With Cowboys Nation still reeling from the Ezekiel Elliott suspension news yesterday, the team hopped down from Oxnard to Los Angeles to face the Rams in their second of five preseason games. In a fumble-filled game that felt more like hot potato than football, the music finally stopped on the Cowboys as they fell short 13-10.
The story of this game for the Cowboys wasn't the fumbling (four for Dallas, five for Los Angeles) or a meaningless preseason loss. The major takeaway was the play of undrafted rookie quarterback Cooper Rush, who was easily the most impressive Cowboys passer on the night.
Outplaying both of his veteran teammates, Kellen Moore and Luke McCown, Rush entered the game to start the third quarter and put up 104 yards and a touchdown on 9-of-11 passing. His touchdown throw to Rico Gathers was perfection; a 25-yard beauty dropped over the defender and right into Gathers' arms as he entered the endzone.
While Moore and McCown both looked rattled at times and had poor delivery on some throws, Rush built on last week's decent debut with a far stronger showing. This isn't to say that he's anywhere close to taking someone's job, but Cooper may be changing our assumptions about how many quarterbacks the Cowboys will keep in 2017.
- It was very encouraging to see how Darren McFadden performed tonight after last week's slow start, especially given what's happening with Elliott. McFadden showed the same athletic ability we remember for 2015 as he got 28 yards on six carries and had one 8-yard reception. It probably helped that Travis Frederick and Zack Martin were playing to start the game, as opposed to last week.
- Rico Gathers continues to make noise, finishing the night with four catches for 47 yards and the aforementioned touchdown. We saw him playing out of the typical tight end spots but also lining up in the slot, and his mismatch problems for the opposition were clear. The question for Rico isn't if he'll make the team this year, but just how high up the TE depth chart he'll be.
- Taco Charlton got to unburden himself a little with a nice sack on Sean Mannion during the first quarter. Taco had little trouble powering through the offensive tackle and getting a free run at Mannion, taking him just in front of his own goal line. After all of the negativity coming from the Hall of Fame game, it was great to see Charlton get some positive attention.
- Sixth-round rookie WR Noah Brown was having a nice showing on three catches for 41 yards but lost some points for an unforced, open-field fumble. With the top-five WR spots seemingly decided for Dallas, Brown and the other prospects can't afford many bad steps if they want to force the team to keep six guys.
- Another sixth-round guy, safety Xavier Woods, led the team with seven tackles and was visible through the game. Teammate Kavon Frazier wasn't far behind, though, with five tackles and a nice return on a fumble recovery. We've yet to see anything out of veteran Robert Blanton, giving the younger players the edge right now for the backup roles.
- While we're excited for Ryan Switzer's debut for many reasons, perhaps my biggest one right now is to see a new kick and punt returner. Lance Lenoir is just a camp body, and he plays like it.
- While his pass protection left much to be desired, QB Luke McCown's play wasn't far behind. He didn't look good on the throws that weren't affected by pressure. Granted, he's only been with the team for less than two weeks. However, he still takes up a roster spot that could be going to a younger guy with upside.
- Rod Smith did not get to build on last week's performance, only getting one carry and one catch in the game. There weren't a lot of carries to go around anyway; McFadden and Alfred Morris combined for just 11 rushing attempts themselves. This was more likely an anomaly due to the flow of the game than any issue with Smith.