In what is known as the dress rehearsal game, a majority of the Dallas Cowboys starters saw significant playing time in Saturday night’s preseason home opener at AT&T Stadium. Despite losing the contest to the visiting Minnesota Vikings 28-14, a good portion of the Cowboys star players shined in their first real action of the offseason.
Below are some of my thoughts directly following the game.
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Quarterback Tony Romo looked like he’s ready for the regular season to start today. The 35-year old threw for 88 yards and two touchdowns, completing five of his eight passing attempts.
Starting running back Joseph Randle was bottled up way too often, recording only 15 yards in his six rushing attempts. But veteran runner Darren McFadden looked electric, rushing for a whopping 37 yards on four carries. The Cowboys starting running back competition is still alive and well in Dallas.
The fact that all but one starter played on the Cowboys offensive line tonight, and they still struggled in the run game early, really shows how important All-Pro guard Zack Martin is to this team’s success.
Undrafted wide recevier Lucky Whitehead, who scored his first NFL touchdown in this game, has likely locked up a roster spot on the Cowboys final roster. Outside of Whitehead, no fringe recevier made any type of positive impact to their status in this game.
Despite cornerback Brandon Carr recording an interception in this contest, his coverage skills still look as shaky as ever to me. At one point, on a play near the sidelines, Carr looked to be in the same falling backwards, and trailing position that he was in so infamously with New York Giants’ wide recevier Odell Beckham Jr. last year that’s now essentially on the Madden cover. I’m still not convinced Carr’s a starter in this league.
Staying in the defensive backfield, rookie corner Byron Jones doesn’t look ready to play significant minutes to me. At times he looked lost, seem to put himself in bad positions and took some weird angles to the ball. Jones’ superior athleticism will save him in some situations this season. But I still think he’s too raw to play the amount of minutes the Orlando Scandrick injury will now require from him as a rookie.
After watching rookie running back Gus Johnson and Ben Malena play in this game, I’m more convinced now than ever that this team must bring in another running back during final cuts next week. Randle, McFadden, Dunbar and a player to be named later should make up the Cowboys final roster.For an idea of who that unknown player could be check out this story: Dallas Cowboys: Six Roster-Bubble Running Backs To Watch. Johnson makes the practice squad and the rest go home. Fullback Tyler Clutts, for me, doesn’t make the cut after his performance tonight. Dallas should keep an extra tight end instead.
As for a quarterback competition in Dallas, poor performances by both Dustin Vaughan (5 of 13, 38 yards) and rookie Jameill Showers (2 of 4, 5 yards) tonight has sealed their fate in my eyes. The Cowboys should only keep two quarterbacks on their 53-man roster this season, Romo and Brandon Weeden. The Cowboys final preseason game against the Houston Texans on Thursday should decide whether Vaughan or Showers make the practice squad.
There are two major concerns I have with this Cowboys team going into the regular season. Dallas’ defense has been horrible against the run this preseason. That something the Cowboys will need to rectify without All-Pro Greg Hardy or middle linebacker Rolando McClain on the field for the first four games of the real season.
Secondly, the Cowboys special teams unit has looked awful. They looked just as bad last year at this time, and they turned out to be pretty good when the games really mattered. I’m hoping for a similar result this season.
Rookie defensive end Randy Gregory got another sack tonight. He could be something very special this season.