Thursday night's preseason contest between the Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks had a wee bit of a late kickoff time. Many fans were concerned that they were going to fall asleep. Makes sense.
Tony Romo did not sustain any significant injuries, Thank God, but it was definitely enough to wake us all up. I don't even mean wake us up on Thursday night, I mean wake us up for the 2016 Dallas Cowboys season.
They don't call the third preseason game the dress rehearsal for nothing. This is supposed to be the best barometer for the regular season. What did we learn from it? Here are ten things.
The Cowboys Are Going To Need Dak Prescott At Some Point
There's a very cold and extremely hard truth that we all need to accept: Tony Romo is extremely unlikely to play all 16 regular season games this year. You can have a moment to collect yourself.
Three plays, three plays, into this game Romo took a shot (albeit an unfortunate angle) and was done-ski. I love Tony Romo, but I also love objectivity and data.
Romo is very likely to go down at some point this season, and when that happens the Cowboys will have to rely on rookie wonder Dak Prescott. Through three preseason games Dak has exceeded any expectation given to a 4th Round QuarterDAK, so we're already playing with house money here.
Jameill Showers Is Going To Make The Final 53-Man Roster
Not only will the Cowboys need the services of Dak Prescott in 2016, but they'll need additional insurance.
Considering the fragility, however exaggerated you want to make it, of Tony Romo the Cowboys absolutely cannot roll into the season with only two quarterbacks on their 53-Man Roster. It would be absolutely irresponsible.
Say Romo went down for an extended period of time. That would leave Dak Prescott and, say also that Showers found a new home, someone who hasn't been with the team at all up through now. Showers will be on this team.
Ezekiel Elliott Is Totally And Completely For Real
When the Dallas Cowboys exercised the 4th Overall Pick on a running back, many people thought, "How could they possibly be better in the ground game?".
If you watched Zeke do work on Thursday night then you know. He showed burst, quickness, and a thumper-like disposition when he went after, and beat, Seattle's Kam Chancellor.
It was one preseason game and not a whole lot of work, but it's safe to say that the Cowboys have a star running back on their hands. Run Zeke Run!
Jason Witten Can Still Ball Out
Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, two dudes who were in college last year, just went 81 yards on the Seattle Seahawks starting D for a TD.
You're probably wondering what in the world that tweet has to do with Jason Witten. Well just calm down a second and let me explain.
That 81-yard drive culminated in a 17-yard touchdown pass from Dak Prescott to Jason Witten. It was a perfectly placed ball, but it was kinda high up. It wasn't a pass that some rickety old tight end could make. This required athleticism.
Jason Witten made that play. This dude is still a stud.
Dan Bailey Isn't Perfect
In one of the most shocking events of the evening, Dan Bailey missed a 52-yard field goal. I know, I'm still stunned.
I found it particularly ironic that Bailey missed in Seattle considering this was the very same stadium/field where he became the NFL's all-time most accurate kicker. But hey. Even the best fall down sometimes...
Geoff Swaim Is A Legitimate Pass Catcher
If you look Swaim up in the box score it's going to say that he had 5 catches for 17 yards, and that's not exactly something that makes me salivate. What you need to understand is that Geoff made some unbelievable catches.
Swaim was literally the only reason why Dak Prescott wasn't literally perfect in the preseason opener in Los Angeles. He's rebounded quite nicely and turned into an option that could seriously contribute in the passing game from a dump-off perspective.
Lucky Whitehead Will Be Involved In The Offense
It's a rule of thumb that the Cowboys have to run a jet sweep with Lucky Whitehead every game. It's as true as gravity, Eli Manning being weird, and every other fact of life.
One carry for seven yards isn't anything super special, but Lucky himself is super special. He provides an element of surprise that simply cannot be replicated or emulated by anybody else on the roster.
The Pass Rush Was As Bad As We Thought It Would Be
I specifically said was because I don't want to generalize this unit for the whole season off of one game, but golly gee whillikers they stunk up the joint on Thursday night.
If generating pressure on the quarterback were equivalent to being dry, the Dallas Cowboys are soaking wet. They are completely drenched in suckitude.
To be fair Lawrence Okoye did wrangle up on sack, but Russell Wilson and Trevone Boykin had all kinds of time in the pocket. I could've sworn I saw Russell planting flowers back there.
Morris Claiborne Is Always Around The Ball
I need my 20 push ups tomorrow 24... Two picks I know you could have had... #Cowboysworld
Dez is right, and a great live tweeter FYI.
