Dallas vs. Miami: Report Card Grades for Each Cowboys Unit
The first-team offense didn't look good at all. Tony Romo went 10-of-18 for 87 yards while constantly having pressure in his face. The offensive line did a poor job all night—they couldn't get much push in the run game and allowed far too many pressures on the quarterback.
Romo was sacked three times and was continually forced to maneuver in the pocket to avoid defenders. The one positive from the first-team offense is that Romo and Dez Bryant are clearly on the same page and should have a fantastic year together.
The first-team defense did a poor job against the run; repeatedly getting gashed by Dolphins running backs. However, they did a great job in the red zone, and they got a timely turnover.
The Cowboys have to do a better job against the run, especially because their first game is against a run-based team in the San Francisco 49ers.
The biggest improvement from the Ravens game was the play on special teams. After getting gashed frequently, the special teams did a better job in coverage and even got some decent returns from the likes of Dwayne Harris.
The mistakes the Cowboys made throughout the game are fixable, but they are running out of time to fix them.
With that said, here are the grades for each positional unit on America's Team.
Tony Romo's performance Saturday night was nothing to write home about, but he did answer how well he would bounce back from his first hit since his back injury. Romo took three sacks against the Dolphins but looked no worse for wear after each of them.
Romo seemed a bit out of sync with the rest of the first-team offense, with the exception of Dez Bryant. Romo connected with Bryant four times for 32 yards. Romo and Bryant may prove to be the premier quarterback-receiver tandem in the NFL.
Dallascowboys.com's David Helman reported that head coach Jason Garrett said this regarding Romo's performance:
"It was good to see Tony out there playing. He got knocked around a little bit, and that could be good and bad,” said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. “You want the protection to be clean, but at the same time for him, in his preparation for San Francisco, it's good to have him feel the physical part of the game. There were some good things and some things we have to work on.”
Backup quarterback Brandon Weeden proved once again that he is just an average quarterback. Weeden went 5-of-9 for 79 yards and a touchdown. He didn't make any spectacular plays, but he didn't make any exceptionally poor ones, either.
Rookie Dustin Vaughan had a rough night. He went only 1-of-6 for 12 yards and frequently had trouble moving the ball against the Dolphins reserves.
Overall, the quarterback play was so-so Saturday, but nothing the Cowboys should be worried about.
The Cowboys running backs did the best they could with what they had. DeMarco Murray didn't have much space to work with during his six carries, but he did a good job fighting for what he could get.
The star of the group was once again Ryan Williams, who showed great burst and power throughout his 12 carries.
Williams also did a great job in an area that has been his Achilles' heel since he was drafted, pass-blocking. He had a couple of nice pickups throughout the game that gave his quarterback a little bit more time to throw the ball.
Joseph Randle went out early in the game because of a rib injury, per ESPN Dallas' Todd Archer. This is unfortunate timing to have an injury for Randle, because it allowed Williams to once again showcase his skills running the ball.
The gap between Randle and Williams on the depth chart has to be getting smaller.
Altogether, the running backs weren't fantastic, but they did a solid job throughout the game.
Wide Receiver and Tight End
The wide receivers did an adequate job throughout the game Saturday night. The quarterbacks, especially the backups, were inaccurate against the Dolphins so it didn't give them too many opportunities to make plays.
Dez Bryant did a fantastic job getting open and making a couple tough third-down catches to extend the drives. However, he didn't get too many opportunities because of the coaches' decision to limit his snap count.
The player with the worst performance out of the wide receivers was most likely Cole Beasley. He had just one catch on his five targets and had a critical drop in the first quarter of the game.
In every Cowboys preseason game there has been a receiver on the bubble who makes a play that jumps off the screen. This week, it was LaRon Byrd, who made a beautiful 27-yard touchdown grab.
From a receiving standpoint, the tight ends didn't have much production, accounting for only one catch and 22 yards.
The wide receivers and tight ends didn't do anything spectacular, outside the Byrd touchdown, but they did a decent job.
The most disappointing positional unit for the Cowboys was the offensive line. This unit was supposed to be one of, if not the biggest strength for the team entering the regular season. However, they were just the opposite against the Dolphins.
The offensive line did a poor job blocking both in the run and pass games. They allowed too much pressure to get to the quarterbacks and didn't open up enough holes for the running backs.
The worst lineman was Doug Free, who consistently got beat by Cameron Wake throughout the first half. Free had a tough time with Wake's speed rush and did a poor job with his footwork in pass protection.
