Dallas Cowboys: Preseason Debut Brings Mixed Results and Some Bright Spots
The Dallas Cowboys opened their preseason with a lackluster 3-0 victory against the Oakland Raiders. They also left behind a slew of injured players, mostly to rehab and for precautionary reasons as well. Considering the injury factor and the many questions that still hamper this team, it would've been hard to expect a stellar performance.
Well, that's pretty much what transpired. The starting offense amassed very little production, the special teams unit committed two penalties that resulted in the Raiders maintaining possession and the play of the offensive line left much to be desired. Overall, it was a sloppily played game.
But it wasn't all bad. In fact, there were some bright spots.
Putting the performance aside, the best news was that the Cowboys' only major injury blow was dealt to rookie linebacker Kyle Wilber, who suffered a broken thumb. However, if Tony Romo absorbed another shot or two, the season could've teetered on the brink of disaster.
But for now, the first preseason game is in the books, and the Cowboys can check that one off. What did we learn? Did the performance provide any solutions or just more questions? Let's rundown the facts.
Dez Bryant: Bryant played well and did not show any ill effects of the tightness in his hamstring. He made a leaping, 24-yard grab on a back-shoulder throw. Great route, good concentration and solid throw by Romo. The defender was forced into an awkward position and failed to locate the ball. During the regular season, Bryant should be able to have success with this route all year.
Just watching him run routes, he looked fluid, smooth and confident in his knowledge of the playbook. Good start.
Andre Holmes: He probably has a leg up on the No. 3 receiver position with his performance last night. He displayed great reach on two of his catches, including one along the sideline. I went back and watched his game footage, and he seemed to really use that big frame to his advantage. It's hard to get excited on one performance, but Holmes can definitely build off of this game.
Offensive Line: They got off to a really poor start, and it was glaring. The first-unit offense couldn't run, Romo took a few shots and they just didn't look cohesive. Tyron Smith seems to be making a smooth transition at left tackle, while Doug Free and Jermey Parnell were solid. However, the interior line continues to be a source of acid reflux.
Arkin seemed to improve as the game went on, but it's rather clear that this unit needs work and a lot of it. Their play has to improve dramatically.
Alex Albright: Albright finished last night's game with nine tackles. He is known mostly as a special-teamer. I saw a player last night that looked like he belonged. He showed good pursuit and anticipation, and he moved well laterally. He always just seemed to be around the ball and making plays.
Penalties: The Cowboys wracked up 12 penalties for 91 yards. I know it's preseason, but ultimately it's no excuse. The special-teams penalties were probably most frustrating. Had this been a regular season game, they probably would've come back to haunt the Cowboys mightily. Let's see how this improves.
Ben Bass: Bass, a player I highlighted in my training camp sleepers article, really showed a solid motor last night. He had five tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack. He really pursued the run and was able to shed blocks as he chased down Terrelle Pryor.
He moves really well for his size, and last night was indicitaive of that. If he builds on this performance, it could mean the end for Coleman or Spears.
Safeties: With Gerald Sensabaugh intercepting Carson Palmer on the opening drive and Barry Church playing very solid, the safety position is off to a good start. Church really showed some nice closing ability on a few tackles, and he seemed comfortable in coverage. Maybe this could be the player the Cowboys have been looking for.
No. 3 Receiver: Still very much wide open at this point. I like what Holmes did, but this battle is far from over. Cole Beasely was on the field quite a bit but failed to make his presence felt. This will continue to get interesting as the rest of camp and preseason unfolds.
Conclusion: It's just too hard to pass judgement on this team after one performance. At this point, it goes beyond questions and answers. The defense is ahead of the offense, and unless the offensive line shows improvement, Tony Romo will have to continue his Houdini impersonations. Overall, the Cowboys played hard, and I like the fact that the defense pitched a shutout—even if it was preseason.
Did this game provide any solutions? Did it provide more questions? The answer on both of those questions is not right now. Not concretely. I would imagine the game tape will not be easy to watch, but if the Cowboys want to accomplish what they are setting out for, it starts with this game.
A game that might seem insignificant on the surface needs to be viewed as an important building block.
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