Mo Claiborne did indeed get his hands on two would-be interceptions. Some players seem to have a knack for always being around the football, like a magnet of sorts, and Mo seems to have found that gear this season.
I propose we call him the MOgnet. Yes? Yes.
Dax Swanson Is Going To Make This Team
The cornerback from Sam Houston State had himself quite the game on Thursday night.
Dax actually took a punt all the way to the house that was called back on a silly penalty, but those things matter and more importantly - they stand out.
This team has a precariously solid list of depth at the corner spot, but Dax has shown an ability to make plays. That's a good thing. We've already got a Dak, what's a Dax added to the mix?
This Is Jason Garrett's Football Team
I thought you said 10, RJ? Well I gave you a bonus so Happy Friday!
The age-old criticism of
anybody coaching the Cowboys Jason Garrett is that he's Jerry Jones' puppet. That song and dance has gotten pretty old, but if anyone was unsure about it... it's really dead and gone now.
It was Jason Garrett's decision not to bring Tony Romo back into the game once it was revealed that he hadn't suffered a serious injury. This was in spite of Romo's constant pleas to get back in the contest. Sorry, Tony. Coach said no.
Clap, clap, clap your hands. Jason Garrett runs this ship.
DL Kerry Hyder Impressive In Cowboys Week 2 Preseason Win
Kerry Hyder joined the Cowboys this offseason on a one year deal, and while the four-year NFL veteran has put up some solid tape in his time around the league, it was hard to project just what he could bring to the Cowboys defense.
Listed at 6'2" 270 pounds, Hyder is a bit of a tweener on the defensive line. Though the answer to "will he play tackle or end" seems to be "both" to this point in the preseason.
As he fights for his life on this deep defensive line, Kerry Hyder had himself a day in the Cowboys 14-10 victory over the Rams last weekend.
Hyder made an excellent play defending a screen pass in the first quarter, reading the play perfectly and reacting quickly to running back Darrell Henderson coming out of the backfield. Hyder also created some pressure on the quarterback, and finished with 3 combined tackles in very limited playing time.
Hyder's versatility is working well for him as he looks to make the final roster. Like a Tyrone Crawford type player, Hyder will be able to move inside and out depending on the situation. This allows the Cowboys to be flexible in how they structure their depth chart on defense, and in how they decide to rush the passer on third down.
A pass rushing package involving Robert Quinn and DeMarcus Lawrence on the edge with the combination of Hyder and Maliek Collins on the inside could turn out to be a very dangerous one for opposing offenses to deal with.
Rod Marinelli spoke to this versatility a couple of months ago, showing just how much he values what Kerry Hyder can bring to this team.
"Maybe you adjust him sometime, once in a while – in a one-on-one pass rush situation, stick him over a guard and start to get a feel for it.” - Rod Marinelli
Earlier this offseason, I wrote that Kerry Hyder could end up being Rod Marinelli's next great under-the-radar find on the defensive line. And if he continues to play with the hustle and awareness that he had on Saturday, he's going to make Rod look very smart in his evaluation.
Kerry Hyder is making it very difficult for the front office to let him go. And, at the end of the preseason, I do expect Kerry Hyder to find himself on the Cowboys' active roster. Especially considering how Mike White is playing at quarterback, and how his release could open up an extra spot at a different position group.
#DALvsRAMS: Tony Pollard Proves he’s no Longer Darrell Henderson’s Backup
For the better part of three years Tony Pollard was forced to play second fiddle to Darrell Henderson during their time with the Memphis Tigers. But, Saturday night in the second week of preseason Pollard emerged from the shadows and proved he's no longer Henderson's backup.
Tony Pollard put on an impressive show Saturday night against the Los Angeles Rams. He touched the ball a total of six times and turned it into 51 yards and a touchdown. He rushed for 42 yards on the ground, averaging 8.4 yards per carry, and had one reception for 9 yards. All in all it was an impressive performance and one that arguably outdid his former teammate, Darrell Henderson.
Tony Pollard is starting to look like a real weapon for the Dallas Cowboys. It's still a small sample size, but in the first two preseason games he's proven the jump up in competition isn't too big for him. As a runner he's been decisive, picking up what yardage is given and not dancing around. He hasn't been utilized much in the passing game yet, but that time will come.
The Dallas Cowboys couldn't be happier with the way their rookie RB has performed thus far. He's everything they've said he was, and quite possibly much more. Maybe those Alvin Kamara comparisons weren't that far off after all.
