The Dallas Cowboys closed out their preseason Thursday night with a 27-3 loss at home to the Denver Broncos, completing their first winless preseason since 2000. The Cowboys were the only NFL team to fail to win a preseason game this year, but what does that matter, right? It’s not the first time the Cowboys failed to win an exhibition game:
Years With Winless Preseason
Regular Season Record
Interpret that however you like, but had the Cowboys won this game it shouldn’t have made anyone fell any better about the upcoming regular season. The final preseason game is typically reserved for, well, reserve players who are looking to turn a head and end up on the right side of that roster bubble. We learned a few things Thursday night about the team in general:
- Turns out the Cowboys 2s and 3s on defense can’t stop the run any better than the starters, giving up more than 130 yards on the ground.
- The only time backup quarterback Brandon Weeden looked capable this preseason was when he was protected by the Cowboys’ first-team offensive line. Against Denver, with tackle Jermey Parnell protecting his blind side, Weeden looked uncomfortable and off.
- After Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne and Orlando Scandrick, the cornerback talent on this team drops precipitously. Rookie seventh round pick Terrance Williams spent the night getting burned by receivers and penalized by referees. Undrafted rookie free agent Tyler Patmon showed play-making ability at Miami last week, but was quiet against Denver.
- This team’s young linebackers are reticent to seize the opportunity in this organization’s Next Man Up philosophy. Perhaps it’s out of self preservation. The injury bug that destroyed the linebacking corp’s soft tissue late last year appears to have grown into a monster: In OTAs it was content to end Sean Lee’s season; last week it ended DeVonte Holloman’s career. All the other linebackers on this team have to be asking themselves: What’s next?
A few starters got some reps. Carr played the first series, and Scandrick played most of the first half. Strong side linebacker Kyle Wilber saw some snaps, both at linebacker and at left defensive end. There was talk of defensive tackle Henry Melton, who has been hurt much of the preseason, seeing a few reps, but he never saw the field.
“You want them to be able to play a full complement of snaps in the preseason, but because of injury we felt like it was best to keep (Melton) out of the game tonight,” head coach Garrett said during a halftime interview. “He wasn’t going to play a whole lot. He’ll get a lot of good work this coming week and hopefully be ready for San Francisco.”
When pressed about why Claiborne sat out, Garrett gave the same reasons.
“We wanted to get them to a point where they were going to be able to play in this game, but we just felt like, when you step back away from it, giving them the rest and getting them the work in practice we felt was best for them and best for our team.”
The regular season starts just a week from Sunday when the Cowboys host the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners ended their preseason with a rousing 40-13 win over the Houston Texans. All that really means is San Francisco’s bench is likely deeper than Houston’s. And very likely deeper than the Cowboys.
Does that matter? Sure it does. But not so much in Week One.