The Dallas Cowboys have already officially played two games, but the rest of the NFL is entering preseason week 2. The Cowboys will be squaring off against the Indianapolis Colts this Saturday afternoon (August 19) and there are certainly no shortage of storylines for Cowboys Nation to watch.
There is no doubt that the Dallas Cowboys have had their ups and downs so far in their first two contests, but now that it is the third preseason game for them maybe the can find some kind of consistency. Continue reading below to see the five Cowboys storylines I will be personally paying close attention to, but that doesn't mean there aren't any others. There is a lot they need to clean up, but thankfully that's what preseason is for
Darren McFadden vs. Alfred Morris
Odds are Ezekiel Elliott is looking at some kind of suspension. But, as of yet the number of games he will miss has yet to be determined. This makes the backup running back position for the Dallas Cowboys all that more important, which in turn means Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris' offensive role becomes more prominent.
McFadden and Morris haven't really inspired a lot of confidence with their play so for the first couple of preseason games for the Cowboys, which means they really need a good showing against the Colts. McFadden is probably the favorite to take over if Zeke is suspended, but Morris is arguably the better fit in the Cowboys zone blocking scheme.
Both players really need to step up their game, because neither is as talented as Zeke Elliott. Maybe the Cowboys will give Rod Smith a chance to work a little bit more with the first team to see what he's capable of.
Kellen Moore vs. Cooper Rush
After two preseason games, I don't know how anyone can claim that Kellen Moore is deserving of the title of backup QB behind Dak Prescott. He may have the advantage of knowing the offense and supposedly being "one of the best" college QBs to play the game, but his play so far leaves much to be desired.
In fact, the argument could be made that undrafted free agent Cooper Rush has played just as well, if not better than Moore. Rush hasn't performed much like a rookie QB and has looked comfortable in the pocket. He is throwing with accuracy and has shown more arm strength than expected. If he is able to put together another strong showing against the Colts, he could just earn himself a roster spot and possibly unseat Kellen Moore.
It is unlikely the Cowboys coaching staff would choose keep Cooper Rush over Kellen Moore as Prescott's backup this season, but stranger things have happened in the past. Moore really needs to step up his game and prove to everyone why he has the coaching staff's confidence.
Will Noah Brown continue to impress?
It's only been two preseason games for the Dallas Cowboys, but their seventh round draft pick Noah Brown has showed up in both as a wide receiver. He has only had three catches for 41 yards, but he has also drawn a pass interference call.
Noah Brown hasn't gotten as many chances as I would like in the passing game, but he has done a lot of dirty work that goes unnoticed. He is an excellent blocker and can be used in that capacity as a split WR and as a situational tight end. Brown could possibly be the best blocking WR currently on the roster.
Noah Brown has already shown enough through two games for the Cowboys to consider keeping him around, but he still needs time to refine his skill set. These next two preseason games could help determine if he makes the active roster or if the Cowboys are willing to try to slip through waivers and add him to the practice squad.
Can Lewis Neal continue to be disruptive?
I don't know about you, but I've been paying a lot of attention to the Dallas Cowboys defensive line play through these first two preseason contests. There really hasn't been very much to inspire a lot of confidence or excitement, but undrafted free agent Lewis Neal is the one player who has seemed to continuously make plays behind the line of scrimmage.
In this preseason week 2 contest against the Indianapolis Colts, Lewis Neal really needs to continue to be disruptive if he wants to gain more playing time and earn himself a defensive role in 2017. Right now I think he could be the favorite to backup Maliek Collins at the 3-technique, but he will have to continue to show up.
If Lewis Neal can put together another impressive/disruptive performance against the Colts, he could go from an unknown undrafted free agent, to a key role player this season.
Jaylon Smith & Jourdan Lewis' NFL debut
The Dallas Cowboys have two players that will be making their NFL debut against the Indianapolis Colts in preseason week 2, Jaylon Smith and Jourdan Lewis. Both players are expected to be key contributors in 2017 and Saturday will be the first chance the majority of us will have to see them in action.
Jaylon Smith's NFL debut might be just the most anticipated debut for an NFL player in the history of the league. There are endless amounts of fans who want to see the talented linebacker back on the field to finally see how he has progressed from his knee injury. We may not get to see a lot of him, but any playing time he does receive is encouraging for not only his future, but for the Cowboys defense.
