Scout’s Notebook: Taco Makes Plays; Star LB?

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HONOLULU – From high atop the bleachers at Aloha Stadium, here are some of my initial impressions from the Cowboys’ 14-10 win against the Los Angeles Rams.

As always, I’ll have more information when I have a chance to sit down and study this game. Hopefully this will hold you over until then.

  • It was another nice start to the game for Dak Prescott. Efficient moving the squad. He made some clutch throws when he had to, starting deep in his own end of the field. He played with poise and control. He saw the field well and was able to make a nice touch pass down the sideline to Michael Gallup to open things up. Kellen Moore put him in some good positions to make plays and he took advantage of it. 
  • You had to be excited for Tony Pollard and the way that he was able to finish that run for the first touchdown. Pollard showed vision and power on the way to the end zone. He did exactly what he had to do, reading the block from Travis Frederick on the defensive tackle and then to the second level. Just a well-executed play all around. I need to check on the Prescott sack that put them behind the chains, because I thought he might have missed an assignment on the blitz pick up. But I need to check.
  • This was the second game where we’ve seen this starting secondary make plays on the ball by denying these Rams receivers space. Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis and Xavier Woods all caught my eye with physical plays when the defense needed them. As a group they’ve tackled well and that has been the most impressive thing about the way they’ve played.
  • Good to once again see Taco Charlton making plays. I can see his confidence continue to grow with each series. He might not have had a great night rushing the quarterback, but his ability to knock those passes down along the line of scrimmage is showing me that he’s doing a better job of freeing himself from blockers -- which is something that he’s struggled with in his career.
  • Devin Smith still continues to find ways to make plays in these games, whereas Jon’Vea Johnson has not. Smith once again made a nice adjustment to the ball from Cooper Rush on the touchdown. Smith tracked the ball well and -- just like last week -- was able to put his hands in the perfect position to finish the play. On the other hand, Johnson continues to find his way to get separation on the routes, but his finish is not there. I believe that Johnson is thinking too much instead of just playing naturally.
  • Cooper Rush has clearly won this backup quarterback job. Even though Mike White was poor, Rush has been better at moving the team. The staff gave White a great opportunity with early snaps in this game, but he just lacks the ability to generate enough plays where the ball goes down the field. His style is entirely too cautious.
  • Justin Phillips is going to make it hard on this staff to put him on the street. Not only is his finish impressive, but the awareness he plays with in pass coverage is impressive. There is no way I thought he had a chance for that interception, especially with his initial step into the line, but his ability to turn and run to a spot saved him.
  • Jason Witten on that first drive is exactly what I expect from him each week. Third downs and red zone plays are going to be his calling card. Witten is going to wear opposing defenses out by playing underneath football. His hands have always been special and Dak Prescott knows that.
  • Tip of the cap to the young defensive line and how well they played in the second half of that game. The Rams really couldn’t get much going with the rotation Rod Marinelli was using. Trysten Hill, Daniel Wise, Jalen Jelks and Joe Jackson were clearly better than what the Rams ran out there. These young kids played on the Rams’ side of the line scrimmage the majority of the snaps.
  • I need to study the tape, but I didn’t notice much of Donovan Wilson in this game. I know he got some snaps, but he didn’t make the impact we saw last week against the 49ers. If there was a safety that showed up better in coverage, it was Kavon Frazier -- who for the last couple of weeks had flat lined in his play. I was looking to see if Wilson could do enough to maybe overtake Frazier but it just didn’t happen from what I could tell.
  • I believe Donovan Olumba put himself back in the mix for a roster spot, especially with the unknown surrounding Byron Jones and his availability for opening day. Jones has been working extremely hard with the medical staff with the hope of being there for the opening game. I think if there is something that hurts Olumba it is his consistency. There are times, such as this game, where his play is stellar. Then there are others where he is all over the map with his technique and finish. If he could ever find a way avoid those up and down moments, he could be a solid corner in this league. 
  • I thought Jason Garrett was going to win that pass interference challenge by Steven Parker on Reggie Davis. If that wasn’t pass interference, I don’t know what is. Parker was clearly all over Davis before the ball got there. I am not surprised that Sean McVay won the challenge on Donovan Olumba, because that was defensive holding off the line and should have been called.
The Cowboys kick off the regular season against the New York Giants on Sept. 8th. Tickets starting at $35. Get your tickets to see your Cowboys at AT&T Stadium this season!

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