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.