Aug 9, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dwayne Harris (17) returns a kick-off during the first quarter in an preseason game against the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys Preseason: Does the Final Score Always Matter?

Yes! We won our first preseason game in a dominant fashion. The Cowboys are back! We’re going to the Super Bowl! The Cowboys then lost the second preseason game. Well, the first team looked good, it was the backups that failed to close the game out. Who’s next? The Cowboys play the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday, August 17th at 4:30 pm EST.

Looking ahead, the Cowboys play two quality teams to close out the preseason. With games against the Cincinnati Bengals and the Houston Texans remaining,  it’s possible the Cowboys finish the regular season with a 1 — 4 or 2 — 3 record. Wait, did I just call the Cincinnati Bengals a quality team? The Bengals made the playoffs last year, even though they lost to us, quality is a good word.

Side note: Cincinnati, OH – Great city to explore during a tailgate weekend. Make sure you eat at Camp Washington Chili, visit the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and tailgate while reminding Bengals fans that you also hate the Steelers!

Aug 9, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Phillip Tanner (34) gains yards during the fourth quarter in an preseason game against the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum. Oakland won 19-17. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s get back to the Cowboys. I didn’t expect the Cowboys to go 5 — 0 during the preseason, nor the other extreme of 0 — 5. Unfortunately, the Cowboys and 19 other teams that didn’t make the playoffs or finish with a winning record, would benefit mentally by using preseason as a means to develop a winning mentality. It is possible to fight for a roster spot while keeping an eye on the scoreboard, even if the games don’t count. After two consecutive 8 — 8 seasons, with the Cowboys only having two win streaks of three or more games, average or mediocrity performances, even during the preseason, won’t cut it.

Perhaps I wouldn’t take the preseason so seriously if it were treated as the exhibitions they really are. If teams didn’t punt or attempted a trick play on every offensive series, I might be able to ignore the final score. In addition to the position battles die-hard fans care about, Harlem Globetrotter style preseason games might be more fun to watch.

If the score doesn’t matter and preseason games are really practice, then prove it by working on our problem areas.  Against the Raiders, the Cowboys made headlines because our passing to rushing ratio was tilted back to the passing side (32 — 20). In the first preseason game against the Miami Dolphins, the pass to rush ratio was on the rushing side (21 — 34). If rushing the ball is our kryptonite and these games are meaningless practice sessions, then run the ball every play. If you don’t run the ball, throw it to the running back. Every one knows we can throw the ball to our talented and deep collection of receivers, so why bother during preseason?

Julius Jones, our last 1000 yard rusher, had three consecutive games with 30 or more carries against the Ravens (30), Bears (33) and Seahawks (30) in 2004. I’m not asking for that many rushing attempts per back. Minnesota Vikings running back, Adrian Peterson averages 19.7 rushing attempts per game during his six year career. Last season when he nearly broke the NFL’s single season rushing record, he averaged 21.8 rushing attempts per game.

This preseason, the Cowboys are averaging 53.5 plays per game. We have five competitive running backs (Murray, Tanner, Dunbar, Randle and Lawrence). We have questions at the offensive line regarding their run blocking skills. Why not aim for sixty consecutive rushing plays? Exclude Murray, our starting running back, and give the other four running backs 15 carries each. It would help in the evaluation process and make the offensive line better. After all, it’s only preseason and the score doesn’t matter, right?

When I look at the scoreboard, it’s hard to say, “Oh, that doesn’t matter because it’s just preseason.”  It’s probably because I’m scared I’ll take the trash out and Herm Edwards will appear in various places to scream, “HELLO! You play to win the game!” If that’s true, then the score at the end ALWAYS matters.

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