Each Friday, I will preview the upcoming week’s game, by reviewing the previous week’s game; hence a “preview by review”. Publishing every Friday will allow knee-jerk reactions/emotions to simmer and allow me to re-watch the game knowing the result, thus not having to deal with the heart-pounding excitement of the game or watching it through my fan goggles.
There will be two different categories: must continue and must improve. In each category, we will highlight (or lowlight) one areas, one positional group, and one individual player. I will not write on who played the best every week or who played worse.
NEEDS TO CONTINUE:
-Red Zone Defense
When a team commits 6 Turnovers in a game, you expect the opposing team to score more than 12 points. Several turnovers provided excellent field possession for the Arizona Cardinals, but the defensive unit was able to hold strong. When a team can tighten up on defense the way the Cowboys did in the red zone, it can shift the momentum back to the team especially after a turnover deep on the plus side of the field.
With Cincinnati Bengal pass catchers like Jermaine Gresham, Tyler Eifert, and AJ Green and RBs who can find the endzone like Giovanni Benard and BenJarvis Green-Ellis, I will be watching if the red zone defense can continue to hold teams to 3 points.
One of the strongest and deepest units on the Cowboys team is at linebacker. Everyone played well at the position. They were strong tacklers at the point of attack and even forced a turnover with the diving interception by Devonte Holloman. Starters Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, and Justin Durant were stout. While back-ups, Holloman, Brandon McGee, Caleb McSturdy, and Cameron Lawrence displayed just how deep this unit is.
McGee suffered a concussion this week in practice, while Ernie Sims is just now coming back from his groin injury so keep an eye on McSturdy and Lawrence in Saturday’s game against Cincinnati. They should get more reps then expected in a Week Three Preseason game, and Lawrence has been a key contributor on Special Teams. His dream of playing for his favorite team as a child may come true.
-Devonte Holloman, Linebacker
The previously mentioned Holloman was drafted because of his athleticism and coverage ability. In 3 games thus far, he has come up with 2 INTs. He has also showed to be a compotent tackler. Last year, the Cowboys were left scrambling to find LBs due to injuries and Holloman has provided insurance in case one of the starters goes down. The Bengals have two dynamic receiving Tight Ends and a RB in Giovanni Bernard who is great catching the ball out of the backfield, so watching how Holloman can match up with them will be a good sign of whether or not he can be a situational player.
NEEDS TO IMPROVE:
The turnovers were bad and have had plenty of articles written about them, but the biggest red flag to me was the play calling. When Bill Callahan took over as the Offensive Coordinator, he vowed to run the ball more. Against Miami in the Hall of Fame game we saw that, but in the past few games, it seems like the Cowboys offense of old.
There were several 3rd and 1 situations in the first half where he decided to throw the ball instead of playing power football and imposing their will against the Cardinal’s defense. I’m all for keeping the defense on their toes and mixing it up, but you have to be able to run the ball, especially in short yardage situations.
In total Dallas rushed for 44 yards. That is unacceptable. The game was close the entire way through so it was not like they were airing it out to try to come back. The turnovers did lead to shortened possessions but on the money plays (3rd and short) Dallas has to run the ball and run it effectively. Since the starters will get more playing time against CIN, lets see if they can get their workhorse RB DeMarco Murray going. If not, it may be time to look towards the panic button.
Was it just me or did it seem like Arizona had pass catchers running wide open on every play? The secondary gets a little pass because of the injury to CB Morris Claiborne, but the lack of coverage was alarming. CB Brandon Carr was abused by WR Larry Fitzgerald for the short time they were both on the field. The stats do not even tell the whole story because there were several open receivers that QB Carson Palmer simply missed.
I’ve spoken numerous times about the Bengals weapons and the Dallas secondary would love to rebound against such a talented team.
-Danny Coale, WR
Like I said at the beginning of this article, this isn’t the player who had the worst game, but more the player who needs to show the most improvement next week. Though he was just a 5th round pick, there was a lot of hope surrounding Coale when he was drafted in 2012. A little over a year later, he is facing being cut for the second time. You never want to cut draft picks this soon after drafting them, but Coale has yet to show anything. Last year was cut short by an ACL injury, and this season has seen the knee flare up on him again.
With a deep WR core, Danny has to show he is worth keeping on the roster. The Cowboys will keep 5, maybe 6 WRs and if Coale wants to make it, he needs to outperform Anthony Armstrong over the next two weeks. His reps will probably be limited against the Bengals, but if he can make the most of those, and show he is healthy, he has an opportunity to make it hard for the coaches to cut him for the second straight year.