Jourdan Lewis' NFL debut won't receive as much hype as Smith's, but that doesn't mean it's not nearly as important. Lewis is one of the defensive backs brought in to make over the Cowboys secondary and could possibly have a huge role on defense in 2017. He is a little bit undersized, which could regulate him to the slot, but he possesses undeniable talent.
What Cowboys storylines will you be watching in preseason week 2?
Tony Romo Documentary in the Works
If you've missed seeing Tony Romo on the field, an upcoming documentary may be the cure. The former Dallas Cowboys quarterback is reportedly the subject of a film chronicling his football career going all the way back to high school.
"Now or Never" will tell Romo's incredible story, going from undrafted to one of the top passers in the history of the Cowboys' storied franchise. It's being produced by a Texas-based company run by Christian Hanna (no known relation to James).
According to an article from MyRacineCounty.com, Romo's hometown newspaper, the tale of Tony's football career will be told going back to his days at Burlington High School in Wisconsin. It will follow him to Eastern Illinois University, the same QB hotbed that more recently produced Jimmy Garoppolo.
But what most of us will want to relive is Tony's amazing NFL career, which stands out among the most unexpected rises to stardom of any player in league history.
Romo, who was an undrafted free agent signed by the Cowboys in 2003, didn't play in a game for three seasons. He rose the QB depth chart through practice and preseason play, eventually becoming the backup and earning the respect of then-coach Bill Parcells.
In Week 7 of 2006, Parcells pulled struggling starter Drew Bledsoe at halftime and went with his intriguing young prospect. Tony's first pass in the NFL was one to forget; an interception.
About a decade later, Romo would retire as the Cowboys' all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns. He currently ranks fourth all-time in NFL history for passer rating.
Tony's career never saw the playoff and Super Bowl success of predecessors Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach, but he remains a beloved figure in team history. The controversial end to his football career, losing his job to rookie phenom Dak Prescott in 2016, created a major rift among Cowboys fans.
While no longer playing, Romo remains one of the hottest names in football. His charisma and football acumen have him in a featured role with CBS Broadcasting.
From obscurity to "anointing oil" to one of the most discussed names in sports, Tony Romo's story is fascinating. This documentary crew picked a great subject, and we look forward to enjoying their work and revisiting the Romo Era once the film is released.
Prescott VS Wentz Rivalry is Just Beginning
No one expected Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott to become such an interesting rivalry, but that's precisely what the 2016's second and 135th draft picks have turnt out to be since the day they entered the NFL. The two came into the NFC East with very different expectations. Dak wasn't even supposed to be a starter, but circumstance is what helped this rivalry emerge.
Prescott seemed to lead the race after their rookie seasons were over, having led the Dallas Cowboys to a 13-3 record and the #1 seed in the NFC, but Carson Wentz made a huge statement in 2017. Before he went down injured playing versus the LA Rams last December, the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback was playing astonishingly well.
Leading the MVP race before tearing his ACL, Carson Wentz had thrown for 3,296 yards and 33 touchdowns through 13 games. Had he not gone down, it's more likely than not he would've been named the MVP instead of Tom Brady.
Despite having won the passing yards race, Dak Prescott's 2017 was rougher than his rival's. His interceptions count went from 4 in 2016 to 13 last season. He threw for only 22 touchdowns, falling eight short of the 30 TDs mark. His completion percentage also went down, from over 67% to almost 63%.
As we all know, it wasn't a good year for the Dallas Cowboys. Suspensions, injuries and poor play led them to a disappointing 9-7 season that didn't feel like a winning season at all, even though that's how it will go down in the books.
To make things worse, the Eagles went into January with QB Nick Foles starting, and overcoming adversity and doubters, won their first Super Bowl in franchise history. Although it was Foles and not Wentz the one who played Philadelphia's postseason, the former second overall pick is one of the main reasons for the team's success.
His sophomore year was way better than Dak's.
But as impressive as Wentz's year was, the rivalry between the two signal-callers is just beginning. There is still a lot of history to write in this duel of two young and hard-working players. Two leader of men in one of the most intense rivalries in the NFL.
