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Scout's Notebook: Dez Excels From the Slot; Grading Hitchens Against The Jags

IRVING, Texas – I usually watch the tape from the previous week's game on Monday morning in my office. On this unique occasion, I spent a few hours of our 12-hour trip back to the United States watching tape on the plane.

For that reason, my breakdown of the win against Jacksonville is a little bit late – I hope you can forgive me. With that out of the way, I've got a few thoughts on some things we saw the other night at Wembley Stadium, some good and some bad.

  • When the Cowboys have success running the ball in a game, it has usually come off that left side behind Tyron Smith and Ronald Leary. Against the Jaguars, the film showed that Zack Martin and Doug Free were on top of their games when it came to get movement on that right side.

Red Bryant and Roy Miller are not easy to push, and there were several snaps when both Martin and Free had those two on a rail. Put Jason Witten or James Hanna on that side, as well -- then you have some serious athletic ability to finish these blocks while on the move.

None of these blockers are slow-footed. A really good example of this was on the touchdown run by Joseph Randle where Free, Martin and Travis Frederick all got blocks to him in the secondary with Terrance Williams and Devin Street taking him to the end zone.

  • It appeared that in this game Dez Bryant was used much more out of the slot than any other games this season. I believe you will see much more of this in these final six games of the season. What Scott Linehan is trying to do is allow Bryant the ability not to be doubled in coverage, but more importantly, it allows Bryant the ability to run more routes where he has space to operate.

On his first touchdown reception of the game, Bryant was lined up inside the numbers two yards to the outside of James Hanna. By lining up this tight to the formation, it allowed him to come inside hard instead of being wide and having to deal with a corner and safety who would try to force him into the sidelines. Also, with this positioning of Bryant, it also allows Tony Romo to get him the ball more quickly and on the move – which, as we all saw, is a nightmare for defensive backs to have to deal with.   

[embeddedad0] * I had a chance to visit with Cowboys linebacker coach Matt Eberflus before we got on the flight home, and he couldn't have been more proud of the way Anthony Hitchens played -- not only against the Jaguars but in all of the opportunities he has had this season.

Eberflus felt that he really is more of a natural Mike, despite all of the positions that he is working to learn. Of the nine tackles he had in the game, two really stood out on film for me: his ability to run down wide receiver Cecil Shorts III in the open field to save a touchdown and the 4th-and-1 stop later in the game that killed a Jaguars drive.

The Shorts tackle was total effort and athletic ability on his part. The fourth down stop was awareness, power and execution of technique. The play was also executed well by George Selvie, Jack Crawford, Bruce Carter and Kyle Wilber. Both Selvie and Crawford crashed down hard to the inside while both Carter and Wilber scraped to the ball, but it was the finish by Hitchens in the hole that was the key.

  • It is common for me talk about the complementary players on this squad and the jobs that they do on a weekly basis -- whether that is Lance Dunbar Cole Beasley, Gavin Escobar or Sterling Moore.

Against the Jaguars, the complementary guy that jumped out to me was Jack Crawford. What is interesting is in the last game he played in against the Texans, he jumped out as well. It is true that Crawford had extra incentive to play well in front of his hometown folks, but having not been active for the last five games was all he really needed.

Crawford is a natural defensive end, but this week Rod Marinelli gave him some work inside as the under-tackle and he responded quite well. On tape he didn't appear out of place or struggling with his technique in regard to getting off blocks. As a matter fact, on his sack, he beat a double-team block to bring Blake Bortles to the ground.

There were several snaps where he was active in working down the line, all while getting in on plays. After watching him play I now understand why the coaches were excited about having him once again on the field and using him in different spots in the rotation.

  • You have to give Jaguars defensive end Chris Clemons a lot of credit in the way he was able to get between Tyron Smith and Doug Free to block Dan Bailey's field goal. On the play, Mackenzy Bernadeau got overextended, as did Smith.

Free was not able to set his base, and was much too tall as linebacker Dakota Watson got into his chest. Clemons was set up on Smith's right shoulder and was able to make a swim move much like he was rushing Smith on a pass play.

With Smith overextended and off balance to his left this allowed Clemons to attack that right shoulder. Once he was able to clear that it gave him a clean path to the ball and he tipped the kick away with his right hand.  

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