Dallas Cowboys: Grading All Aspects of the Team at the Halfway Point
The Dallas Cowboys for better or worse will always be under the biggest microscope in the league. So far in two preseason bouts, team progress has been made. However, there are certainly some aspects that still need to be addressed.
Fresh off the heals of linebacker Bradie James' comments in a recent interview with FoxSports.com about the state of the current Cowboys, it's time to hand out some report cards half way through this preseason.
Through two preseason games, it's easy to see what's going well and not so well in the land of kicking and returning. The next few slides will highlight the performance of the players at each key position on Dallas' special teams.
During one of their the mass rookie free-agent signings this off-season, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones inked a deal with former Carson Newman College punter Chris Jones, who has seen time at the position along with veteran Mat McBriar.
While he may not make the final cut, Jones has recorded a nice net average of 33 yards on his three punts and McBriar has been his usual elite self.
A position that featured a decent dose of wide receiver Dez Bryant last season has seemingly been opened up for another speedy returner to take his place.
While rookie Dwayne Harris has logged some returns, this job seems to be Akwasi Owusu-Ansah's to lose at the moment.
Surprise, the Cowboys have question marks at kicker again. As much as the Dallas coaching staff may love David Buehler's powerful leg, he has struggled to perfect his suspect accuracy. It is a suspect accuracy that arguably cost Big D last year's opening game against arch rival Washington.
Jerry Jones currently has two other kickers on the roster not named David Buehler in rookie Dan Bailey and veteran Shayne Graham. Though Bailey won the award for best kicker in college football last season, Graham would seem to be the kicker to stay on the roster between those two.
Due to the fact the 'Boys brought in a veteran kicker, it's easy to see the coaches haven't been overly impressed by either Bailey or Buehler.
Though Owusu-Ansah is in the driver's seat for this starting job, rookie Raymond Radway is making his case to make the 2011 squad where he could serve as the team's top kick-off returner.
Radway has logged one catch for 11 yards as a receiver and two returns for 31 yards in returns. That being said, Radway's two returns for 31 yards is literally the best stat line for any returner so far.
Easily the most talked about concerns heading into the regular season stem from the defensive side of the ball, with the halfway point of the preseason providing only a few answers to many questions. Let's take a look at the performance of the linebackers, defensive line and secondary.
So far, the Dallas defense has been consistent through the first two games, but that doesn't mean all of it is for the best.
The defensive line did a nice job of not letting the Broncos or Chargers get the running game going, holding all rushers to 35 yards or less on the ground.
The pass rush has been the noticeable issue, with just one sack by second year defensive end Clifton Geathers through two games and no forced fumbles for any lineman.
While DeMarcus Ware has been his usual self, there have been a few lesser known names stepping it up this preseason.
Victor Butler and Kenwin Cummings have done a nice job when given playing time through two games. Butler only played against Denver, but he was able to log three tackles in his limited time on the field. Cummings has played in both contests, logging seven tackles so far.
While it would be nice to see an INT or forced fumble on the stat sheet for one of the linebacking corps members, they've done their primary job well so far.
The secondary has been the most discussed concern for Dallas heading into the new season, due to their less than stellar pass defense in 2010.
Big D was able to resign safety Gerald Sensabaugh, who did well last week against San Diego, logging three tackles and a forced fumble.
Bryan McCann and Alan Ball have also done well this preseason, giving coaches and fans faith in the depth of the Dallas secondary. Things could be better at this position, but aside from Philip Rivers performance, this squad hasn't been overly exposed.
The Dallas offense is looking to continue their numbers after Jason Garrett becomes head coach, where they scored the second most points in the league during the latter of the 2010 season. Here's the grades for the Cowboys' offensive positions through two preseason contests.
The Dallas offensive line has been tweaked slightly, with big Leonard Davis gone and 2011 first round draft pick Tyron Smith stepping into the fold.
The 'Boys also locked up Doug Free and Kyle Kosier for the upcoming season, providing Tony Romo with some familiar faces on the line.
However, those faces haven't been outstanding to say the least so far. The O-line has given up six sacks in just two games. Even though some of those were recorded with second and third stringers in the game, that number is still too much for just two games in.
The Dallas rushing game has not been ignored under the new head coaching regime, and preseason has been used to test the talent of youngsters such as Phillip Tanner.
Tanner made his 15 minutes of fame off his helmet-less 23 yard run last Sunday night, but that's not all he's done so far. The former Texas Stadium concession man has recorded 75 yards on 13 carries in two games played.
Starter Felix Jones has also looked impressive, racking up 56 yards against the Chargers and 23 against Denver over just 10 combined carries.
The Cowboys have been playing it safe with number one receiver Miles Austin and number two man Dez Bryant through two games, but that doesn't mean this unit has been unimpressive.
Reports state that the 'Boys will look to keep Austin out of preseason play altogether due to injury, while Bryant has seen limited action in hopes of limiting the chances of another injury to their much hyped wide out.
Dwayne Harris made up for their limited roles against Denver, posting 127 yards on just five catches. Kevin Ogletree has also posted some nice receiving stats of his own in hopes of locking down the slot receiver position.
There aren't many eye opening stat lines from the receiving corps, but the numbers show the ball has been distributed well.
While Martellus Bennett among others have posted a few catches hear and there, this essentially a judgement on Jason Witten.
Dallas' number one tight end hasn't had much playing time like many starters so far, but has looked just fine in both the blocking and passing game.
Tony Romo has looked very much himself through two preseason games, looking fully healed and back to his old ways.
Romo saw a considerable increase in playing time last Sunday night, with 12 passing attempts resulting in eight completions with a touchdown and interception to his name.
The INT was made possible by a poor decision on the part of Romo, and his touchdown was made possible by his signature rolling out ways. Both of these instances show the ups and downs that come with the Eastern Illinois alum.
Kitna has seen little time on the field, but given last season's time under center it's fair to say the coaches know what to expect from him if he's ever needed.
Stephen McGee has had the most playing time obviously, logging a nice performance against Denver and a lackluster one against San Diego. It's still hard to tell which is the real McGee, but perhaps the final two preseason games will tell more.