Mexican cuisine in the Metroplex is as common as Flozell Adams jumping a snap early. But there’s a place I like to go to over in Carrollton more for the camaraderie with old friends than the lettuce, tomato, and cheddar cheese the help leaves to the side of the tacos instead of going the full effort and putting it into the taco like every restaurant this side of sanity.
One old friend in particular is a woman in her forties who gets more fanatical during a game than her Pomeranians get over the FedEx man. When asked her thoughts on preseason, she told me the games inspired no faith in her. She was exasperated with the team, and it wasn’t even Labor Day. I asked the waiter for more Dr. Pepper and chips.
Look. I’m not going to sit here in the darkness of my efficiency apartment in my pajama pants I haven’t washed in weeks with the Cheeto stains on the top of the thighs and tell you things are fine, like a false Israelite prophet right before the Babylonians come to town. Heck, the Babylonians may still come to town and wreck us over and take us off into captivity. I heard it’s not so bad these days now that they have satellite TV.
All I aim to do with this article is empower you with knowledge; to set on your T-zone a pair of spectacles to help you see reality. I did the same thing back during free agency when everyone wanted to crown every single one of our free agents as great, accomplished, and the answer to our woes. Whenever the fans want to leap over turnstiles and panic over aliens, I want to point out it’s just an Orson Welles radio broadcast. Whenever they want to put a ring on Jamize Olawale’s finger and genuflect before him, I want to point out what a tofu messiah he is for the time being and give it some time.
With apologies to Walter Cronkite, here’s the way it is.
Our skill positions aren’t going to do anything spectacular in the preseason. Historically, Romo’s preseason statistics have been trash, usually getting around 300 yards, a touchdown, and a pick for the four games. His touchdowns per attempt, his yards per attempt, and his interceptions per attempt have all been better in the regular season than the preseason. Not every player is going to be like Demarco Murray, clamoring for more preseason action. It’s going to be tempered and uninspiring.
The “Offensive” Line
We do have a special instance this year because of the injuries sustained along the offensive line. The poor play along the offensive line is due to injuries to projected starters. David Arkin isn’t going to be our starting center. Even so, his primary responsibility in training camp and preseason has been to take care of the ball, then worry about his block assignments. And don’t forget that this is the first time David Arkin has played center in his career.
With injuries to Costa, Livings, Bernadeau, Kowalski, and Nagy (who is now with the Lions), you’ve got guys who normally wouldn’t be playing with the first team starting along the offensive line. When you’ve got third-teamers going against guys like Tommy Kelly, sadly, you should expect Romo to get plastered and the run stuffed.
If you look at the starters along the offensive line, whatever starters we have not either battling for a position or their health, they are doing fine. Tyron Smith is holding his own at left tackle. Things will be steady on the left side.
Does this mean our interior offensive line, when healthy, will open up running lanes for Murray and create a clean pocket for Romo? Who knows? But it means David Arkin starting at center more than likely won’t be the norm. We should have a bevy of guys healthy and playing ahead of him.
Wait a Secondary…
It appears to be so exciting when you look at our secondary, whether on paper or on some screen shot from Madden ’13. We’ve got Claiborne, Carr, Jenkins, and Scandrick. We should be shutting down everyone; not so much as a pass should be caught. However, the reality is our secondary really isn’t going to be playing press coverage or doing anything significant until Opening Night against the Giants. Pretty much all you can gauge for now is how they actually track the ball in the air as opposed to face-guarding the receiver and still the no-name wideout from Dodge City Community College makes a grab on 3rd and Infinity.
How Then Should We Watch?
Preseason is about position battles. It’s basically one, big four-episode reality show of how to make the Dallas Cowboys. Even if you think a position is set for years due to who’s starting on the first team, as in the case with quarterback, you can still watch the lower people battle it out for that third string spot. See, these lower tier players aren’t competing against their peers in the position for a roster spot. They’re also competing against other players outside their position. If you’re a Z-string wide receiver, you’re trying to not only make plays in the fourth quarter, but also hustling on special teams so Garrett will choose you over the projected sixth cornerback.
Pick a position and evaluate it.
The most popular position this season to evaluate is the third wide receiver role. There are so many pet cats in that race Jerry Jones might as well strike a deal with Petco or do a halftime show with ASPCA guilt-tripping us on the Jerrytron. You’ve got Kevin Ogletree battling to stay on the roster without at all contributing on special teams. You’ve got Cole Beasley darting around trying to catch passes and fielding tough punt returns. You’ve got Andre Holmes catching everything that’s thrown to him. You’ve got Dwayne Harris steadily making plays to make some noise. You’ve even got nobodies like Tim Benford giving the coaches a reason to give him consideration to make the team.
Another good position battle to watch, even though the cameras don’t track the trenches all that well, is defensive line. We’ve got veterans and younger players battling each other to stay onboard down there. There are the usual perps like Sean Lissemore and Jason Hatcher getting their snaps. Then, you’ve got guys like Marcus Spears and Kenyon Coleman fighting for their roster spots, let alone a starting position. It’s also a chance to see what third-round pick Tyrone Crawford can contribute to the defensive line.
In the preseason, there’s always something to watch besides football.
Don’t let the first team foibles aggravate you or give you a downcast disposition for this season. It’s not that they’re being “vanilla” so much as it is we don’t have the right personnel healthy out there to show anything significant. But we do have some good individual players making plays and lower tier players trying to make the team. Team play in the preseason is like Vegas: what happens there stays there.
It’s what happens on Wednesday night that counts.
I’d like to thank the venerable Couchscout for his insights on the offensive line and the secondary. I’d also like to thank Nation for his preseason stats on our boy Romo. If I were running a Cowboys cult, I would wrest their work as my own. But since I’m a scholar, I have to cite my fellow colleagues in the Cowboys underground media.
Topics: Andre Holmes, Bill Nagy, Brandon Carr, Cole Beasley, Dallas Cowboys, Danny Coale, David Arkin, DeMarco Murray, Dwayne Harris, Jason Hatcher, Kenyon Coleman, Kevin Kowalski, Kevin Ogletree, Landry Hat, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Marcus Spears, Mark Lane, Mike Jenkins, Morris Claiborne, Nate Livings, Orlando Scandrick, Sean Lissemore, Tim Benford, Tony Romo, Tyron Smith, Tyrone Crawford