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Cowboys Nation Mailbag: Evaluating the Cowboys in Preseason Week 1

Finally, the preseason has arrived and finally, we have an actual, albeit exhibition, football game to watch. It’s good to finally have something visual to discuss and evaluate as we progress to the regular season. With the Cowboys getting underway in the preseason against the San Francisco 49ers, we got our first look at Kellen Moore calling plays and our first game action to see what these younger players are capable of doing.

And that’s where we’re headed in this week’s edition of Cowboys Nation Mailbag.

Our first question comes from our friend over at Blogging The Boys, Tom Ryle and he asks a very good question.

A lot of the offseason speculation and even the excitement about the 2019 Dallas Cowboys comes because of the excitement and hopefulness that the Dallas Cowboys offense will be able to take a step forward under Kellen Moore. Preseason action doesn’t always reveal a whole lot about what a team is going to look like in the regular season and I think that was the case in preseason week one.

The Dallas Cowboys’ offense didn’t show much of what we’ve heard they were going to be doing a lot of in 2019. Most notably, I can’t remember a snap where the Dallas Cowboys used presnap motion. There might have been one, but it doesn’t stand out. I think that will change either in the coming weeks or in the regular season when the games actually matter. We know that Moore wants to use presnap motion and if the practices are any indication, they’re going to use a lot of presnap motion.

The other thing that’s misleading about the preseason game is the results. Recall that the team didn’t have DeMarcus Lawrence, Byron Jones, Robert Quinn, Maliek Collins, or Sean Lee playing on defense. On offense, they were missing Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, Zack Martin, and Jason Witten. And though the first-team offense wasn’t able to get into the end zone, they moved the ball pretty well and Dak Prescott and Michael Gallup looked to pick up with where they left off at the end of last season. The connection and the timing between the two looks really nice.

More than team results, the most important thing that can be gleaned from the preseason games is individual performances in the scheme. Like how Joe Jackson, Donovan Wilson, Ricky Walker, Blake Jarwin, Michael Gallup, Cooper Rush and Cedrick Wilson all stood out with their positive performances.

The Dallas Cowboys aren’t going to show a lot of the nuance of their offensive and defensive schemes in the preseason, because they’ll want as little on tape as possible. So we’re unlikely to see any intricate blitzes or route combinations so that teams will be less prepared for them in the early part of the season.

It was a rough game for several players in week one of the preseason against the San Francisco 49ers, but it wasn’t a death nail by any stretch of the imagination. There are still three preseason games for these players to make the 53-man roster when the team trims the roster at the end of August. However, the players you listed certainly took a step back in their respective competitions.

Though Mike White had a rough game, it’s also important to note that he’s playing with the third-team offensive line and generally that doesn’t bode well for a backup quarterback. So, I wouldn’t write him off just yet. On the other hand, he can’t have turnovers as he did and he can’t leave his receivers hung out to dry on some of those targets. Both Cedrick Wilson and Jalen Guyton were put in some bad positions to make receptions leading to them taking some massive hits when they were targeted.

More than what Mike White didn’t do, it’s about what Cooper Rush did. Rush definitely solidified himself as the backup quarterback unless White can take a significant step forward in the final three preseason games.

Mitch Hyatt was always a long shot to make the 53-man roster in my opinion. The offensive line depth and depth at other positions are such that they aren’t going to be able to keep a developmental tackle on the roster. Though Hyatt is highly regarded coming out of Clemson, he’s still a player that needs some refining. The practice squad is his best bet to stick in 2019.

To, finally, answer your question, there’s no doubt that Jon’vea Johnson had a rough outing and probably hurt himself the most. Johnson’s drops early in the game combined with the play of Cedrick Wilson definitely hurt him in the competition for the fifth and sixth wide receiver spots on the roster. Johnson had been having a tremendous training camp, but drops in the Blue-White Scrimmage and then in the preseason game aren’t helping his chances.

Johnson did bounce back with two nice catches in the fourth quarter, especially one long one along the sideling that helped put the Dallas Cowboys in scoring position with a chance to tie. He’ll need to carry that over into practice this week and then into week two of the preseason to make a case for the 53-man roster.

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There’s still a lot of the evaluative process left for the front office and the coaching staff and so there are lots of opportunities for these players to make a statement to be on the roster. For us, as fans and analysts, it’s important to not get caught up in the win-loss record or the final score. Instead, remember that these games are to get the starters in game shape and readiness and to allow for evaluation of the younger players deeper down the roster.

What do you think?

John Williams

Written by John Williams

Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

Make sure you check out the Inside The Cowboys Podcast featuring John Williams and other analysts following America's Team.

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