The preseason isn't a time to be worried about the won-loss record or to be checking the standings. Sure, you want your team to perform well and score points, but the biggest priority in the preseason is to answer questions you've had about your roster. Last night against the San Francisco 49ers, the Dallas Cowboys began to get some of the answers they were looking for.
With several players looking to make statements or separate themselves in position battles, the Dallas Cowboys got some good performances from several players, even if the score didn't reflect it.
Blake Jarwin, Tight End
With Jason Witten sitting out of preseason action for week one, Blake Jarwin got the start and significant playing time this week. Jarwin picked up right where he left off in the 2018 season with four receptions on five targets for 51 yards. One of those receptions was a 33-yard catch and run that included 22 yards after the catch.
He continues to display really good hands and route-running ability. With only three tight ends on the roster not named Jason Witten, the Dallas Cowboys will continue to give Jarwin a lot of work in the preseason. For a developing player, every snap matters, but he continues to be a reliable target for the Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks.
Cooper Rush, Quarterback
Despite being the primary backup quarterback for the team each of the last two seasons, there was a significant training camp battle happening between Cooper Rush and Mike White. On the outside, many questioned whether it was wise to rely on either quarterback as the team's backup to Dak Prescott for 2019. On Saturday night against the San Francisco 49ers, Cooper Rush had a really solid response to the backup quarterback question.
On the night, Rush went 16/26 for 142, no touchdowns, and no interceptions. It wasn't great, by any stretch of the imagination and the team struggled a bit on third down, but Rush moved the team into field goal range three times and came away with six points.
He completed 61.5% of his passes and only had a 5.5 yards per attempt, which on the surface is a little underwhelming. However, two of his attempts were drops and three passes were deemed thrown away (per Pro Football Focus), which gives him a true completion percentage of 76% and a yards per attempt of 6.76. If you had to have your backup quarterback start a game for you, you'd be thrilled with those numbers if you were the coaching staff.
Mike White didn't have a great game, but his protection was significantly worse than what Cooper Rush received. Still, Rush was able to avoid sacks, avoid turnovers, and generally had more success moving the team down the field.
With his performance, Rush took a significant step forward in the quarterback competition. It's his to lose at this point.
Luke Gifford, Linebacker
Before Luke Gifford went down with an injury, he was having a really nice game playing with the reserves.
In the running game, he had a really nice run stop. On first down, he read the play well and snaked through the blocking as it was moving upfield and found the running back for a nice wrap-up tackle that immediately brought the runner to the ground. Gifford looked so natural and fluid in his movements to get to the ball carrier.
Later on that same drive, Gifford came away with a very nice interception when he got his hands just above shoulder height to come down with the pick.
Despite going down with an ankle injury, Gifford, who had been having a really strong training camp, made a significant impression in his short preseason stint. He sounds like a guy that the team will look to make room for on the roster when he returns.
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There were several other players who had good or solid games that deserve mentioning, including Cedrick Wilson (3 rec 36 yards), Devin Smith (3 rec 54 yards), Tony Pollard (4 carries for 16 yards), Chidobe Awuzie (Tackle for loss and pass break up), and it was really nice to see Travis Frederick back in the lineup.
The Cowboys had a solid start to the preseason and we'll get three more games before they start playing football for real.
Who were your standout players from week 1 of the preseason?
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.
Cowboys’ Taryn Christion Gets Time at QB; More Coming?
Last night was the first time we've seen Taryn Christion, the Dallas Cowboys' fourth quarterback on the current depth chart, actually playing the position in preseason. Could we see more of Christion at QB in this Thursday's finale, and at what point should Mike White be worried?
Signed just a few days before training camp began, Christion has been tried at running back, receiver, and various special teams units while the Cowboys were in Oxnard. But last week he started getting more time at quarterback, and last night's win over the Houston Texans saw him playing a few drives at QB to close the game out.
Sure, Taryn came in fourth behind White in the rotation. But that Dallas thought to give him reps in that game, the critical dress rehearsal game, is telling.
Jason Garrett doesn't get cute with rotations and playing time. He's old school, and there's meaning in every decision he makes about when and how guys get time in preseason.
Ironically, the decision came following Mike White's best preseason game this year. He went 6-of-9 for 56 yards and a touchdown, plus avoided any sacks or turnovers.
Rather than let White keep building on that, though, Dallas pulled him for Taryn Christion in the 4th quarter. It seemed as if the Cowboys were determined to get him some time at QB.
An even better showcase will come this Thursday night. The Cowboys host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the final preseason game; we know Dak Prescott won't be playing, and the team may even protect Cooper Rush with limited time on the field.
Dallas likely intends to give Christion some significant playing time on Thursday. And to help make that easier, they played him last night to get some of those butterflies out of his system.
No, Taryn Christion probably isn't going to make the 53-man roster. Neither is Mike White, for that matter. It feels like the battle for the number-three QB is more about the practice squad now.
But whatever the case, the battle seems to be heating up. Dallas appears more invested in Christion now as a quarterback than at any other point since he arrived; some added intrigue for Thursday's final preseason game.
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.
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