Dallas Cowboys vs. Bengals: One offensive and defensive player to watch
By Broe Reeve
With the Dallas Cowboys second preseason game taking place Saturday night, these two key players will look to get valuable snaps versus the Bengals.
The Dallas Cowboys will play their second preseason game on Saturday against the Cincinnati Bengals. At a time when scores don’t really matter as much as performance, there are two key players to watch closely who’s play can help determine the success of the 2018 season.
With the offense looking to run the ball a ton and be a ball control offense, the offensive line will be key. Conner Williams is the new face on that line and he will be a critical component of not only the run game but protecting quarterback Dak Prescott.
The defensive line is looking deep, and already has one of the best defensive ends in the league in DeMarcus Lawrence. Randy Gregory is back and the ultra-talented pass rusher will add even more pressure on the opposing quarterbacks in what could be a much-improved defense.
Conner Williams- Williams has been inserted to left guard where he will replace the departed Jonathan Cooper. Dallas had been known to have one of if not the best offensive line in the league the last few years. However last season this unit took a step back.
Cooper couldn’t match the performance of former guard Ron Leary who got plenty of push to allow running room for Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot. Defenses used to not know which direction the Cowboys were going in the run game, but became more predictable.
While lacking as many explosive and long runs, Zeke’s numbers fell in 2017. He went from averaging 5.1 yards per carry as a rookie to 4.1 last year. While those numbers were not all because of the left guard, Copper certainly didn’t match Learys play.
In his first preseason game, Williams played four series and played pretty well. On the Cowboys third play of their first drive, he was beaten by Soloman Thomas which led to a Dak Prescott sack. Other than being beaten by a very good player on that one play, he was solid in pass protection.
Williams made some really nice blocks in the run game but did struggle some getting to the second level. On the second play of the Cowboys first drive he tried to cut safety Tartt Jaquisky and whiffed.
On the first play of the Dallas’ third drive Conner pulled and was supposed block down on a 49ers linebacker but didn’t hit anybody which led to a run of no gain. Williams seemed to better at blocking who was in front of him rather than playing in space to some degree.
While he did miss a few blocks, the rookie played solid for his game versus NFL defensive lineman. I’ve pointed out a couple of the misses but there were many plays where he sealed off his man while taking good angles and showing off his power.
With so much emphasis on the run game this year, the Cowboys are going to need Williams to get to that second level to spring those long runs for Zeke. If he shields off a linebacker and Elliott is one on one in the secondary, the Cowboys will take that every time. He will be a crucial element of Dallas’ run game.
On the defensive side of the ball, Randy Gregory is finally back and looking to get some game action. While the Cowboys have eased Randy back into football shape, we will finally get the chance to see him under live fire.
This will be his first preseason game after missing last weeks, and his first game action since 2016. Will he be rusty or is he ready?
Gregory has rare athleticism and was dominant in the last game he played against the Eagles two years ago. While he may not get that many snaps in this preseason game, look for that first step explosion as he has rare gett off the ball speed when he gets to rush.
Gregory was voted Star player of practice earlier this week as he was beating offensive lineman regularly even getting a couple of would-be sacks. It sounds as if he’s getting back into game shape and we will get a chance to see where he is at on Saturday.
This defensive line group looks very deep with talent all across the board, and Gregory could be huge when lining up opposite Tank Lawrence. This pass rush has a chance to be special and could take the defense to the next level.
There will be plenty to watch against the Bengals but remember to watch these two Dallas lineman. Both players were drafted highly because of their talent and will be given a shot to be difference makers for the team in 2018.
A good season from these two players might be just what this team needs in the trenches. Conner opening holes for Zeke on offense, and Gregory bringing more pass rush to an already talented defensive line. Two young players, who could be huge for the 2018 Dallas Cowboys.