Through two years of football, here's how their numbers look like:
Wentz: 29 games, 1,047 attempts, 644 completions (61.5%), 7,078 yards, 49 TDs, 2 rushing TDs
Prescott: 32 games, 949 attempts, 619 completions (65.2%), 6,991 yards, 45 TDs, 12 rushing TDs
There's not a ton of difference between their numbers, but in the NFL, it's about more than stats. Prescott had the better 2016, Wentz the better 2017.
Dak and Carson have really only played two match-ups in their two years playing in the league. Sitting at an even 1-1 record, 2018 will feature two great games between both of their teams. The defending Super Bowl Champions against the underestimated Dallas Cowboys.
The sport is about winning games and championships, but rivalries like this one make the NFL even more special. Even with Wentz being the MVP front-runner for most of last season, Dak Prescott still has a lot of time to turn things around.
If both turn out to be as successful and important as their franchise wish them to be, then this rivalry will be around for a lot of years.
If Reinstated, Is Randy Gregory A Lock for Cowboys 53-Man Roster?
The Dallas Cowboys will enter training camp in Oxnard with arguably their deepest and most talented defensive line in years. Cowboys Nation continues to hope for the best possible news on suspended Defensive End Randy Gregory, to potentially take this defensive front to the next level. Should Gregory be reinstated, the Cowboys would have another option at right defensive end. This is a position they've bolstered with the signing of Kony Ealy and drafting of Dorance Armstrong, both moves coming behind would-be starter Tyrone Crawford.
This logjam at DE begs the question, amidst optimism for Gregory's situation, is the 2015 second round pick even a lock to make this roster?
Who Does Randy Gregory Need to Outplay?
Going through some form of the Cowboys depth chart at Gregory's position above does little to sort out how Gregory can justify a starting position. Having true starters on the defensive line is not DC Rod Marinelli's way, meaning a possible rotation of Crawford, Gregory, and Armstrong could coexist.
Even with insufficient depth at defensive tackle, the Cowboys seem committed to keeping Crawford on the edge. As he's done with each position change within the Cowboys defense, Crawford is slowly developing into a respectable right end that's great against the run.
This sounds like just the type of player to compliment a speedy rusher like Gregory, but Randy won't be alone in this role should he return to the team. Along with FA addition Kony Ealy, the Cowboys will look to bring Charles Tapper back from an offseason concussion, and also have second-year rusher Taco Charlton in need of a true position.
It's fair to say that Gregory has been anything but reliable since the Cowboys took a gamble on him, but turning his life around to see out this reinstatement would go a long way in beating out the often-injured Tapper.
Given Ealy's ability to play both on the edge and inside, at his best if receiving limited snaps, I believe that Gregory will only have to surpass Tapper in reaching a favorable spot on the Cowboys depth chart at DE.
Comparing Randy Gregory and Dorance Armstrong
Of course, making the roster and making an impact on defense are two vastly different realities for Gregory in 2018. Another player that could stunt his opportunities to hunt down quarterbacks is rookie fourth round pick Dorance Armstrong.
The Cowboys would love to see Armstrong begin his career with a strong showing in Oxnard, owning all of the traits needed to be an effective right end at the next level.
Lacking the true cornering speed that Gregory has flashed in short spurts, Armstrong did produce a ten sack season for Kansas in 2016. This production matches the traits that kept Armstrong a priority for the Cowboys at the draft, despite only seeing him get home 1.5 times in 2017.
Rewind to last year's draft, and the Cowboys spent their first round pick on a defensive end they looked to make a right end, all while knowing his ideal spot is at LDE. This makes the difference between drafting Charlton and Armstrong an important one, as the Cowboys are clearly searching for high-value options to complete their pass rush.
Again, assuming Tapper becomes the odd man out in the Cowboys carrying Gregory, Ealy, and Armstrong as right ends, the work is cut out for Gregory to regain the trust of his coaches and bring what only he can to this defense.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
It goes without saying that Randy Gregory will carry plenty of attention with him if present in Oxnard. This is a player capable of transforming a young Cowboys defense into one of the league's most feared.
While the Cowboys would do well to quickly sort out who plays the 3T-DT position alongside DeMarcus Lawrence, and the 1T inside for that matter too, sticking Gregory on the opposite edge could be the easiest decision they make to see immediate improvements in their pass rush.
Should Ealy or Armstrong have more to say about this lineup for the Cowboys defensive line, the depth of this unit will live up to the hype.
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