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Scout’s Notebook: Impressive Coverage From The Secondary; Solid LB Play

OXNARD, Calif. – Here are some of my top notes from Thursday morning’s practice:

  • If you have been around Dez Bryant enough on the practice field, you’re going to see some incredible catches -- one-handed, two-handed, high or low it doesn’t matter. With the ball sitting inside the 5-yard line, Bryant flexed to the left with Orlando Scandrick across from him. Scandrick has played in this league long enough to understand what was about to happen. Prescott was going to throw the ball up on a fade and see if Bryant could come down with it. On the snap, Scandrick positioned himself just underneath Bryant in order to try and out-rebound him. Bryant took his hand and gave Scandrick a slight shove that allowed him to separate on the play. Bryant then extended his left hand over the top of Scandrick’s head as the ball was coming down. Scandrick tried to swipe at the ball but just missed it. Bryant caught the point of the ball with his index finger and thumb – to Scandrick’s disbelief.
  • I am OK with Dak Prescott taking more chances throwing the ball this season if he continues to show the arm talent he did in the Compete Period. Terrance Williams executed a 15-yard comeback along the right side against a driving Nolan Carroll. Prescott, standing in the middle of the pocket on the left hash, didn’t hesitate as he climbed the front of the pocket and let the ball fly. Carroll, chasing Williams down the stem, tried to extend his left hand to knock the ball away but Williams had his hands in a little better position to make the play. If the ball is thrown inside just a bit, Carroll is going to make the play -- but instead, Williams comes up with the reception.
  • It’s never easy to have to deal with Jason Witten when he is working between the hashes. He has made a living making those type of plays in the middle of the field where he can square up to the passer. The defense was in a two-deep look with Jeff Heath and Byron Jones on the hashes. Witten started up the field, then broke to the soft spot of the field. Heath, reading the route all the way, drove on Witten’s break inside and arrived just at the same time as the ball did. Heath made it a contested catch, which Witten was unable to hold on to.
  • Emmett Cleary is continuing the work with the first unit as a backup to Tyron Smith while he is out -- but I am not sure how long that will be. Chaz Green was back at practice working at left tackle and looked good in the snaps in which he participated. Green had missed time with a shoulder problem, but that appears to be behind him. His pass set was not rusty and his punch did not appear to have lacked any power -- which is all a great sign for him to get back into the competition for other spots along the line.
  • David Irving received work with the first unit at left end while DeMarcus Lawrence was back on the right side after seeing most of his action on the left during practice on Wednesday. Charles Tapper was also back on the practice field after dealing with some lower back tightness. The time off did Tapper some good, because he had a couple of snaps where he came off the ball untouched around the corner for pressures. Tapper was disruptive playing behind Irving on that left side.
  • Jaylon Smith took advantage of DeMarcus Lawrence and Richard Ash holding up Travis Frederick, Zack Martin and La’el Collins to make a play. Ezekiel Elliott tried to run the ball off the right side but there was no room. He went into the hole, but once he saw Smith, he tried to bounce the ball outside. Orlando Scandrick was able to work off of Jason Witten’s block to force Elliott even wider. Smith continued to keep his eyes on Elliott and was able to chase the play to the edge. With the help of Scandrick they were able to bring Elliott down for no gain.
  • The running storyline during camp is that Brian Brown is always going to have one spectacular play per practice. True to form, Brown took a ball off the top of Leon McFadden’s helmet that ended up a touchdown. McFadden couldn’t have had any tighter coverage -- he was literally chest to chest with Brown when both looked back for the ball. Brown was able to find it a tick quicker and extended his hands to haul it in from Kellen Moore. I don’t know how the ball didn’t hit McFadden on the way down, but Brown showed great concentration to finish the play with both feet down in the end zone.
  • With all the injured cornerbacks on this roster, some guys like Sammy Seamster are receiving the majority of the work. Seamster made a really nice play on Ryan Switzer down the field. Switzer wasn’t lined up in the slot -- but outside wide, as a true wide receiver. Switzer came off the ball as if he was trying to extend Seamster wide, but Seamster didn’t bite on the route. As Switzer broke to the inside, Seamster was able to transition to match him. Luke McCown tried to fit the ball inside, but it was a little behind Switzer and Seamster was in perfect position to knock it away with his left hand.
  • To defend the screen on defense, you had better have players that can run -- especially when it’s an all-out blitz. It was heck of a job by Mark Nzeocha, attacking the backside “A” gap on the blitz, using his hands to play off Byron Bell, then sprinting to his right to beat two blockers along the way to tackle Darren McFadden for no gain. If Nzeocha doesn’t make that play on the move, there is a really good chance that the offense is going to score on the play. Tremendous read and react on his part to make the stop.
  • Stephen Paea continues to make plays during these practices with his power. His bull rush over the top of Byron Bell knocked the big guard to the ground and he was on Dak Prescott in the pocket before he had a chance to react. Prescott tried to flush to his right, but it was too late, Jason Garrett standing behind the drill killed the play with Paea and DeMarcus Lawrence on the chase getting credit for the sack.
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