The Dallas Cowboys are on their way to returning from Oxnard, ending the California portion of their training camp with a visit to the Arizona Cardinals on Friday. The team's second preseason game ended in a 16-13 win for the home team, on a last-second field goal by Matt Prater.
Prater converted two field goals in the final three minutes to give the Cardinals a win in their first preseason outing. The Cowboys managed just one first down with Ben DiNucci under center on their final drive, unable to run out the clock and return to Frisco with a win.
Unlike last week's game against the Steelers, they also didn't escape without injury as DT Neville Gallimore, WR Malik Turner, TE Sean McKeon, and OT Ty Nsekhe all exited with injuries. Here are a few other notes on the Cowboys latest four quarters:
- For the second straight game, the Cowboys “first-team” defense came away with an early turnover, and once again it was rookie LB Micah Parsons getting involved on the play. Lined up at MIKE on the play, Parsons was in on the forced fumble with Keanu Neal. Parsons' ability to process plays quickly and look comfortable lining up at multiple positions has stood out in his first two exhibition games. Exactly who the Cowboys will take off the field to get Parsons snaps isn't clear, but his play speed jumps out as the team works through it's depth chart at LB.
- After telling the Dallas media that he's viewed as the Cowboys deep threat WR, Michael Gallup was certainly played that way by the Cardinals on his fourth-and-ten conversion. The Cowboys desperately needed to keep their offense on the field, and did so on their second drive when Gilbert made a strong throw to Gallup on a comeback route. The big-bodied Gallup sold the route up field well before coming back for the ball on the sideline.
- Playing with a patchwork defensive line, the Cowboys linebackers and secondary did a good job rallying in run support. For a defense that lost contain on far too many run plays a year ago, Dan Quinn has this defense reacting well and setting the edge. Their interior depth at DT didn't improve following the game, as they lost Neville Gallimore to an elbow injury.
- Speaking of defensive tackle play, rookie Osa Odighizuwa may have played himself out of fourth quarter preseason snaps going forward. The Cowboys are excited about his versatility to play up and down the line. Odighizuwa's strength allows him to push the pocket and force QBs off their spot, but also hold the line of scrimmage and allow others to rush. The Cowboys needed to come away from the draft with multiple starters on defense, and at this point in the preseason it looks like all three of their first picks could see starters playing time.
- I've mentioned here before that the one thing missing from the Cowboys WR room may be big-play ability beyond their top three starters. Cedrick Wilson reminded us of his speed on a 34 yard catch from Garrett Gilbert. Clearly the Cowboys best option behind Dak Prescott, Gilbert dropped the ball in perfectly for Wilson to separate and run under it. Wilson may not get the chance to catch live passes from Prescott this preseason, but has proven to be a target Cowboys QBs look for whether he plays in the slot or outside.
- Defensive ends Ron'Dell Carter and Dorance Armstrong continue to provide solid depth. Carter had an inside move for a sack, while Armstrong ended a Cardinals' drive in the red zone with a sack from left end. Should the Cowboys be able to force opponents behind the chains, they're set up well to generate a pass rush featuring speed off the edge. It is their run defense that expects to be tested on early downs, where the Cowboys can welcome DeMarcus Lawrence back on the field starting with the remaining practices at home.
- Though it wasn't enough to earn a win, it was good to see the Cowboys find the end zone for the first time this preseason. Ben DiNucci's first touchdown pass as a Cowboy went to Brandon Smith on a crossing route. This pass concept has become a staple for Kellen Moore in scoring range, and the Cowboys backup offense executed it to take the lead in the fourth.
A team's third preseason game is often called a dress rehearsal, with big name starters making an appearance before being put on ice the following week. While the Cowboys next preseason game will be their third, they have a fourth to manage thanks to their opener in Canton. Some starters may still get more playing time against the Texans next Saturday, but it's the status of players like Prescott and Amari Cooper that will be the focus leading up to week one.
Look for injury updates and more reaction to the Cowboys preseason game at the Cardinals right here at Inside The Star all week long.