The Dallas Cowboys got their first win of 2016 a week ago, defeating the Miami Dolphins in convincing fashion 44-14 from AT&T Stadium. As they now prepare for their dress rehearsal game in Seattle tomorrow, I thought it would be a good time to go back and take a look at the players that put a positive performance on the field in week 2, and break down how they can build on it against the Seahawks.
These could be players that had bounce back games, showed minor improvements, or took the world by fire. Let's talk some football!
Starting with the obvious only feels right here, as Dak Prescott has a ton to build off of after his first two preseason outings. After electrifying Cowboys Nation in Los Angeles during his debut, Prescott put on another show for the home fans - completing 12 passes on 15 attempts and tossing 2 touchdowns while rushing for a pair as well.
Prescott has now thrown more touchdowns than incomplete passes, an amazing accomplishment that will be hard to maintain against the Seattle secondary in hostile territory.
No matter how Prescott performs, Cowboys' fans have already embraced the journey of watching the young signal caller develop in front of their eyes. With that comes the highs that he has shown us, and some lows to be expected at some point.
Which will we see tomorrow from Prescott? Your move, quarterDAK.
Morris carried 13 times for 85 yards against the Dolphins, punishing defenders with his hard running style while cutting perfectly through the holes provided by Dallas' line.
Ezekiel Elliott will make his debut tomorrow, but Morris will still get his opportunities. What we will see from Morris should also closer resemble his actual role on this team during the regular season, as a compliment back to Elliott that can be just as dominant.
I'll be looking for Morris - a career model of consistency - to play with some extra burst to him when he first comes out on the field, and punish defenders for the rest of that time.
Sticking with the running back position, rookie Darius Jackson has two preseason games remaining to prove that he deserves a spot on this team. To do so, he won't need to be better than Alfred Morris or Ezekiel Elliott, but simply continue to provide an element in the speed rushing game that neither back excels at.
Jackson has shown the ability to do this, while also having to create a lot of plays on his own with backup offensive linemen in front of him, carrying the ball 26 times this preseason for 90 yards.
After leading the team in carries against the Dolphins, look for Jackson to get a lot more work tomorrow, and hopefully make the right reads on his way to some big plays.
I don't think that anybody on this football team was more excited about getting Tony Romo back on the field than slot receiver Cole Beasley. With a specific skill set, Beasley excels when Romo is his quarterback, able to work the middle of the field with ease.
Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan has been utilizing all of his weapons so far this preseason, moving guys around to create the best match ups. Against the Dolphins, you saw a tunnel screen to Beasley on the first drive that went for positive yards from Romo.
While it is unclear how much of Tony Romo we will see tomorrow, expect Beasley to be one of his main targets against a fierce Seahawks pass rush, and in the absence of Dez Bryant.
Speaking of the absence of Dez Bryant, the Cowboys will get a good look at Terrance Williams and Brice Butler in this game. Both players seem to still be competing for the second WR spot, although Williams hasn't done anything to warrant a significant loss of playing time.
One of the most memorable plays of Friday's win was Dak Prescott connecting with Brice Butler for a bomb down field, something that Butler was brought in here to do. Seeing him finally get vertical was refreshing, and he will make great strides in putting pressure on Terrance Williams if he can do it again against the Seahawks.
In watching his game against Miami for the second time, Chaz Green not only had the bounce back performance we all noticed in watching it live, but was actually really impressive in multiple aspects of the game.
Showing why he could be valuable as a tackle or a guard, Green played with a lot more consistent leverage and power on all of his sets.
On Alfred Morris' touchdown run, Green was able to slide and handle the speed rush - something he couldn't do against the Rams - clearing a lane for Morris to cut back and score.
Second-year player Byron Jones continues to be good at everything for the Dallas Cowboys. In watching him against the Dolphins, Jones excelled multiple times in run support, particularly in the red zone.
Of course, Jones was also able to use his length and speed to break up a pass that he had to come a long way for, displaying his full range of versatility.
We should expect more of the same on the West Coast from Byron tomorrow.
The confidence and attitude that we have seen from Claiborne throughout training camp carried over to his home opener, as he saw plenty of action and was able to get his hands on the ball multiple times.
If the Cowboys' coaches want tomorrow's game to feel like a legitimate regular season game, they should want Morris Claiborne to repeat his performance and continue to make plays - something he has never consistently done, while dealing with his fair share of injuries.
Staying on the field has been his biggest issue in this league for Terrell McClain, but the defensive tackle has shown what he can do at full strength with the Cowboys this summer. Against the Dolphins, it was refreshing to see yet another interior defensive linemen on this team that can play with a great first step and get up the field to make plays.
Cedric Thornton drew attention to himself by putting in similar plays back in Los Angeles, and again against the Dolphins. Now, with Maliek Collins set to return, we could get a look at an absolutely dominant rotation of DTs for the Cowboys tomorrow - hopefully featuring a steady dose of McClain.
It may have been some minor progress, but Ryan Russell finally put together some snaps to feel good about after being held in check against the Rams. Russell was able to get up the field numerous times around the edge, drawing a personal foul for a hit on Ryan Tannehill where he exploded around the right side.
Russell also generated pressure on the stunt with Shaniel Jenkins that resulted in Jenkins forcing a fumble, and ultimately giving the Cowboys a chance to add to their lead before the half.
Chasing after Russell Wilson will be an even tougher task for Russell, who could make Rod Marinelli feel a lot better about his rotation at defensive end should he finally put together all of his traits to have an impact on the game.
Some roster decisions are going to have to be made after this game for the Dallas Cowboys, and special teams is always a key denominator when it comes to deciding who makes the cut.
Most special teams snaps for Cowboys on Friday: LB Keith Smith 16, TE Swaim 15, LB James Morris 15, TE Austin Traylor 14, WR Andy Jones 13.
Depending on how much of James Morris we see in the dress rehearsal, it will be evident that this team wants him to make the team based on the chances he has gotten on special teams.
As a linebacker, I also thought that he had some snaps on Friday where he was able to read his blocks incredibly well, and avoid getting taken out of the play before rallying to the football.
What players are you keeping an eye on against the Seahawks? Who else stood out to you in the win over the Dolphins? Let us know! Comment below to start the conversation, or email Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com.
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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