The lone bright spot for the Cowboys offensive line was reserve tackle John Wetzel. He was one of the only offensive linemen to consistently get push in the running game, while allowing little pressure in pass protection.
The Cowboys defensive line did not have the best of games against the Dolphins. They were routinely gashed in the running game and could provide little pressure against the pass.
One of the only bright spots on the defensive line was rookie Davon Coleman. He was the only player along the defensive line to get consistent pressure. Coleman did a great job utilizing his hands to get off blocks and put pressure on the Dolphins quarterbacks.
One troubling aspect of the defensive line has been the play of Tyrone Crawford. Going into this season, Crawford was being billed as the Cowboys' breakout candidate. However, he has yet to stand out through the first three preseason games. The Cowboys need him to pick up his play in the regular season.
As a whole, the defensive line needs to do a much better job getting to opposing quarterbacks to help take pressure off the secondary and linebackers.
The linebacking corps once again showed that their biggest weakness is getting off blocks. While the Cowboys were getting dominated in the run game, the linebacker did a poor job shedding blockers in the hole to make a play.
It seemed as though the Cowboys defense did a much better job against the run, especially up the middle, once Rolando McClain was put in the game. McClain is one of the few players on the Cowboys who does an adequate job shedding blocks in the run game. Look for McClain to start come Week 1 because of that alone.
While McClain did a decent job against the run, Justin Durant was awful. Durant did a good job getting to the hole where the run was taking place but did a very poor job of making the tackle one he got there.
Bruce Carter had an above-average game against the Dolphins. He did a great job in covering a flat route in the second quarter and did a better job with staying square to the ball-carrier in his tackles.
The linebacker rotation needs to get figured out soon, and the Cowboys would be smart to include McClain as one of the three starters.
The most impressive unit on the Cowboys was the secondary. Even though the defensive line failed to get much pressure on the Dolphins quarterbacks, the secondary did an incredible job in coverage for the duration of the game.
The player of the game for the Cowboys was cornerback Tyler Patmon, who had two interceptions, a forced fumble and a touchdown against the Dolphins. Patmon proved that he deserves a spot on the 53-man roster. He was in a battle with B.W. Webb and Terrance Mitchell for the last two cornerback spots, but this performance should put him in the lead.
Besides Patmon, J.J. Wilcox also seemed to have a good game Saturday night. Wilcox did a great job flowing to the ball and making the Dolphins players pay when they got into his vicinity. Wilcox may bring the physical presence the Cowboys were missing last year.
Brandon Carr made his first appearance of the preseason and looked okay. He only played 17 snaps, but he looked to have done an adequate job. Carr will be a very important piece moving forward, especially because of Orlando Scandrick's four-game suspension to start the regular season.
The Cowboys secondary looks to be the strength of the defense thus far in the preseason. If the Cowboys continue to have a hard time getting pressure on the quarterback, they will have to be better in the regular season.
The most improved unit for the Cowboys was their special-teams unit. They were dominated by the Ravens last week but did a good job in all facets against the Dolphins. They allowed one 35-yard kickoff return but held the Dolphins in check besides that.
Dan Bailey showed once again why he is one of the elite kickers in the NFL. He was 2-of-2 on field goals, each of which were from at least 50 yards.
Cowboys punter Tom Hornsey did a great job punting the ball, averaging a booming 59.7 yards per punt.
Altogether, the special teams did a very good job against the Dolphins.
As always, it is hard to judge coaching in the preseason because the play calls are made to put their teams in certain situations. Also, the offensive and defensive play calls are often very basic, so they don't show their hand for the regular season.
However, the Cowboys were a very sloppy team accounting for 10 accepted penalties for 68 yards. The biggest of which negated a blocked punt by Bruce Carter. It is the coaches' job to make sure the team remains disciplined during the games. In this particular game, they did a poor job of that.
The coaches didn't make any big mistakes with time management, but that will certainly be tested in the regular season.
|Positional Unit||Overall Grade|
Overall, the Cowboys were a mixed bag against the Dolphins. The Cowboys' best positional unit was the secondary, while their worst was the offensive line. The latter was especially disappointing because they were supposed to be one the strengths of the team.
Going into the regular season, the Cowboys need to see markedly better play from the offensive and defensive lines. The Cowboys need to be able to control the line of scrimmage if they hope have a chance against the San Francisco 49ers.
The team grade of C+ seems like an adequate depiction of how the Cowboys played.