We all know Ezekiel Elliott will return to the Dallas Cowboys at some point, but for now Tony Pollard doesn't look completely out of place as their lead back. He still needs to work on his pass protection, but everything else he's been asked to do he's excelled at.
I don't know about you, but I'm excited about seeing what No. 36 can do when these games start to matter in 2019. He will once again have to accept a backup role like he did behind Darrell Henderson in college, but you can bet the Cowboys coaching staff will reward him based on his play so far in preseason.
Pollard's versatility to be a weapon as both a runner and receiver in the passing game should make him a unique chess piece in the offensive game plan each and every week. He's been exciting to watch so far and we haven't even seen him in the return game yet, which was a big part of his game in college. I'm personally expecting big things from him this season. What about you?
What do you think of Tony Pollard's preseason performance so far?
The Brady Report: Tony Pollard, Devin Smith Steal The Show On Offense
The Dallas Cowboys earned their first win of the 2019 preseason on Saturday night, defeating the Los Angeles Rams 14-10 in Hawaii.
Despite the low scoring affair, there were certainly standout performances from both offensive and defensive players for Dallas. Some who are looking to earn a roster spot, and others who are rather solidified in their place with the team.
Let's get into some of my game notes from the Cowboys preseason victory.
- Tony Pollard. I mean, I've said enough right? The rookie running back was awesome in his one drive of action Saturday night, rushing 5 times for 42 yards and a touchdown on the team's opening possession. Pollard was decisive, patient, and comfortable in the zone blocking scheme, and seemed to know exactly where and how to run on each rep. Pollard is looking like a complete back, rather than just a receiving threat for the Cowboys offense going forward.
- While undrafted free agents Jon'Vea Johnson and Jalen Guyton have garnered much of the attention, it was Devin Smith who impressed the most out of all the Cowboys' down-roster receivers this week. He caught 3 balls for just 24 yards, but had a fantastic touchdown grab from Cooper Rush in the third quarter.
- Speaking of Cooper Rush, he's your backup quarterback for the 2019 season. The coaching staff gave Mike White a chance to work with the 2's this week, allowing him equal ground for competition with Rush. But even with this opportunity, Mike White did not play well whatsoever. He's indecisive in the pocket, abandons clean protection, runs into pressure, and just looks kind of lost out there. Hopefully White can improve, but Rush is certainly deserving of the QB2 spot going forward.
- While Rush solidified his position as the QB2, QB1 Dak Prescott led another impressive drive on Saturday night. Prescott has command in the pocket and of the entire offense, and he orchestrated an excellent touchdown drive in his own possession this week. Prescott went 5/5 for 64 yards, but the highlight of the game for Prescott was his third and seven completion for 31 of those yards to Michael Gallup. He and Gallup seem to be connecting this preseason, and if that's going to happen regularly, look out.
- Now to the defense. Defensive tackle Maliek Collins continues to show signs that 2019 could be a career season for him. He was disruptive in limited playing time this week, and showcased a scary spin move on the inside. He can be an electric interior pass rusher for the Cowboys, and he looks to be "putting it all together" this year.
- Jourdan Lewis is too good to rot away on the bench, guys. Though he did get beat for decent completion in the first half, Lewis was also sound as a tackler and sticky in coverage once again this week. Lewis looks to be playing at the highest level we've seen from him yet, but once Byron Jones comes back he may not be getting the playing time he'd easily earn elsewhere. Dallas has a bit of an embarrassment of riches at cornerback right now, and Lewis just needs to keep competing every week.
- Lewis' Michigan teammate Taco Charlton had a decent night himself. While Dorance Armstrong has been the talk of the town at defensive end, Charlton deflected a pass at the line of scrimmage and was credited with 2 quarterback hits against the Rams. He wasn't creating the level of pressure you'd hope to see out of a former first round pick playing that deep into a preseason game, but you can tell he's looking a bit better as of late. Still, there's a whole heap of defensive ends on this roster who are flat out better than him right now.
- The Cowboys linebackers showed up to play on Saturday night. Of course, Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander-Esch are who they are, but Justin March-Lillard led the team in tackles with 6, and Justin Phillips came away with an exceptional interception in the third quarter. He made a play on the ball that you don't expect to see from any linebacker, let alone someone of his roster status. This is a really deep linebacker room, and there's a strong chance the Cowboys will have to let go of a good player.
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