Scout’s Notebook: Gallup Delivers; Quinn Disruptive

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Here are my initial thoughts from the Cowboys’ big win in Detroit:

  • Tremendous effort by Michael Gallup to pick up the slack for Amari Cooper. This is the type of game they needed from him when Cooper was banged up in the Jets loss. It was clear that the Lions’ plan was to not allow Cooper to beat them by travelling cornerback Darius Slay with him. Good for Dak Prescott recognizing that and not forcing the ball to Cooper, thus eliminating potential mistakes. Gallup was up for the challenge and was able to deliver when his guys needed him the most.
  • You can say that Robert Quinn is benefiting from the talent around him, but that would be a discredit to him. I was hearing from scouts around the league questioning whether he had anything left in the tank. Quinn has shown that he not only has plenty in the tank, but he can be that disruptive rusher much like he was for the Rams earlier in his career when he was getting one or two sacks a game. It was a mistake by the Lions to believe that Taylor Decker could handle him one-on-one because Decker had absolutely no answer for him.
  • Speaking of pass protection. What a great job by the Cowboys’ offensive line. It’s a unit that doesn’t always practice together all week, but you would have never guessed that by the way they kept Prescott upright all day. This effort reminded me of the way they played early in the season against the Giants where Prescott was able to go through his progressions cleanly and then come back to his first read for a completion. It’s not that often in this league that you’re afforded that much time to make those reads and throws. Hopefully, the injury late in the game to La’el Collins is not significant and he will be available for the Patriots next week.
  • I have always believed that the addition of Randall Cobb was going to pay dividends for this offense. Cobb’s ability to work down the field and finish plays should not go unnoticed. With the weather turning colder and some big outdoor games in the future, this is where he’s going to show up even more. As a personnel man, give me that guy who not only has performed well in big games but is able to block those bad plays out of his mind. I see this as that springboard game for Cobb to set him off for the reminder of the season.
  • Nice to see offensive coordinator Kellen Moore getting Tony Pollard more involved in the game plan. The little touch passes were a nice addition, but what I really liked was him as a wide receiver. To stack Pollard behind Jason Witten and drag him underneath on third down was exactly what this offense needed. It’s an easy throw for Prescott to make, but there is also the potential for a huge play, yardage-wise, like we saw.
  • I thought that Pat Mahomes and Drew Brees threw the ball at different arm angles, but what a display by Prescott to do the same. There were several snaps where he had to almost drop down sidearm in order to get the ball to his receiver. The pass he threw to Ezekiel Elliott on the screen that ended up a touchdown might have been the best pass he threw all day. Elliott did a great job adjusting to the ball, which was low, but that was the only spot Prescott could have thrown it due to the defender in his face. Just a heck of decision to make that throw in order to give his guy a chance. 
  • Know fans are tired of seeing Witten taking snaps from Blake Jarwin, but what a big-time reception by him on third down late in the game to keep a drive going. Cornerback Rashaan Melvin was all over Witten, and he could have very easily dropped that ball. Give credit to Witten not only for his tremendous hand strength, but also for his ability to position his body in a way to keep Melvin from ripping the ball loose from him. Witten knew it was a big reception as soon as he came down with the ball, and he was absolutely correct.
  • It is amazing how this Cowboys defense struggles at times with their tackling. Some of the big plays that the Lions had were due to Dallas’ poor tackling. Misses from Leighton Vander Esch, Darian Thompson and Chidobe Awuzie all on one play led to a huge gain by J.D. McKissic on a screen. Sean Lee even missed one in the hole on third down that would have got the defense off the field. Coming out of training camp, I would have said there is no way that they would have these types of problems, but that’s the case. Fundamentally, they have not put themselves in good position, which has led them into some poor finishes. And that is coming from some players who have tackled well in the past.  
  • Opponents have figured out that you can take advantage of this Cowboys defense by running receivers through the secondary against single-high coverage. These safeties have not done a good enough job of playing with their eyes and adjusting to those routes as they develop. It’s happened several times this season where receivers start on one side of the field and end up finding space on the other side. The Jets, Vikings and now Lions have all hit explosive plays when the safeties didn’t make those adjustments quick enough. Marvin Hall gashed them on a 39-yard reception that should have been defended better on third down.
  • What a heads up play by Tavon Austin to knock the ball away from Slay to avoid an interception to start the fourth quarter. Austin is not the longest guy, reach-wise, but he used every inch of his frame in order to make that play. I am not a big fan of throwing him those 50/50 balls because of his size, but for him to make that play shows me something about him. It would have been real easy for him to give up and let Slay make the interception, but Austin stuck with it and saved his quarterback, who managed to finish well after that throw.
  • Nice job of Moore going with the heavy personnel group and then booting Prescott out the backdoor in order to get Jarwin the ball in the flat. Jarwin was outstanding selling the block on the backside in order to make the defender cross his face. It would have been real easy for Jarwin to try and get out too quickly, thus alerting the defense. Jarwin played it perfectly. The timing and execution was perfect, which got the necessary result. Running the ball would have accomplished nothing, so staying aggressive there was totally the right call to kill the game.   
  • I have noticed that more opponents are starting to take chances returning the ball on these coverage units of the Cowboys. It started with the Giants just a couple of games ago and has now carried to this game against the Lions. Jeff Heath has been banged up in those games, which might have been a factor with some of the problems, but as a unit, they have to be better. Special teams coordinator Keith O’Quinn has to be concerned as well, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see some shuffling of personnel in order to keep that area from beating them in a game.

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