While we can all agree that the viewing spectacle that was this past MNF game featuring the Dallas Cowboys at the Oakland Raiders wasn’t great NFL football, it must still be judged and evaluated nonetheless. The individual players’ performances during training camp will have a significant bearing on what players win position battles and end up making the bottom of the roster. However, make no mistake that in-game performances will have a huge impact as well. Coaches want to see good play in practice, but really want to see it in actual game situations.
With the in-game performance being so critical, let’s review who did and did not do well for themselves in the first actual game action of the 2012 season.
1) Dez Bryant – While he didn’t play long at all, he looked very explosive in making his one catch for 24 yards. The reports that have been coming out of camp have stated he’s looked good, and he didn’t fail to impress. Let’s just hope his endurance and conditioning have improved from last season and he can do it for all four quarters.
2) Andre Holmes – He ended the game with three catches for forty yards. Of all the receivers vying for the 3rd receiver position, he played the best. The Cowboys to date seem firm to their commitment to let this battle play out in camp without bringing in an outside veteran. With his performance, he may have a leg up on his competition after week 1.
3) The starting safeties – Barry Church looked good in his limited time as a starter. Gerald Sensabaugh showed some good range and awareness to come over and pick off Carson Palmer on Oakland’s first drive. With the improved personnel at the cornerback position, if the Cowboys can get some solid play out of the safety position in 2012, the sky could be the limit.
4) Marcus Spears – He is on the bubble to make the roster this year. Between Kenyon Coleman and Marcus Spears, only one will be on the fifty-three come week 1. He played a solid game and finished with four tackles. While his salary is higher than Coleman’s, as a former first round pick of the Cowboys, fans should hope he can continue to stick with the team. He has never been great at getting after the quarterback, but is pretty good at slowing the run, which is his assignment in the Cowboy’s 3-4 scheme.
5) Alex Albright – After making the team as an undrafted free agent in 2011, the word out of training camp is that he has shown great versatility and is open to do whatever the team requires of him. In this game he moved from outside to inside linebacker while also contributing on special teams. They’ve put him into some tight end packages at camp, and he is a lock to make this team. In this game he made six individual tackles and assisted on three others.
1) Jason Witten – While doing what he does best and being Tony Romo’s personal security blanket, Witten took a strong hit from Oakland’s Rolando Mclain with three minutes left in the first quarter. He was diagnosed on Wednesday with a lacerated spleen that has caused internal bleeding. He is expected to miss the rest of the preseason, and his availability for week 1 against the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants is in doubt.
2) Doug Free – Although the entire interior of the offensive line seems to be injured, the tackles were supposed to be the strong part of the line. Free did not play particularly well last year at left tackle, and the move back to right tackle is suppose to help rectify that. However, he has not looked to be the same player since signing his four year extension back in July 2011. While the Cowboys hope he will get readjusted and play well on the right side, they must be concerned and will pay attention to this growing issue. It was a breakdown by Free in the first quarter that caused the pressure on Romo on the play that Witten got hurt.
3) Kyle Wilber – This player can’t catch a break. First he missed most of the team’s OTAs and summer minicamp with a broken finger. In the second quarter he broke his thumb and is expected to miss around a month. The Cowboys drafted him in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, and are hopeful he can be a solid contributor this year on sub packages and special teams. Going forward, they want to see what type of player he can project to become. This is very important for the Cowboys as they have placed the franchise tag on Anthony Spencer for the 2012 season, paying him almost nine million. This injury slows Wilber’s development and growth, and delays this evaluation.
With preseason week 1 in the books, Cowboy fans will look anxiously to week two and a match-up with the San Diego Chargers. Hopefully the team can put together a better performance. With a week 1 game against the Giants in less than three weeks away, the NFL season is right around the corner and will be here before we know it.
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