up with Al Woods -- who was moving down the line to his right in order to stop McFadden. Woods initially had his hands inside on Frederick for control. With one quick swipe of his right hand, Frederick was able to knock Woods' hands off him, and then pushed his left shoulder pad to get him turned. With Woods off balance Frederick continued to push him past the hole, giving McFadden an easy read and an untouched path into the hole. At the outset of the play, that didn't look like it was going to be the case.
  • I like the read by Brice Butler on his post that picked up 21 yards. Butler was able to take advantage of the free access that T.J. Green was giving him. Butler knew that, with Green playing him to the outside and Darius Butler in the middle of the field deep, the play had a chance. Kellen Moore put the ball right in Butler's gut and he was off and running. Butler continues to display his ability to separate when the ball is thrown in his direction.
  • With the first half coming to a close, Rod Marinelli sent Damontre' Moore into the game as a nickel rusher. Moore lined up at tackle with Taco Charlton to his right. On the snap, Charlton was able to beat Anthony Castonzo so quickly to the inside, that Jeremy Vujnovich had to come off to help. That left Moore working one-on-one with Deyshawn Bond, who was having his own issues trying to control Moore. Charlton flashed across Scott Tolzien's face, causing him to pull the ball down. As he tried to reset, Moore had defeated Bond and was right in Tolzien's lap for the sack -- which was set up from Taco Charlton's efforts.
  • We all remember the touchdown pass that Cooper Rush threw to Uzoma Nwachukwu on fourth down in the Hall of Fame game. Nwachukwu ran a route behind a pick from Connor Hamlett to get into the end zone. On Saturday, Scott Linehan came back with the very same play and from almost the same spot on the field -- but Kellen Moore decided to throw the ball to the opposite side of the field. Lance Lenoir was in single coverage, but he was unable to come up with the contested catch. If Moore had just gone the other way with the ball, he had Geoff Swaim with the pick and Brian Brown breaking wide open behind him, which would have picked up the first down with the possibility of much more.
  • In the preseason, you use all different kinds on combinations of personnel on special teams. There are times where things go smoothly and others where you have breakdowns. The Sam Irwin-Hill field goal that was blocked was a result of a poor job by Dan Skipper and Kadeem Edwards of holding their ground. Hassan Ridgeway and Margus Hunt drove Edwards five yards deep into the backfield. What made matters worse was that, with the ball on the left hash, Irwin-Hill had to kick the ball in the direction of Hunt -- who was in the path with his hand extended. The kick had absolutely no shot from the start.
  • Outstanding poise by Cooper Rush to bobble the snap, execute a play fake to Rod Smith and still have the presence of mind to fire a strike to Brian Brown just before he stepped out of bounds. With the way the play started, it appeared that Rush would have been fortunate to get a handle on the ball at all, much less make the throw that he did. Also give some credit to Brown, who was able to measure his steps just before the sideline in order to get both feet down. It was great concentration on his part to make all those things happen for the reception.
  • My favorite carry of the game was when Rod Smith took the ball off the right edge and ran through three arm tackles before flattening Tyson Graham on his way.  It took a hustling play from T.Y. McGill, a defensive tackle, to chase him down from behind or Smith might have scored. It was apparent that the more Smith carried the ball, the less that the Colts defense was interested in tackling him.
  • From my seat in the broadcast booth, I thought it was a quiet night for Stephen Paea. But after studying the game, that wasn't the case. On the Scott Tolzien pass to Jack Doyle in the flat where Byron Jones made the third down stop, it was Paea that drove Joe Haeg into Tolzien, disrupting his timing. Later, he stuffed Deyshawn Bond at the point of attack to force Frank Gore to cut the ball back inside where Benson Mayowa and Anthony Hitchens were waiting on the tackle. Since Paea has been more consistent with his practice time, I do like the pairing of him and Maliek Collins. Their ability to play with power inside will make opponents think twice about attacking inside with their running game.  
  • Tip of the cap to the Cowboys' scouting department for bringing Dajuan Butler in off the street last week. Butler, a true rookie from the University of Hawaii, practiced two days last week and played well in the third and fourth quarters. He finished the game with four tackles and just missed on a game-ending interception. Playing in zone coverage, he passed Fred Brown inside to Robert Blanton, but he continued to keep his eyes on Stephen Morris. When Morris tried to fit the ball inside to Brown, Butler undercut the route and was just a tick late getting his hands up as it whistled by him. He tried to adjust to it but was just unable to secure it. It would have been a heck of a way to cap off a night in his first NFL game.


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