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What to Watch For in Cowboys 1st Preseason Game

Jess Haynie

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Sean's Scout: RB Rod Smith Proving Valuable Offensive Threat

For the hardiest of die hard fans, tonight's preseason opener for the Dallas Cowboys probably feel like Christmas morning. We haven't seen the Cowboys play football since December 20th, 2017. Tonight, we'll finally see The Star back on the field as they visit the San Francisco 49ers.

Of course, the first thing you want from any preseason game is for everyone to make it out healthy. That's a given.

But beyond that, there are some specific things I'm excited and hoping to see tonight. Whether it's new arrivals, players in new roles, or just seeing how certain guys are developing, there's plenty to take in even if the score doesn't matter.

One guy I'm excited to see again is backup Running Back Rod Smith (pictured above). Last season, Smith took the backup role away from veteran Alfred Morris with more effective and explosive running. He also showed his versatility with 19 catches on the season, one of which was an 81-yard touchdown.

Smith's become a bit of an afterthought after Dallas drafted Alabama's Bo Scarbrough and then brought in Tavon Austin as a gadget player. And yes, there won't be a lot of carries for Rod or any other RB if Ezekiel Elliott is doing his thing.

But all it takes is one play for Rod Smith to suddenly become a very important part of the Cowboys' offense. If something were to befall Zeke, it's good to have confidence in the next man up. I look forward to seeing Rod get the rock again tonight.

Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, Sean Lee, Linebackers

Dallas Cowboys LBs Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, and Sean Lee

It's not often that a first-round pick isn't the most anticipated guy at his position, but Leighton Vander Esch is up against Jaylon Smith for the most intriguing linebacker in tonight's game. Cowboys fans are very excited to see both in action.

Jaylon likely won't play much tonight, perhaps no more than a single series, but any glimpse of him playing full-speed football is fun. Reports that Smith is at "100%" health have us all salivating at his potential; the chance that one of the elite talents of the 2016 draft class is about to unleash that upside on the NFL.

We should see more of the rookie tonight, and Leighton is plenty interesting on his own. Dallas made him the 19th overall pick in April's draft and all signs point to him being the starting middle linebacker this year.

Seeing Smith and Vander Esch on the field together will be especially intriguing. Sean Lee's remaining time in Dallas isn't long, perhaps not beyond this season, and these youngsters are the hoped-for future of the LB position.

While we're talking linebackers, the depth at the position will also be worth watching this preseason. Free agent signing Joe Thomas, the returning Justin March-Lillard, and veteran Damien Wilson will almost certainly be needed at some point this year. It will be nice to see them in action during preseason to know what security Dallas has behind its young prospects.

Cowboys Offense Finds Rhythm to End Minicamp, Hurns and Gallup Stand Out 1

Dallas Cowboys WR Michael Gallup

Speaking of security, perhaps no position on the team right now feels more vulnerable than receiver. Hopefully, some of the things we'll see tonight will help boost our confidence.

Third-round rookie Michael Gallup is one guy everybody is anxious to see tonight. From the day he was drafted, Gallup has been hyped up as having potential to immediately contribute, perhaps even being one of the team's top three receivers right away.

We won't get to see Gallup catching many balls from Dak Prescott tonight, but we should get a decent dose of him in the first half. He should look good against second string defensive backs, and hopefully get plenty of good passes from Cooper Rush to put his skills on display.

But the rookie isn't the only receiver to watch tonight. Veteran Deonte Thompson will make his Dallas debut and hopefully get similar opportunities to shine. We'll also get to see favorite bubble guys like Noah Brown and Lance Lenoir. Hopefully we'll even get to see some of Lenoir's work as a return man.

While Tavon Austin is another guy we're excited to see, we probably won't see much of how he'll be used in the regular season. The offense will be very vanilla in the preseason, and Tavon was brought in to add flavor. We could see him in some basic plays but those probably won't be indicative of his true role.

~ ~ ~

We could go on and on, couldn't we? Fresh faces at tight end, backup quarterbacks, new defensive linemen, the young safeties; there is so much we've been waiting all these months to finally see on the field rather than on paper.

The first preseason game may not let us get much of the starters, so guys like Xavier Woods or Taco Charlton probably won't get to show you how much they've developed this offseason. We may have to wait for the third game for that.

But tonight will have plenty of its own intrigue and storylines. We'll be looking for things going in, and we'll have some unexpected things to discuss once it's done.

One thing we know for sure, though, is that football is back!

Kind of.



Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

Game Notes

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys Against Redskins

Brian Martin

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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys Against Redskins 5

Well, here we are again. The Dallas Cowboys lose another close game, but this time it might hurt a little bit more since it was to the division rival the Washington Redskins. This was definitely a game that could've gone either way since neither team played well, but in the end things just happened to go the Redskins way this time.

One or two things going just a little differently for the Cowboys likely would've been enough to secure the victory Sunday afternoon and I'm not even talking about Brett Maher's missed field goal. For instance, what if Quarterback Dak Prescott would've taken the safety instead of fumbling and letting the Redskins defense score a TD. That mistake it definitely hurt!

I could sit here and play the "what if" game with you all day, but we have nearly two weeks to do just that since the Cowboys are now on their bye week. Today, I want to share with you The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly from the first of two meetings between these two teams. Enjoy!

The Good

Michael Gallup

Dallas Cowboys WR Michael Gallup

In yet another sloppy performance on the road, there was very little good to take away from the first meeting of the 2018 season between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins. I think the one thing I will remember the most, in a positive way, from this matchup is Wide Receiver Michael Gallup's long touchdown pass from Quarterback Dak Prescott.

Michael Gallup continues to make plays when given the opportunity. In another offense with a better play caller and maybe even a better QB, Gallup would likely be in the running for Offensive Rookie of the Year, but has failed to make much of an impact with the Cowboys so far. Hopefully that will change after the bye week though.

If I'm the Cowboys coaching staff, I'm going to find ways to get Michael Gallup more involved in the passing game coming out off the bye week. Other than Cole Beasley, he is the only one who is having much of an impact and definitely needs to see more targets. I would make that a top priority moving forward.

The Bad

Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott

There is so much that I could put in this section, but I think the worst thing that happened Sunday afternoon when the Dallas Cowboys lost to the Redskins was the fact that we will have nearly 2 weeks of having to listen and talk about it. For me, that is the bad!

Yes, you read that right. Now that the Cowboys are heading into their bye week, we have two entire weeks to dissect and analyze everything that has gone right or wrong this year, especially what happened against the Redskins since it's the freshest in our minds.

This was definitely a tough loss, and one that could come back and hurt the Cowboys when it comes to playoff seeding at the end of the season. Too many mental mistakes and penalties definitely assisted in the letdown, but in the end they just weren't good enough to win on the road. That's absolutely something that needs to change since they haven't won a road game all season.

The Ugly

Ezekiel Elliott

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott

I'm going to have to go with both the offense and defense for the Dallas Cowboys as the ugly against the Redskins Sunday afternoon. Neither unit really played all that well, even though they both probably played well enough to win the game if just a few things would've gone just a little bit differently.

On the offensive side of the ball the Cowboys couldn't get anything going for nearly the entire game. The Redskins did an excellent job of bottling up Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott couldn't get anything going in the passing game until the fourth quarter. They did have a few big plays called back due to holding penalties, but overall it was a pretty sloppy performance.

Defensively things weren't much better. The Cowboys have been pretty good at stopping the run this season, but for some reason couldn't find an answer of how to stop Adrian Peterson. The defense probably played better than the Cowboys offense, stopping the Redskins in the red zone on several occasions and only giving up one TD, but in the end it just wasn't enough.

What is your good, bad, and ugly for the Dallas Cowboys against the Redskins?



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Game Notes

WAS 20, DAL 17: Cowboys Make 1 Too Many Mistakes

Kevin Brady

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WAS 20, DAL 17: Cowboys Make 1 Too Many Mistakes

Late in the fourth quarter the Cowboys faced a critical third down, trailing by just 3 points. As they did all night long, the Washington Redskins brought pressure, but quarterback Dak Prescott stood in the pocket this time and delivered a strike to Cole Beasley for a huge first down.

Cowboys fans rejoiced thinking the team might be on their way to a game winning drive. Then, we all noticed the yellow flag on the ground.

Holding, offense number 52.

The very next play Dak Prescott took what was one of the worst sack fumbles you'll ever see in his own end zone, and the Redskins extended their lead to 10 points. As Prescott tends to do, the Cowboys battled back late and got themselves in a position to send the game to overtime if Brett Maher could nail a 47 yard field goal.

Snap infraction.

Snap infraction. Rather than Maher attempting a more make-able 47 yard field goal, he was backed up to 52 yards, where he would miss the game-tying field goal. All of this resulted in an absolutely heartbreaking loss for the now 3-4 Dallas Cowboys, 20-17.

For a Cowboys team that had a chance to take over first place in the NFC East with a win, today's performance is extremely disheartening.

