Despite the attention that was placed on the Orlando Scandrick scandal and the snazzy new cyber cheering app from AT&T there was some actual on the field action to talk about this week. Although the Cowboys clearly still have a long way to go before the season opener against Frisco rolls around on September 7, there were quite a few bright spots in Saturday night’s match-up with the Baltimore Ravens.
First and foremost it was good to see Tony Romo back at the helm of the offense at least for a couple of series. Romo was 4 of 5 passing for 80 yards, including an impressive looking TD pass to the Cowboys numero uno receiver Dez Bryant. The only incompletion wasn’t Romo’s fault, as he avoided Ravens’ defenders only to have tight end James Hanna drop the football. Romo looked comfortable in the pocket and the Cowboys offensive front performed well. The biggest boo-boo for the first teamers came in the form of a miscue on a handoff from Romo to running back DeMarco Murray. Better to work the kinks out now than when the games start counting…
Speaking of Murray, it was good to see the Cowboys concentrating on the running game more, as advertised. The number of runs vs throws still favored the passing game 35 to 26 , but that is a far cry from the pass happy attack that we have seen from Dallas in the recent past. Whether this more even distribution translates into real game situations remains to be seen. When looking back at some of the Cowboys more disturbing meltdowns from 2013, especially the Green Bay game, grinding the clock could be difference in a win and a loss.
The Cowboys defense performed much better against the Ravens than in the previous week’s outing against the San Diego Chargers. After that comedy of errors, the doomsayers were out in force and probably a few fans were cringing at the prospect of a defense that looked like it might give the bottom ranked D of 2013 a run for its money. With the exception of the porous run defense in the Ravens’ first drive after halftime, Dallas seemed to be quicker to the ball more adept at adjusting to the flow of the game. It is also worth noting that the Cowboys spotted the Ravens 14 points before the defense ever took the field with the fumbled hand-off and a long kick return for touchdown.
The Cowboys special teams had a dismal night with the above-mentioned kick return, in addition to an overall problem in containment. There is much work to be done in that area before Dallas opens the season. It was interesting to see the Cowboys field a number of different kick returners Saturday night. However their ace returner, wideout Dwayne Harris, is sure to make his presence known when the games start counting.
A few players that are looking to make the roster grabbed some attention Saturday night. Most notable among them was DT Zack Minter, who was a constant presence around the football and the quarterback when he entered the game in the second half. Call me crazy, but Minter seemed to be able to provide a spark to the defense by just being on the field. Dallas has been in need of a player with the ability to give his teammates an emotional kick in the pants and I for one am hoping that Minter’s momentum grabbing style wasn’t a one time wonder.
Two players on offense who made a case for a roster spot were running back Ryan Williams and rookie receiver Jamar Newsome. Williams showed some of what made the Arizona Cardinals draft him in 2011 as he avoided would be tacklers and scored a touchdown in a late rally by the Cowboys. The former ACC standout has had his pro career marred by injuries but looked to be in fine form against the Ravens. Newsome hauled in some difficult catches and also had a late touchdown for Dallas. Although the receiver stable is stacked for the Cowboys, Newsome will surely make a roster in the league, even if he is released by Dallas.
Even though there is still plenty of work to be done, the Cowboys showed improvement Saturday night and as preseason rolls along that is all we in Cowboys Nation can hope for.