The first rule of football fandom during the preseason—and especially early in the preseason—is to avoid overreacting.
But if you're a Dallas Cowboys fan, you have plenty of reason to be tepidly excited about how America's Team kicked off the 2013 preseason in a victory over the Miami Dolphins at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, Sunday night.
It was certainly nice to see the defense step up in Monte Kiffin's debut and there were some promising inaugural performances on both sides of the ball, but what was most promising from my perspective was how well-run the offense looked.
We all know the Cowboys have the talent to get it done on both sides of the ball, so the key might be to refine the system.
While we didn't get to see plenty of regular starters Sunday night, the play-calling process looked crisper than in the past.
The sample size isn't large, but that didn't look like a Jason Garrett-operated offense in the first quarter.
The Cowboys were often notoriously slow with Garrett calling the plays, but Bill Callahan has taken over play-calling duties and now it looks as though Tony Romo is going to have extra time to read defenses and make adjustments at the line of scrimmage in 2013.
Romo didn't play Sunday, but backup Kyle Orton had all the time in the world with his guys set during that opening drive.
Garrett would call two plays at once, which gave Romo plenty of flexibility but also involved more verbiage, more thinking and took up more time.
Callahan uses a numbers-based system with large play wristbands and early indications are that'll give the quarterback more time at the line of scrimmage.
That probably means more plays per game. As Jonathan Bales notes on SportsDayDFW.com, the more offensive plays you run, the better your chances of winning are.
Garrett also took plenty of heat for his reliance on the pass. Look for those complaints to disappear under Callahan, at least based on his past as well as what we saw Sunday in Canton.
On its first two drives, Dallas ran the ball eight times on 11 plays. In the red zone, after a Miami fumble in the first quarter, the Cowboys gave it to Phillip Tanner on four consecutive plays (with a passing play negated by a penalty stuck in the middle).
And that was without No. 1 back DeMarco Murray.
It worked. Tanner ran for 59 yards on 10 carries, while Lance Dunbar and rookie Joseph Randle had 92 yards on 17 carries. Combined, those three averaged 5.6 yards per attempt. Yes, lots of those attempts came against scrubs, but keep in mind that this offense ranked 30th in the league with just 3.6 yards per rush in 2012.
It wasn't all in the play-calling.
Two of Jerry Jones' favorite guys, Travis Frederick and Ronald Leary, played superbly against Miami and should be in line to start at center and left guard, respectively. Neither made the types of mistakes that hampered the interior offensive line last year, and they also excelled at opening up lanes.
Again, it's one preseason game. There remains plenty of room for things to go awry.
However, the Cowboys made some bold moves this offseason, tweaking operations by reassigning play-calling duties and taking a massive risk by arguably reaching for Frederick in the first round.
Early on, it's looking as though those moves could pay off.
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