In the Cowboys’ “dress rehearsal” for the regular season Saturday night Tony Romo gave fans plenty to look forward to. Or maybe look forward to is the wrong phrase. We all know what he can do. We’ve seen the brilliance time and time again. So throwing two touchdowns (both on 3rd down) and going 13/18 shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. This game just reaffirmed what we know already know. Romo is a baller. And he’s ready to get the season started.
Those who have been complaining about the failure to reinforce the Offensive Line during the off-season have their reasoning. But I will come out on record and say I think we’re going to do fine with Travis Frederick as the only significant personnel addition to this line. The pass protection throughout the game looked better than what we have come to expect the past few years, and the run-blocking let the Cowboys control possession (40 min – 20 min). Considering the lack of player turnover, this speaks volumes about the coaching and I have nothing but praise for Bill Callahan at the moment. Take a look at the pocket on Romo’s TD pass to Austin and try to not get excited. Oh, and that pass was pretty good as well. Did I mention Romo’s a baller?
Dez Doing Dez Things:
Only the X-Man could make me feel bad for taking Calvin Johnson in my fantasy draft this weekend. I have heard nothing but praise for him this offseason and he’s been living up to the hype on game day. I’m more excited to see Dez’s regular season debut than I can remember being for a single Cowboys player in my lifetime. Remember the last time Romo had an elite receiver for a whole season? By the way…I’m so sorry in advance for the background music in that video.
Turnovers Are Good, M’Kay:
In 4 preseason games the Cowboys Defense has produced 9 turnovers. That is more than half of what they had in 16 games last season. Yes…preseason. But just like the offensive line improvement, the fact that these game changing plays are being produced speaks to exceptional coaching. Their ball-hawking play reminds me of a team I see a lot of, being from the Northwest. After watching Seattle man-handle the Broncos last weekend, I couldn’t help but notice similarities in how the Cowboys defense attacked the football against the Bengals. Again, this comes back to coaching. One of Monte Kiffin’s first assignments for his new team was to study the Seahawks defense. It looks like they’ve been doing their homework.
Special Teams Woes:
It’s not all good. Maybe dread is too strong a word, but if the team continues to play this bad in the “3rd aspect of the game” during the regular season I can’t help but anticipate every special teams play with apprehension. Allowing punt return touchdowns is unacceptable. Deciding to return the ball from 9 yards deep in your end-zone the next play only compounds the matter. And your defense isn’t always gonna save the day when you allow a kick-off returner to get to mid-field when you are up by a touchdown with a minute to go. My hopes were high about new special teams coach Rich Bisaccia but so far this preseason I’ve been disappointed. Hopefully this changes.
Props to the Scouting Team:
Once again the Cowboys seem to have found exceptional players looked over by the rest of the NFL. Undrafted QB Alex Tanney had another impressive week, leading the Cowboys’ fourth quarter clock-killing drive that put them up by six and left the Bengals with less than a minute to work with. I wish the coaches had let him take a shot at the end zone on the final 3rd and goal but his play this preseason has already convinced me (and, I believe, the coaches) that at the very least he should be on the practice squad this season.
A lesser-known undrafted free agent came up big as well. Jeff Heath, who has seized the opportunity provided by Matt Johnson’s continued absence, caused a fumble with a big hit in the third quarter on Bengals receiver Cobi Hamilton. This capped off what has been a string of impressive play from the rookie throughout preseason. I expect Heath to make the Cowboys’ 53-man roster and, considering the lack of depth at Safety, to see some playing time during the regular season. Here’s to hoping the stellar play continues.
Similar to my excitement for Dez, I can’t wait to see the Cowboys’ stable of running backs let loose on the Giants. Lance Dunbar was injured last night, but he has shown plenty of promise this August. Behind him, Phillip Tanner seems to be possessed by the ghost of Marion Barber while Joseph Randle co-starred with Tanney on that final drive of the game, seemingly willing himself to first down runs. As for DeMarco Murray, he did have a fumble early in the game but responded well to a benching by Jason Garrett by coming back in and dodging five defenders on the way to the end-zone. I expect Murray to have a great year. Last night showed he plays well with a chip on his shoulder and I believe he has a big one after people have spent all off-season saying he’s not dependable. I think 2013 will be the year the Cowboys finally see another 1,000-yard rusher and I expect DeMarco to be that guy.
So there you go. Seven Thoughts. Maybe a tad optimistic, but I try to have a good attitude. It’s really the only thing you can control in this life.