The Dallas Cowboys have only played one of four scheduled preseason games thus far, but there is already quite a bit we can learn from what took place in San Francisco last Saturday night against the 49ers. Some players rose to the occasion, while others faltered. For those who happened to play well a promotion of sorts could be in the cards. That's what I want to discuss today.
For the most part, the Dallas Cowboys played pretty well in all three phases of the game against the 49ers. It didn't result in a victory, but there is probably more good tape than bad when the coaching staff sits down to review film. It's that good film that could earn a few of the Cowboys backup players more playing time.
Let's take a look at five backups who I believe could receive an increase in playing time based on their play against the San Francisco 49ers.
DE, Jalen Jelks (#74)
Rookie Defensive End Jalen Jelks' first snap against the 49ers resulted in a QB sack. He couldn't have scripted a better start to his professional career if he was writing the story himself. He's performed well in offseason practices and was able to carry that over when the lights came on Saturday night in San Francisco. With injuries to DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn, and the suspension of Randy Gregory, Jelks is doing his damnedest to make his case for a roster spot in 2019. The same can be said for fellow rookie DE Joe Jackson, although he didn't show up on the stat sheet as much in the first preseason game. It's time to get both these of DEs more playing time to see what they can do.
S, Donovan Wilson (#37)
I don't know how open the safety competition is to start next to Xavier Woods this season, but Donovan Wilson is certainly starting to stand out amongst the Dallas Cowboys current stable of safeties. He continuously makes plays in practice and was able to follow that up in the preseason match up with the 49ers by notching the only interception by the Cowboys secondary. Dallas seems to still favor Jeff Heath as the starter opposite Woods, but if Wilson can continue to impress he could make the coaching staff long and hard about switching things up. Giving him more playing time is absolutely justified.
WR, Cedrick Wilson (#16)
Other than Michael Gallup, Cedrick Wilson was really the only Dallas Cowboys wide receiver who made an impression on me against the San Francisco 49ers. He has been quietly flying a little bit under the radar this offseason, but that may no longer be the case. He has the ability to play on the outside as well as in the slot and that alone can make him a valuable asset this season. If not for Randall Cobb's addition, I think he'd be the favorite to be Dallas' slot WR this season. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see him receive an increased amount of playing time moving forward.
S, Darian Thompson (#23)
If the season were to start today, Darian Thompson would likely be one of the safeties the Dallas Cowboys kept on their 53-man roster. He's been having a pretty solid offseason and was able to carry that over into the first preseason game against the 49ers. Every time his name is mentioned it's in a positive way, which is a good thing considering the unknown outside of Xavier Woods about the Cowboys safety position. I think he's earned more playing time and would love to see what he could do with the first-team defense if paired with No. 25.
DT, Ricky Walker (#68)
The Dallas Cowboys seem to have better depth along the defensive line than they have had in recent memory, with plenty of unknown players still. That's why a guy like Ricky Walker might have been the biggest surprise standout from the Cowboys preseason match against the 49ers. He was absolutely disruptive Saturday night and continuously played on San Francisco's side of the line of scrimmage. DT Daniel Wise probably played just as well as Walker, although he didn't show up as much in the stat sheet. Sadly, they both outplayed Trysten Hill, a 2019 second-round draft pick, and absolutely deserve more playing time.
* Honorable Mention: LB, Luke Gifford (#57)
I felt like I had to give a shout out to Linebacker Luke Gifford by the way he played pre-injury against the San Francisco 49ers. He was all over the field making plays in both the passing and running game, but unfortunately left the game early due to an ankle injury. It's an injury that will likely sidelined him for a bit, possibly the rest of the preseason, but I believe he's already done enough to earn a roster spot. If he can somehow return before the regular season starts, I'd love to see him receive more playing time.
Any Dallas Cowboys backups you believe have earned more playing time?
NYJ 24, DAL 22: Cowboys Comeback Comes Up Short Again
The Cowboys are now 3-3 after creating another halftime deficit and not being able to overcome it. Their losing streak continued with a 24-22 loss to the previously winless New York Jets.
Dallas trailed 21-6 at halftime in one of the more embarrassing first halves of football we've seen this team play. It took an improbable 62-yard field goal from Brett Maher to give them some kind of positive feeling heading into the locker room.
The worse sequence came earlier in that quarter. Trailing just 7-3 at that point, the Cowboys marched over 50 yards to put themselves in scoring position. But a 4th-down try came up short, and then the Jets answered with a 92-yard touchdown pass from Sam Darnold to Robby Anderson.
That play seemed to knock the wind out of Dallas' sails, and they were still reeling on the Jets' next possession when New York scored another touchdown on a six-play, 65-yard drive.
The Cowboys struggled early on offense, and that had a lot to do with missing personnel. They went into the game without Randall Cobb, Tyron Smith, or La'el Collins suiting up. Then Amari Cooper had to exit early with a quad injury and didn't return.
The halftime adjustments were there. Dallas outscored New York 16-3 in the second half and pulled within two points on a late touchdown run by Dak Prescott. But the two-point conversion attempt failed when Dak got hit and tossed an errant ball to a blanketed Jason Witten.
Another week. Another loss. And now the Eagles are coming to town next Sunday night.
If the Cowboys don't start figuring out how to play well early, this season is only going to get uglier.
- Prescott put in an admirable effort given the amount of pressure that Gregg Williams' defense was applying. He completed 28-of-40 passes for 277 yards and had the rushing score, giving up no sacks or turnovers.
- Dak's rushing TD, the 20th of his career, tied Roger Staubach for the most in Cowboys QB history.
- Ezekiel Elliott had a big day with 105 yards on the ground and another 47 receiving, plus a rushing touchdown. One of his biggest plays won't show up in the stat sheet; he drew a defensive pass interference call on the Cowboys' final drive running a deep route as a receiver.
