With the second preseason game in the books, here are my notes after watching Friday night’s game:
- First and foremost, it was nice to see Tony Romo back on the field and back to his usual play-making self. Romo went 6-8 for 88 yards and didn’t seem to be limited by his cyst removal surgery whatsoever. I thought Romo moved well in the pocket and his arm seemed to be very fresh. The one thing Romo might not be used to is the time he had in the pocket. Twice I thought he rushed himself some when the offensive line had things blocked well. Hopefully this is something that he actually can get used to in 2013.
- Dez Bryant is in regular season form. With three targets, he produced three receptions for 55 yards. The most impressive of which was a broken play in which Dez made a move up field after a Tony Romo pump-fake. Dez caught the passes and proceeded to collide with former Dallas Cowboys corner Mike Jenkins, knocking his helmet off. Dez Bryant is primed to have a fantastic season.
- The Cowboys ran three WRs out on their first nine plays. On all nine plays, Dez Bryant and Dwayne Harris were the outside wide receivers, with Miles Austin in the slot. Was that because they wanted to work on their three wide receiver sets? Or because Escobar and Hanna aren’t ready to become starters? We shall see.
- Speaking of Escobar, I thought he has underwhelmed so far throughout the preseason. Something that I do worry about is how the Cowboys will use Escobar during the season. For teams to respect the Cowboy’s two-tight end sets, Escobar needs to be able to block at least at a respectable level. So far in these pre-season games, that hasn’t been the case. Escobar played a total of 60 snaps through the two games, 39 of which were running plays. He has gone out on pass patterns 16 times, registering one target for one reception that went for three yards. This isn’t what Cowboy fans wanted to see out of their second round pick. As of right now, he lacks the upper-body strength to become a good blocker. He needs to become stronger and needs to work on his physique. Escobar measured in at 17.5% body fat at the NFL combine. Not good. Especially when you consider that Dallas Cowboys center Travis Frederick who weighs in at 317 lbs came into the NFL with less body fat (17.3%.) The full time move to a two tight end set might be delayed until either Gavin Escobar or James Hanna can block at a decent level.
- If you were wondering how Sean Lee fits into Monte Kiffin’s defense,then you saw right away the effect that he can have on a game. On the fourth defensive play, Sean Lee blitzed on first down. Lee bounced from his original blitzing gap to an open lane. Lee then got right to the quarterback, made the sack while stripping the ball that was eventually recovered by Jason Hatcher. Sean Lee and Bruce Carter are going to be stars in this defense.
- A lot was made of Travis Frederick’s slow forty time at the NFL combine (5.58) but he does a very good job at getting to the linebackers in the running game from his center position. Frederick played a much better game against Oakland, especially in the run game. Frederick did a better job at reaching the second level and staying on his feet. One thing that stands out about Frederick is his ability to turn and move players once he gets his hands on a defender. He is a very impressive prospect.
- J.J. Wilcox played much better Friday night than on Sunday. Wilcox played 28 total snaps on defense, which is actually 14 less than he played Sunday. Wilcox had 5 tackles, an assist, and an interception with 6 minutes to go in the first half in a game in which he didn’t start. Wilcox had his ups and downs, taking a bad angle on a pass in the 2nd quarter, but made more plays than he did on Sunday against the Dolphins. Wilcox is a player that is going to need game time to improve. Will the Cowboys be patient with him in the regular season?
- Rookie cornerback B.W. Webb had a rough night. He was picked on early in the game by Matt Flynn with the first team offense and then by Terrelle Pryor and the Raider’s second team offense. Then, late in the fourth quarter, Webb muffed a punt that led to the game winning field goal by Oakland. Webb has the athletic tools to be a good corner in this league, but right now he is thinking too much. Webb is going to need to make some plays if he wants to beat out Sterling Moore for the fourth cornerback job.
- The special teams struggled all night long. New special teams coach Rich Bisacca couldn’t have been pleased with a blocked field goal, muffed punt, and multiple long returns given up Friday night. Bisacca wants his special teams to be filled more with “stars.” And after what we saw Friday night, that might not be a bad idea.
- WR Anthony Amos is a guy to keep an eye on. He won’t make the 53. But can he grab a practice squad spot?
- QB Alex Tanney deserves to play a few snaps with a better offensive line and better wide receivers. Could he make the practice squad over Stephens?
- Is Joseph Randle’s job safe? He is running with the fourth team through the first two preseason games. Do the Cowboys keep four running backs?
The Cowboys head to Arizona next Saturday to play the Cardinals. Look for the young players such as Gavin Escobar and B.W. Webb to improve on their frustrating performances against the Raiders.