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Scout's Notebook: Pass Rush Takes Center Stage


OXNARD, Calif. – We're not quite done here in California, but the padded practices are a wrap.

As the Cowboys get ready for their preseason game against Cincinnati, Thursday's work will be game prep with limited contact. The heavy lifting portion of this year's Oxnard camp is done.

Things ended on a high note, though, as we once against saw a competitive practice on Wednesday night. Here are my notes:

·      Big-time rush by DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory, forcing Dak Prescott to flush out of the pocket to avoid the pressure. Gregory was able to work a twist stunt with Daniel Ross that put Cameron Fleming and Connor Williams in a bind. Ross was able to get deep on the penetration, which allowed Gregory to work inside. Williams was aware of what was happening, but he just had problems working his body into position to make the block.

·      I had a great look at the interception by Byron Jones on the deep ball to Terrance Williams. My initial thought was Williams had both Jones and Xavier Woods beaten on the play. For some reason, Prescott held onto the ball just a little too long and when it left his hand it was fluttering. Williams came back trying to make the catch, but the ball was a good yard short --which is exactly where Jones ended up tracking it all the way into his hands. If that ball is a little sooner and doesn't have the flutter, it's going to be a score.

·      Tyron Smith and Connor Williams had a textbook double-team block on Daniel Ross to drive him off the goal line and into Kavon Frazier to create a nice crease inside for Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott also got a front side block by Geoff Swaim on Tyrone Crawford and Zack Martin, cutting off Sean Lee on the backside. Once Elliott hit the hole and was into the second level, only Xavier Woods would have had a shot at him -- but I am not sure he would have made the play. Elliott was that quick through the hole.

·      Impressive play by Damien Wilson to knock the ball away from Jamize Olawale on a wheel route when Olawale had a step on him. His timing was perfect to raise his hand just as the ball arrived. Wilson has been a factor throughout camp in coverage. He's rarely beaten when he has to carry potential targets down the field. His burst allows him to regain position when it appears that he's going to give up a play.

·      Dorance Armstrong had a nice day rushing the passer, but he learned a valuable lesson when facing Tyron Smith: don't let Smith punch you with his right hand. Armstrong had given Smith a good run for his money on the first rep, but when it came to the second one -- Smith was ready.

He slowed down Armstrong's charge with his left hand and then punished him with the right one. The force knocked Armstrong off balance and buckled him. Unable to come back on Smith, he was forced to rush down the middle of him and that's game over.

·      It's impressive how much ground DeMarcus Lawrence is able to cover in his first two steps. Lawrence was on La'el Collins before he knew it. Collins had no choice but to try and put his hand in the middle of Lawrence's back and push him past Prescott, but his balance wouldn't let him do it. Lawrence stayed on his feet, turned the corner and was right on top of Prescott.

·      Interesting sequence of events during the goal line period. Connor Williams broke a snap on his helmet and was forced out of action for a play, which put Kadeem Edwards in his place. Scott Linehan called for Dak Prescott to run a quarterback draw. Edwards was driven back into the backfield by Tyrone Crawford, giving Prescott nowhere to run. Sean Lee came flying in from his linebacker spot to finish off the play by knocking Prescott to the ground. Connor Williams quickly hustled back into the lineup after the play was over.

·       It doesn't happen often, but a tip of the cap to Randy Gregory getting around Tyron Smith twice in a span of three plays during team period. Smith's pass set wasn't poor, it was just Gregory's first step that gave him problems. Once Gregory was able to get to that shoulder, he did the smart thing to dip -- which kept Smith's hands off him. With no hitting surface, Smith was never able to slow Gregory's rush down, resulting in the sacks.

·      Mekale McKay was inches from pulling down a spectacular reception from Cooper Rush on the fade over Duke Thomas. Rush's touch was spot on and McKay went full extension and had it in his hands, but he was unable to get his left foot down as Thomas tried to fight him off. We haven't seen that many fade routes on the goal line in these practices since Dez Bryant is no longer on the squad.

·      Really liked the design by Scott Linehan of starting Bo Scarbrough on the outside, then bringing him back to the inside to throw him the ball where he just had come from. Kam Kelly was involved in the coverage and wasn't quite fast enough back to the outside to cover the play. Mike White ha d the perfect touch-pass out in front of Scarbrough where all he had to do is walk into the end zone after the reception.