Dallas Cowboys football is finally back!
It may just be a preseason game, but we finally get to see Da' Boys back in action on the football field against the San Francisco 49ers in their first preseason game in 2019. Although I don't expect the starters to play more than a series or two, there is still a plethora of storylines to watch in this matchup between the Cowboys and 49ers.
If you're anything like me you'll be paying close attention to every little detail tomorrow night (Saturday, August 10) throughout the ball game against the 49ers. Because of that, I had a pretty difficult time narrowing down the top Dallas Cowboys storylines I believe are the most important to follow closely. But somehow I managed and here are my top five…
Backup QB Competition Between Cooper Rush and Mike White
Dak Prescott is the unchallenged and unquestioned starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys this season and what looks like for the foreseeable future. Dallas seems to be committed to him as their signal caller for years to come and the only thing standing in the way right now is a contract extension that could happen any day now. Behind him though the backup QB position remains unresolved.
Neither Cooper Rush or Mike White has managed to elevate their play enough to securely lock themselves into the QB2 spot behind Prescott in 2019. Sadly that raises a red flag because Prescott isn't your typical pocket passer. He is just as dangerous with his legs as he has his arm, and maybe more so. That makes him a little more susceptible to injuries, which makes the backup QB spot extremely important. Because of that I will be keeping a close watchful eye on how Rush and White perform.
Tony Pollard and the Backup RBs
Even before Ezekiel Elliott decided to skip training camp while he tries to leverage a new contract extension out of the Dallas Cowboys I was interested in watching Dallas' backup running backs. They made a clear effort to upgrade the RB2 position behind Zeke by using two of their 2019 draft picks on Tony Pollard and Mike Weber. It will be interesting to see if that investment pays off, especially with No. 21 threatening to sit out the entire season if his contract demands aren't met.
Tony Pollard is the backup RB who has received the most hype since being drafted in the fourth-round, but I'm just as excited to watch Mike Weber and Jordan Chunn as well. It may surprise you to learn, but I actually had Weber graded higher than Pollard, but that's neither here nor there now. They are both on the team and may need to be relied upon quite a bit if things can't be resolved with Zeke. That's why I will be watching all of them extremely close throughout preseason.
DT Trysten Hill and the Cowboys Revamped DL
I was but completely on board with the Dallas Cowboys selection of Defensive Tackle Trysten Hill in the second-round this year after watching the Cowboys pretty much getting manhandled by the Los Angeles Rams offensive line in the NFC Divisional Round of the playoffs last season. His addition as well as the acquisition of Defensive End Robert Quinn via trade could really make the Cowboys defensive line a formidable group in 2019.
Even if Robert Quinn didn't fracture his hand it's highly doubtful we would've seen much of him in the Week 1 preseason matchup with the 49ers. Trysten Hill on the other hand we should see plenty of. I don't know about you, but I'm really excited about his potential. He's not the only DL to keep an eye on though. Fellow rookie Daniel Wise has also been turning some heads in training camp. Many believed he was a mid-round pick, but the Cowboys were able to snatch him up as an undrafted free agent. The depth up and down the DL will be something worth watching.
Brett Maher's FG Kicking, Hit or Miss?
The Dallas Cowboys were right in their call to keep Brett Maher over Dan Bailey last year, but they now are faced with another conundrum after the way Maher has formed thus far in training camp. I haven't witnessed it personally, but No. 2 continues to be inconsistent on mid-range field goal attempts and that's just not acceptable considering he's going unchallenged for the kicking job right now.
I really like how Maher proved he can be a weapon on the FG attempts from 50+ yards last season, but even then he was highly inconsistent from mid-range. It might just be me, but I want to see a more consistent player in preseason games. The Cowboys can't afford to lose a single game this season because of poor kicking when there are options available still in the market who are considered upgrades.
Kellen Moore's Influence on the Cowboys Offense
I think I may have saved the best for last. I can't tell you how excited I am to see what the Dallas Cowboys offense looks like now that Kellen Moore has taken over as the offensive coordinator. Scott Linehan's vanilla offense had become tiresome over the past several seasons and from the sound of things K Moore is proving to be a breath of fresh air.
I want to see just how much pre-snap motion and misdirection the Cowboys new OC is going to incorporate into the game plan. It not only helps confuse opposing defenses, but also puts the playmakers in a better position to make the kind of plays we expect from them. It will also be interesting to see just how he utilizes the talent Dallas has acquired on the offensive side of the ball. Personally, I'm expecting big things.
What will you be watching in the #DALvsSF preseason week 1 matchup?
Taco Charlton Isn’t Going Anywhere After Strong Preseason Week 3
Dallas Cowboys Defensive End Taco Charlton might be turning things around. The former first round draft pick didn't have a great couple of seasons to start his career off, which forced him to be in a battle to earn a spot on the Cowboys 53-man roster this offseason. Three weeks into the preseason, it looks like he's a lock to make the team. In a "Dress Rehearsal" game that went great for the Cowboys, Charlton's performance was among the best players.
A couple of weeks ago, I discussed how the Cowboys' younger defensive ends could force the team to move on from Taco. From Dorance Armstrong to Jalen Jelks, there's a handful of promising players that were participating in a positional battle that one way or another, included Taco Charlton.
However, the Michigan product showed up to play versus the Los Angeles Rams with two passes batted down. Despite making such plays, we still hadn't seen much from him in the pass rush department.
That changed against the Houston Texans last Saturday when he managed to get two sacks (one strip-sack), two forced fumbles and a recovery. This was undoubtedly Taco's best game in his career. He still has a lot to prove, but it was definitely good to see him have a "breakout" preseason game.
