The Dallas Cowboys play host to the Miami Dolphins tonight for their second 2016 preseason game. The team’s healthy starters are expected to play a few series before the game is turned over to backups and other prospects.
Here is a quick rundown of the players and storylines I’ll be following tonight.
Tony Romo‘s Rhythm
We all know that Romo’s injury and absence was the dominant factor in Dallas’ awful 2015 season. However, that ended up distracting people from the fact that Romo wasn’t looking great before the Week 2 injury.
The Cowboys offense in general was not sharp prior to losing Romo. They squeaked by a bad Giants team and could only manage field goals against a hapless Eagles squad. Hopefully, Dez Bryant‘s return to health will make a big difference. However, they also need Romo to be at his best.
Even if it’s a brief glimpse, I want to see Tony look more like the MVP-caliber quarterback that led us to 12-4 and the playoffs in 2014. We haven’t seen that guy since that playoff game in Green Bay.
More Tackling, Less Dummies
Last week’s game saw several Cowboys defenders taking bad angles and failing to make open-field tackles against the Dolphins. One was a notorious offender, J.J. Wilcox, but some bad moments came from rookie Kavon Frazier and some others.
If the Cowboys are going to have problem on the defensive line to start the year, they can’t afford to have linebackers and safeties missing tackles when guys get to the second level and beyond. A lack of playmakers up front means little if guys aren’t playing fundamental football behind them.
The Dak Prescott Show:
I’m sure of all of us are a little worried that what Dak Prescott did last week in Los Angeles was some kind of mirage or tease. It’s hard to quiet the pessimistic side of my brain that expects it all to come crashing down tonight.
If Prescott can show the same level of play, though, then it will put a stamp on what already has Cowboys Nation buzzing with excitement. If he excels again tonight then I wouldn’t even worry about giving Jameil Showers a fair shake. A competition is usually sign that you don’t love either guy.
If Dak Prescott is near perfect again tonight, then I’m officially in love.
Less Razz on Chaz
If Prescott was on one end of the praise spectrum last week, Chaz Green was on the other. Nobody had a worse night against the Rams that the second-year offensive tackle.
Green will likely get another heavy workload tonight. Hopefully last week only fueled him in practice and gave the coaches plenty of film to reference and use in improving his game.
After putting Cam Bradfield on injured reserve earlier this week, Dallas needs Green to step up and take the swing tackle position. If he has another bad game, they will almost have to look to free agency for a band-aid solution.
Ryan Russell, Please Step Up
One of the “most improved” players this offseason, according to reports, has been second-year DE Ryan Russell. As he goes up against second and third-term blockers in the preseason, it would be nice for Russell to show some of that development now.
Last week, Dallas’ only sack came from newly-signed Shaneil Jenkins. He was playing inside tackle on the play. Hopefully Russell or some other DE will make some noise tonight.
Bounce Back Games
Geoff Swaim, a second-year tight end, and undrafted free agent receiver Andy Jones have been praised a lot during training camp. Last week they were mostly noticed for making drop on easy, routine catches.
Dallas needs Swaim this year. James Hanna will likely be on PUP to start 2016 after a minor knee surgery this week. He should be the third tight end, having far more experience and fundamental skill than Rico Gathers.
Jones road to making the team isn’t quite as clear. Dallas would likely have to keep six receivers for Jones to stick around, with Lucky Whitehead almost sure to make it for special teams alone.
However, with both Terrance Williams and Brice Butler free agents after this year, Dallas would like to hang on to a kid who has potential and is under contract. Jones can probably force them to keep six with good play, but it will have to be a lot better than what we saw in Los Angeles.