Other Notes

  • DeMarcus Lawrence hasn't been getting the pass rush we hoped to see, but he continued to be an absolute menace against the run today. He ended the game with 7 tackles, 3 of them for loss.
  • Dak Prescott's inconsistencies as a quarterback, the inability of any non-Cole Beasley wide out to beat man coverage, and the regression of the offensive line continued to handcuff the offense today. Their play simply wasn't good enough for most of the game.
  • Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie put together another impressive game, and this defensive back group (mostly the cornerbacks) seems to improve week to week.
  • Sean Lee looked healthy today, and made a key third down stop in the fourth quarter, knocking Alex Smith out of bounds and giving the offense a final chance to win or tie.
  • Ezekiel Elliott and this run game failed the Cowboys today. Elliott had just 34 yards rushing on 15 attempts and the offensive line was dominated all night.
  • The Cowboys have their bye this week before hosting the 3-4 Tennessee Titans on Monday Night Football.



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Game Notes

Cowboys Wishlist: Big Return on Special Teams?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys Against Jaguars

The last time the Dallas Cowboys played a football game, they made many of their fans' dreams come true. This happened by beating the Jacksonville Jaguars 40-7 in a dominant performance against a top NFL defense. Can they make our wishes come true in back-to-back weeks? I don't know about walking away with another 33-point win, but we're obviously putting up a Cowboys Wishlist as every gameday.

Let's hope they come true. As always, I hope you enjoy this week's edition of Cowboys Wishlist!

Wish #1: First Road Win of the Season

I mean, we obviously are wishing for a win. But this one right here would be a very important one, so I'm including it as a wish. The Cowboys haven't won any game on the road this year and doing so in Washington against a hated NFC East rival like the Redskins will be huge for this 3-3 Dallas Cowboys team.

Last Sunday's victory over the Jaguars might have been the moment when the Cowboys "turned the corner" to become a winning team in 2018. It's time to go on the road and beat a 3-2 divisional foe to prove that is the case.

Wish #2: Beasley Keeps It Up

The Cowboys' MVP last weekend was Cole Beasley. He was the only wide receiver on the team with more than one catch, ending his day with nine receptions for 101 yards and two touchdowns. It was one of the best performances in his career yet.

The Cowboys need a WR to step up. Other than Cole, no one else is stepping up in the passing game. Beasley did so last Sunday but, can he consistently perform well enough to keep the offense going throughout the year? It remains to be seen.

For the long term, it might be better to have an outside, taller receiver be your #1 guy, but in the meantime, Beasley is the guy Dak Prescott should be targeting the most.

Lookout Deshaun Watson, QB Sack Leader DeMarcus Lawrence is Coming!

Wish #3: The Sack Hat Trick

Ok, I might be asking for too much here. But hear me out. The Dallas Cowboys defensive line is getting stronger and stronger. Just last week, David Irving returned to the field and got limited playing time. Although he didn't get a sack, his impact was felt since his first snap on the field.

Randy Gregory also saw limited playing time but was able to sack Blake Bortles once. And well, DeMarcus Lawrence is still playing at an elite level this year. How epic would it be for each of these three great pass rushers walk away with a sack?

Three headhunters, three sacks. Let's go!

Wish #4: Keep Redskins Under 10 Points

The Cowboys' defense is no joke. They're allowing 17.2 points per game, which is second best in the entire NFL right now. They're ready to face a Redskins' team that is ranked as the 25th offense in scoring. On top of that, the Redskins' receivers are pretty banged up.

Jon Machota on Twitter

3 of Washington's top 4 receivers (Chris Thompson, Paul Richardson, Jamison Crowder) not expected to play vs. Cowboys https://t.co/9uOkA7Pzhv

This could end up being the second consecutive big win for the Cowboys, specially because the defense should have a very good day.

Wish #5: Big Return on Special Teams

The last time the Dallas Cowboys played the Washington Redskins, Ryan Switzer returned a punt 83 yards into the end zone in what will remain his biggest highlight from his short career with the Dallas Cowboys.

Dallas Cowboys Wishlist at Philadelphia Eagles

Dallas Cowboys WR Ryan Switzer (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

We haven't seen much excitement on special teams this year. Switzer is now a Pittsburgh Steeler, so Tavon Austin has gotten most of the punt returns. However, that's bound to change after he sustained an unfortunate injury. Deonte Thompson has taken care of the kick returns but nothing special has happened either.

I wish that changes today. With Austin out, I wonder if it'll be Cole Beasley or someone else fielding punts for Dallas but whoever it is, things will be spiced up. Through 6 weeks, the Cowboys longest punt return has been for 22 yards and the longest kick return for 35.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys Wishlist: Big Return on Special Teams?" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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