- Brett "Mixed Bag" Maher gave you the full range of his wows and woes today. That 62-yarder was truly special, putting him in rare company as just the third NFL kicker to ever hit multiple kicks of 60 or more. However, he also missed one from just 40 yards out. The Cowboys have now lost two games by just two points in which Maher missed an easy field goal.
- Chalk up two more sacks for Robert Quinn, who has five now in just four games. Outside of those plays, few Cowboys even breathed on Sam Darnold today.
- Jourdan Lewis got more playing time today with Anthony Brown getting hurt, and he did what he tends to do with a clutch interception. Lewis' picked off Darnold early in the third quarter after the Jets had driven down to the Dallas' 11. It helped keep New York off the scoreboard and was critical to the Cowboys' comeback efforts.
- Thankfully, this loss did not cost Dallas their shared NFC East lead with the Eagles. Philadelphia also fell today in their road game against the Vikings. Both teams are now 3-3 as they prepare for next week's rivalry game.
Cowboys Wishlist: Win In The Trenches, Limit Le’Veon Bell
My biggest wish of the day is for the Dallas Cowboys to win their football game. It's been more than two weeks since we've been able to enjoy a good victory. The New York Jets present us with a favorable matchup and what should be an easy game for the Cowboys. However, this is the NFL, and surprising things can happen any given Sunday. Dallas can't take this game for granted.
Let's get into this week's Cowboys Wishlist! Make sure to let me know yours in the comments section below or tweet them at me @MauNFL and let's talk football!
Wish #1: No Turnovers
Last week's performance was a painful one to watch. While we can take a look at every single aspect of the game to find out why the Cowboys lost, it's actually pretty simple. Dak Prescott and the Dallas' offense turned the ball over three times. If you have a -3 turnover differential, you're losing that games nine times out of ten.
The Cowboys offense is better than given credit for, but if they keep handing the ball to opposing teams, no one will notice that. It's a simple wish, but an important one. Just stop turning the ball over.
Wish #2: Win in the Trenches, Limit Le'Veon Bell
As Aaron Jones plowed his way through the Cowboys' defense for 107 yards and four rushing touchdowns, the lack of quality defensive tackle play was very noticeable. The defense was pushed around in the trenches just about every play. Antwaun Woods has been injured recently, but not even with him coming back will the Cowboys solve their problems.
As the team's three-technique, Maliek Collins has also struggled to stop the run and bring pressure. This time, they're facing a Jets offense that's led by RB Le'Veon Bell. Could things go south versus a 0-4 New York squad? I doubt it, but if they do, I'd bet it's because of Bell. Hopefully, the Cowboys win the battle.
Wish #3: Blake Jarwin Plays More
I can't get over the fact that with the Cowboys trailing late in the game last Sunday, it was Jason Witten who was still on the field and not Blake Jarwin. I love Witten, but doesn't Jarwin have better deep-threat potential? I've been surprised by #82 and how well he's played since coming back, but I'm still a firm believer that Jarwin should get more playing time.
Through five weeks, Jarwin has played on 125 of the offensive snaps while Witten has been in for 240. I wish Jarwin gets more playing time today.
Wish #4: Cowboys Start Fast
What is wrong with the Cowboys when the games start? They have yet to have a good start this season. Even when they faced the Washington Redskins, New York Giants, and the Miami Dolphins they struggled to get it going. I don't know if it's an execution problem or bad play-scripting from the coaches but this will get the Cowboys in trouble if it isn't fixed.
It's a 60-minute game and if you start playing well late, you'll be beaten as the season goes on. The Cowboys need to figure this out, and the Jets are a fortunate opponent to get back on track.
Will Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence Finally Go Off Against Jets?
With only 2.5 sacks in five games thus far in 2019, DeMarcus Lawrence is currently on pace to have less than 10 sacks on the season. That would be a disappointment for all parties after the Cowboys defensive end just signed a massive contract extension this offseason, but today's game against the New York Jets may give him a chance to make up some ground.
The Jets have been abysmal at protecting their quarterbacks so far this year. Despite only playing four games, being one of the few NFL teams to already have its bye week, New York has given up a league-high 23 sacks already in 2019.
That's almost six sacks per game. Six!
Granted, some of that volume has come from having third-string QB Luke Falk playing the last three weeks. But even when Sam Darnold was playing in Week One he still got taken down four times.
The opportunities should be there for Lawrence to pad his stats. Even just a two-sack day would greatly boost his numbers, but there's potential for more with how bad the Jets have been at pass protection.
DeMarcus' slow start in 2019 has been due to a variety of factors. For one, he missed almost all of training camp and preseason practices by remaining on the PUP list until August 20th. Lawrence had offseason shoulder surgery and was recovering until just a few weeks before Week One.
Another reason is that, at least through the first four weeks of 2019, Tank was the most double-teamed edge rusher in the entire NFL.
That hasn't been all bad for the Cowboys. After all, the attention that Lawrence draws has helped Robert Quinn get off to a hot start since his Week 3 debut.
In fact, Quinn may be who prevents Tank from having a big day in New York. It will be interesting to see which guy gets to the QB first.
There's also a chance that, if this game winds up being a blowout, Dallas will limit Lawrence's playing time due to some nagging injuries. They want their franchise DE ready to chase down Carson Wentz next Sunday night.
Wins are bigger than stats, of course. DeMarcus Lawrence gets that and hopefully most fans do as well. His impact is bigger than just sacks; just his presence can positively impact games and create opportunities for other pass rushers and blitzers.
Still, we all love seeing our favorite Cowboys among the league leaders at season's end. Lawrence probably won't be catching Shaquil Barrett (9 sacks) this year, but hopefully today's game allows him to move up the board.
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