The Dallas Cowboys at 1-1: A Halfway Point to the Preseason
You can turn a blind eye to preseason games which seemingly don't matter, you can put too much stock in these games, or you can take them for what they are: real experiences at an NFL level. They allow the rookies real playing time and experience, while allowing the veterans to shake off the rust they have accumulated during the offseason.
During the preseason the Cowboys offensive starters have produced well and have done a good job of spreading the ball around. The offense that begins and ends with Tony Romo and his offensive line have played well this preseason.
The offensive line has only allowed one sack in two games. Tony Romo has played well in the short amount of time he has been on the field. Romo is 22-of-30 for 228 yards, a touchdown, and no turnovers. The best part of those stats is the no turnovers part, which in my opinion is because the Cowboys have relied more heavily on their potent running game.
Dallas has 54 rushing attempts to their 67 passing attempts, which isn't quite even, but still seems better than last year when the Cowboys passed first and asked questions later.
In utilizing the rushing attack more frequently the Cowboys should cut down on the times when Romo is in danger of throwing interceptions. It also seems like Jason Garret is trying to find ways to use his three headed monster equally, yet diversely.
Both Barber and Jones have scored on touchdowns on drives that Romo has engineered, and I have no doubt in my mind that if they all stay healthy they will be the most effective running back committee in the NFL.
Another large step for the Cowboys has been getting everyone in their receiving corps involved in the passing game, and it really looks like they have been working on it.
The Romo/Williams connection looks like it has seen some work since last season, with Williams hauling in 6 catches for 48 yards. The Cowboys quarterbacks have managed to spread the ball around to 16 different players. The reason they have been able to do this is because they do not have a player on their team who feels the need for 20 passes thrown his way...which is a big plus.
Romo's chemistry with his top three receiving threats (Williams, Witten, and Crayton) looks very good, and even with the other receivers it looks decent. This is one of the areas Romo and his second tier receivers need to work on, because when teams take the two W's (Williams and Witten) out of games they need someone else to turn to.
The use of running backs has also greatly factored into Dallas' passing attack which is evidenced by Felix Jones' 42-yard catch and run against Tennessee. That is the kind of game-breaking threat the Cowboys need to be potent this year, and so far it's looking good.
Compared to the Cowboys offense, the defensive side of the ball still has questions. Consistency, injuries, and depth are all concerns that need to be answered in Big D. The question of consistency cannot be answered in the preseason because the defensive starters are not on the field the whole game, but they have showed they can hold things down well.
The backups on the other hand are questionable at a number of positions. The Cowboys seemed thin at linebacker after Zach Thomas and Kevin Burnett left because of the inexperience of the Cowboys backups, and now they seem even thinner.
The Cowboys drafted Brandon Williams and Stephen Hodge to back up Anthony Spencer and Keith Brooking and now both are injured. Williams will most likely miss the entire season with a torn ACL and Hodge will likely miss some more of the preseason.
The Cowboys backups need to stay healthy because if a veteran goes down not only are the backups inexperienced, but they will have health concerns as well. The Cowboys defensive starters have played well in the preseason, but their backups were shown to be vulnerable when Oakland put up 21 points in the second half of their first preseason game.
The Cowboys have shown they have both strong and weak points, and also their own surprises so far this preseason.
They have showed that they have the tools to be a successful team in the league, but the question still remains: Will they be able to use those tools to compete late in the season, and hopefully the playoffs?
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