With such performance, it doesn't seem like he'll be going anywhere in 2019. Charlton won't be a starter for this team, but he could become a very important rotational piece for Rod Marinelli's defense. He has a great opportunity to find playing time during the first two weeks of the season before Robert Quinn returns from suspension.
One unfortunate note was that in his best game yet, Taco went out injured twice (ankle). The first time he went back to the field to get some more but had to walk off the field for a second time. Hopefully, he's able to play next Thursday but I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't after having a breakout game versus the Texans.
Taco Charlton still has a very long way to justify being a first-round pick, but his play against Houston was a start. It will be very interesting to see how he plays in the 2019 regular season. He'll have to fight for playing time and he'll have to make every snap count to turn his career around.
HOU 0, DAL 34: Defense Dominates in Dress Rehearsal Game
The Dallas Cowboys couldn't have scripted a better result in tonight's dress rehearsal game against the Houston Texans. All three phases of the game made big plays as they dominated 34 to 0.
The night belonged to the defense as they terrorized Houston's starters and reserves along the offensive line with 8 sacks. Taco Charlton, a former first-round pick turned outcast was the star of the night with 2 sacks, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. In my opinion, if there were any doubts about him making the roster he put them to bed tonight.
Kerry Hyder showed once again why he's one of the smartest free-agent signings of 2019. After being a lost man in the 3-4 defensive scheme with his former team the Lions, he's done a really good job applying pressure even though he hadn't recorded any sacks in the first two preseason games. However, tonight he recorded 2 sacks and reminded everyone of the player who had 8 sacks in 2016.
The young guys weren't to be left out in this defensive clinic. Dorance Armstrong, Trysten Hill, Daniel Wise, and Joe Jackson all had half sacks. Rookie Safety Donovan Wilson had one of the plays of the night with a beautiful interception as he tapped both feet before heading out of bounds. Cornerback C.J. Goodwin, who will probably make the roster on his special teams ability, got in on the interception party himself high pointing a contested pass.
Dak Prescott was only 2 for 5 (11 for 14 in the preseason) but managed to escape what looked like a sure sack and roll to his left and threw a rope to Michael Gallup for a touchdown. The two have shown a lot of growth and chemistry during training camp, something that was missing at times in 2018.
Wide Receiver Devin Smith had 6 receptions for 79 yards while Cedrick Wilson snagged 3 passes on 4 targets. Both receivers are fighting for the final roster spots in the receiver group which they'll have to continue to do next week against the Buccaneers.
Tight End Marcus Lucas had a very solid game with 4 catches for 50 yards. He will definitely be a player to watch in the final preseason game before final cuts are made. Cooper Rush went 15 for 25 and further solidified his position as the primary backup to Prescott. Mike White was also solid going 6 for 9 and tossing a touchdown.
Special teams got in on the action themselves when Linebacker Joe Thomas recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown.
Now the Cowboys have only one more preseason game before the 2019 season begins. All that's left now is figuring out the last few roster spots and staying as healthy as possible. September 8th is right around the corner.
Cowboys Wishlist: Dress Rehearsal Edition
In the NFL, the third preseason week is often referred to as the "Dress Rehearsal." It's usually the week in which starters get the most playing time. That has changed lately, with plenty of teams deciding to take care of their key players instead of risking them on the field. However, the Dallas Cowboys have played their starters on their first two games and there's no reason to believe that will change versus the Texans today.
Here is my wishlist for the Cowboys vs Texans "Dress Rehearsal!" Let me know what your wishes for tonight's game are in the comments section below or tweet me @MauNFL!
Wish #1: Justin Phillips Locks Up a Roster Spot
Phillips has been one of the most surprising players this offseason and preseason. The Cowboys are set at linebacker, but Phillips has made sure to be a tough guy to cut. Last week, he had a remarkable interception against the Rams. Despite making a first step toward the line, he managed to adjust and made the play. He has followed it up with more plays in practice.
If he keeps it up, the Cowboys won't be able to cut him. He has the potential to be a force on special teams and a quality backup.
Wish #2: Devin Smith Makes Things Interesting
The battle for the final wide receiver spots is at full-go. Devin Smith has shined lately, and has risen as a serious candidate to make the roster. However, it seems like other wide receivers have the upper-hand as of now. Earlier this week, I made my Cowboys WR Power Rankings and had Devin Smith at #7.
His TD catch versus the Rams last week was pretty impressive, and I wish he makes a few more plays to make the debate all the more interesting.
Wish #3: Tony Pollard Does It Again
Fifth-round rookie Tony Pollard
stole was the show last weekend as he racked up 51 total yards (five carries, one catch) and a touchdown on Dallas' first offensive drive. He looked impressive as the starting running back, giving us just what we wanted to see.
While many have advertised him as a gadget player, Pollard proved he can actually be a "standard" RB. He ran between the tackles, showed power, balance and great vision. I'm ready to watch it again, this time versus the Texans.
Wish #4: Taco Charlton Shines Rushing The Passer
Taco Charlton has made a couple of plays in preseason on his third year with the Dallas Cowboys. Against the Rams, he batted down two passes and looked good separating from opposing offensive linemen. Charlton has gotten praise from some analysts during these first two preseason weeks.
But I want to watch some quality pass rush from his part. Right now, the Cowboys' roster counts with some promising players, including rookies Jalen Jelks and Joe Jackson. While they're currently below Taco, he must prove he belongs on the roster.
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