Two games into the preseason and the Dallas Cowboys have still yet to come away victorious. Last week, the Cowboys had a very underwhelming performance on the road versus the San Diego Chargers. Last night showed hints of promise however even though the result was the same. The 37-34 loss to the Baltimore Ravens certainly provided some reasons to be excited, others to be concerned but mostly it provided fans with a fair representation of progression. If we are looking at last night’s performance against the one nine days earlier, Dallas certainly is moving in the right direction. In just over three weeks, these games will start counting and you certainly want to always win, regardless if the games count or not, but progression in the key right now. This is especially true given all the people who still have yet to suit up for a game and contribute.
So let’s take this time to look at last night’s game and break it down Clint Eastwood style. What was good? What was bad and what was just down right ugly?
- Tony Romo – For all the fuss about whether he would be the “old Tony Romo” and the quiet rumblings about whether or not he had lost some of his abilities due to injuries, Romo looked pretty well for a guy who hasn’t played a game since the week before Christmas last year. The numbers were there (4 for 5, 80 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT). The mobility was good. The defensive reads were spot on. Aside from a fumbled handoff (we’ll discuss that more a little later), every thing else for Tony went just fine. I think we can shelf the concern on this topic and move on to some others that are far more tangible.
- Dez Bryant – He’s going to have a monster year. That is all.
- Commitment to the run – This coaching staff has preached all offseason that there will be more of a concerted effort to stay with the running game and through two weeks, at least, they are sticking to their word. Last week versus San Diego, Joseph Randle had nine first quarter carries for 39 yards sans DeMarco Murray and Lance Dunbar. The Cowboys finished that game with 35 passes and 23 runs. Last night, Dallas ran the ball 12 times in the first quarter (Murray – 8, Dunbar – 3, Randle – 1) and finished the game with 35 passes and 26 runs. While it’s true that a lot of the opportunity to stay with the run is predicated on game situations and productivity, if the preseason is a true indication of what is to come, I think the 65%/35% pass to run splits may be a thing of the past.
- The WR bubble screens – Twice, the Cowboys were able to pull of quick hitting bubble screens to the slot receiver (LaRon Byrd for 13 yards, Dwayne Harris for 15). These are extremely intricate given the NFL’s tight rules on the amount of blocking that is allowed on these types of plays. Both times, the outside receiver timed his blocks perfectly to spring the slot man for a nice gain.
- The defensive line – I thought Nick Hayden and Davon Coleman played really well last night. The other guy who you just cannot go without mentioning was the recently added Zach Minter. Hayden and Coleman provided decent pressure throughout the game even though statistically, their presence was not really felt. As for Minter, I know it sounds like I am extremely overreacting, however the game he had last night was almost a spitting image of George Selvie‘s Hall of Fame game last season against the Miami Dolphins. Let’s see what Minter does next Saturday against those same Dolphins. Based off of last night alone though, he’d definitely get strong consideration to make the final 53.
- The bubble guys – Two guys who may not make this team, largely due to the depth of the positions they play, made it very difficult on the guys just ahead of them last night. Jamar Newsome and Ryan Williams both had outstanding fourth quarters in very limited time. Newsome made a couple of amazing catches, one of which was overturned while Williams had the run of the night, running over multiple defenders on his way to a 27-yard gain and a touchdown on the next play. Both guys should make it to the final cuts and it will be interesting to see if Williams can catch Randle. Unfortunately, Newsome has a less likely chance but he could make himself useful in the trade market to fill a different position of need.