The Dallas Cowboys 2018 preseason is in the books, and after last night in Houston, this is very much for the better. Fourth preseason games can be a slog to get through, as the Cowboys conceded their final eight quarters of exhibition football by resting nearly all their starters.
At no point in the NFL season is there a greater contrast between what fans and players are looking for than in this final preseason game however. While Cowboys Nation couldn’t wait for the clock to tick down, plenty of players were looking to make a last impression, as some will inevitably never wear the star again.
This sense of urgency on both sides does provide some individual efforts worth evaluating. This is exactly what we’re doing in this final tune-up version of Sean’s Scout!
- The Cowboys offensive line depth is once again a concern entering the regular season, but I thought backup Tackle Cam Fleming showed his best consistency all summer.
Fleming is likely the Cowboys most important depth piece on the OL. In his first year with the Cowboys, the veteran Fleming is the team’s insurance for Tyron Smith – who Dallas couldn’t function without a year ago.
The same can be said for much of the preseason thanks to the interior offensive line depth. In previous weeks, Fleming did have his struggles against speed on the outside.
This wasn’t the case against the Texans, as Fleming played with the consistent technique and hand placement that the Cowboys can only hope they’ll get in the regular season should the former New England Patriot be called upon.
Elsewhere on the offensive line, this was not a game to write home about for Jacob Alsadek, Kadeem Edwards, and Damien Mama. I saw all three get overpowered at the point of attack, as well as struggle to get to their spots as pulling guards.
- Dorance Armstrong finished off one of the most impressive preseasons by a Cowboys rookie with another great effort, recording one sack from the right defensive end position.
As I watched Armstrong mix in a number of rush moves and have success with a few of them, I couldn’t help but think all the way back to the Cowboys selection of Taco Charlton in lat year’s draft. The first round pick has not progressed as quickly as some have hoped, although the Cowboys did him no favors by starting his career as a weak side rusher.
Charlton’s progress will be something to watch closely in 2018, but so too will be that of fourth round steal Dorance Armstrong. The fourteenth defensive end taken in this year’s draft, Armstrong has a chance to outplay a significant number of top prospects and contribute right away.
His ability to comfortably transition between rush moves in pursuit of the quarterback is rare, and something he didn’t show on tape in his final year at Kansas. Drafted for his potential and NFL-ready traits, Armstrong’s ability to play in rotation with Randy Gregory at right end will give the Cowboys a fearsome pass rush.
On his third quarter sack, Armstrong executed a perfect arm over move to disengage at the level of the quarterback and finish the play. It was a deserving result for Armstrong, who was disruptive all over the field in Houston.
- Speaking of effort plays from Cowboys defensive linemen, it was good to see Jihad Ward finish a play with his sack of Joe Webb.
Ward has been a disappointment at the 3T position since being traded for during the draft. Rod Marinelli was excited to bring Ward in and tap into his potential as a defensive tackle, but the former Oakland Raider has not brought any consistency.
While this has opened the door for players like Antwaun Woods and Datone Jones to earn more snaps, Ward should still factor heavily into the Cowboys rotation at DT, especially without David Irving for the first four games.
Having worked on his hand usage all offseason, Ward was finally rewarded with a sack as he overpowered his man and drove him into Webb.
- It sure feels like Jourdan Lewis is the only Cowboys secondary player that’s been negatively effected by the addition of Kris Richard, as he hasn’t been able to find his 2017 form.
With the exception of Lewis, it was another strong night for the Cowboys cornerbacks when it comes to playing physical on the boundary and rallying to tackle. In just nine snaps, the second year cornerback out of Michigan was not able to hide though, as Lewis was called for a pass interference penalty on a play he appeared hesitant on.
Lewis has not been able to play with the same edge he had as a standout rookie, losing ground to Anthony Brown as the team’s slot corner.
Richard’s defense has not allowed Lewis to play in press coverage as much, causing him to be late reacting to the ball. There’s still a lot to be written about the play of the Cowboys promising defense this season, and Lewis is a good enough player to force his way into the action at some time, but right now the Cowboys depth at CB is slightly more concerning due to his struggles.
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By the end of the day tomorrow, the Cowboys will have their 53-man roster to take into Carolina for week one against the Panthers. This preseason finale against the Texans might not be the deciding factor for most of it, but it was still a chance for Dallas to take the field and evaluate their team, something they can do while being pleased with the play of several key players.
Add in the starters in a week’s time, and the Cowboys will be expecting to put these final two preseason losses (finishing 0-4) behind them in a hurry.