You can only tell so much from preseason football. Evaluating talent can be difficult given the players around and across from them. But the Dallas Cowboys' 17-9 loss to the San Francisco 49ers tonight made one thing clear; they should be very concerned about their kicker.
Brett Maher went 3-of-4 on the night on field goals, which isn't bad on paper, but missed from just 35 yards out and barely made a 40-yarder before that. Reports of shaky play from training camp, and the same short-range deficiencies we saw in 2018, were evident in tonight's game.
Worrying about Maher isn't new. We've been talking about it all offseason, given that Brett finished last year just 25th among NFL kickers in total FG accuracy.
Despite these red flags, the Cowboys have yet to sign Matt Bryant or any other free agent kicker still available. With a day off between now and Monday practice, perhaps they do add some competition for when business resumes in Oxnard.
This isn't about one kick or even one game. Brett Maher's performance tonight was consistent with a trend that we've been watching for close to a year.
If Dallas doesn't take it seriously, it could be a season-changing weakness in 2019.
- It was a short night for the starting offense, who only played a single series that ended with a field goal. Dak Prescott went 4-for-4 and had 23 passing yards, while Tony Pollard debuted with 16 rushing yards on four carries. A 26-yard pass interference penalty drawn by Michael Gallup did most of the work on the drive.
- The starting defense forced two punts to open the game. With Byron Jones out, Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis all made big plays in limited time. The Cowboys may be as deep at CB this year as they've been in decades.
- Rough night for WR Jon'Vea Johson, who's been hyped up this offseason but had two bad drops. One of them was on a 3rd-down play that would've converted the down and perhaps gone for big yardage.
- Perhaps hijacking the hype train from Johnson tonight was Cedrick Wilson, who made a few nice catches and was also seen fielding punts. The Cowboys appeared to be trying to find a special teams role for Wilson, which is a pretty good sign that they hope to keep him on the 53-man roster.
- If not some drops by receivers, backup QB Cooper Rush might've had a big night. He was still impressive overall but missed out on some even bigger plays, including a slight overthrow to Blake Jarwin deep down the middle of the field. But overall, Rush looked composed and delivers good throws.
- It was a much tougher outing for Mike White, who had a hard time finding rhythm with poor pass protection. White showed he could deliver some good balls when given time, but the second-year QB just didn't get much opportunity to shine.
- Rookie LB Luke Gifford followed up a nice read and tackle with an open-field interception on consecutive 2nd Quarter plays. But before halftime, he wound up leaving the game with some kind of ankle injury. Hopefully he's able to get back quickly, because Gifford was making a case for the roster.
- It was a mixed bag for the oft-maligned Taco Charlton. The first time you noticed him was getting completely fooled on play-action, but he did show up with some good pressures later on. Still, we're not seeing what you'd expect from a former 1st-round pick in his third year.
- Blake Jarwin is going to make big plays as a receiver this year. He's got the size and the speed to consistently create mismatches.
- Rookie Donovan Wilson had a nice INT in the second half, making the read and jumping the route to snag the ball. It's one thing when the ball lands in your lap (e.g. Jeff Heath), but Wilson earned that pick with good vision and reaction.