Scout’s Notebook: Winning With Play Action

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FRISCO, Texas – From my place in our television studios back at The Star, these are my biggest impressions from Sunday’s Week 1 win against the New York Giants.

As always, I’ll be back with more notes when I’ve had a chance to re-watch the game.

  • I loved the way Dak Prescott was able to affect the Giants defense with his play action fakes. There were several snaps where there was full flow from the offensive line and backs that opened up things on the backside for Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Blake Jarwin to take advantage of. Prescott was putting the ball right on the money in front of their safeties before they even had a chance to react.
  • We’ve been talking about the possibility of this Cowboys defense creating more turnovers and they almost had one on the Giants’ opening play. Xavier Woods put his head in the perfect spot on the ball to knock it out of Saquon Barkley’s hands. Woods went low on the tackle as Barkley tried to go lower, but the ball came loose. Jaylon Smith was hustling over to help on the play but he overran it. Smith noticed the ball on the ground, but he just couldn’t scramble back in position to make the recovery.
  • What an effort by Randall Cobb to power through Antonio Hamilton to convert a big third down. Hamilton had Cobb stopped four yards before the marker, but Cobb put his hand in the middle of Hamilton’s chest to stop his momentum, then just pushed him aside. Antoine Bethea also had a shot at Cobb, but he too couldn’t make the tackle when Cobb lowered his shoulder and burst forward for the first down.
  • What an effort by Chidobe Awuzie to run down Saquon Barkley in the open field. There was no way I thought he had a chance. He was all the way on the other side of the field when Barkley took off. As a matter of fact, he and Barkley were even when he broke into the clear without any angle. Awuzie could have very easily missed that tackle, but he somehow managed to get Barkley on the ground to save a touchdown.
  • Kellen Moore was full of pre-snap motions in this game. On one particular screen pass to Ezekiel Elliott, Moore moved Randall Cobb, Amari Cooper and Jason Witten one after another from a trips formation. Cobb went across the formation, followed by Copper to a tight slot and then Witten to an inline tight end. Then, Moore brought Cobb back across the formation to the left to set up the screen to the right for a nice gain.
  • I still don’t know how Eli Manning wasn’t intercepted when he threw a pass with DeMarcus Lawrence right in his face. Lawrence worked all the way to the inside on a stunt that brought Sean Lee and Leighton Vander Esch on a blitz. Lawrence just overpowered Joe Halapio and was right on top on Manning, hitting his arm as he was trying to follow through. The ball just fluttered out of his hand and was there for the taking. Jeff Heath had the best chance to grab it, but he lost his balance attempting to redirect to get in position.
  • Nice job by Randall Cobb holding Jabrill Peppers in place on his route to allow Blake Jarwin to sneak down the middle of the field unguarded. Peppers, playing on the hash, was totally occupied by Cobb. What made the play even better was that Jarwin was hidden as an inline tight end on the right side. Peppers lost track of where he was, thinking there was no threat. It was really a nice adjustment by Jarwin to adjust to a ball that was behind him.
  • I don’t understand how you don’t run the ball with Saquon Barkley on third and short, but Pat Shurmur did the Cowboys a favor with his play calling. Eli Manning also didn’t help the situation by not getting rid of the ball quicker. Manning had receivers open, but I think he panicked when he saw Leighton Vander Esch approaching him. Vander Esch was in perfect position to defend the pass by keeping outside leverage, which forced Manning to throw the ball into the ground. The play resulted in a grounding call, which forced the Giants to punt.
  • Give Connor Williams a tip of the cap for the block he made on the long Michael Gallup reception down the sideline. The Giants brought a blitz off the edge, which Tyron Smith had to kick outside for. That left Lorenzo Carter with a free run at Prescott in the pocket. Williams not only helped Travis Frederick with his man, but he was able to bounce outside and pick Carter up to allow Prescott to find Gallup.
  • Nice job by the defensive staff this week of practicing the screen pass that the Giants used to Evan Engram. It’s a really nice design with how the Giants run it by delaying Engram as a blocker and then releasing him to the outside. It’s a play you see once or twice a game from them, but Jeff Heath was in great shape and read it all the way. As soon as the ball hit Engram’s hands, Heath was right on top of him for the stick. It was a good call by the officials on the incomplete pass because Engram had yet to make a football move.
  • Great sell job by Jason Witten on his touchdown reception with his blocking on the play. When Witten fired into Markus Golden, it appeared he was trying to execute a cut off block to the inside. He actually had outstanding position for that type of block, which made Michael Thomas come forward to chase the run. As soon as Prescott let go of the ball toward Witten, he stuck his fist in the air knowing it was going to be a score. It was a well-designed play called at the right time.
  • Good to see Byron Jones with some work in this game. I knew there was a chance that Jones wouldn’t start, but he practiced well enough during the week to have a role. He played in both the nickel and dime roles when the defense put the Giants in some long yardage situations. His movements and reactions appeared to be fluid and his conditioning good. I have a strong feeling that he will be back in his normal starting spot against the Redskins next week.

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