After a tough loss in the first “real” game of 2016 the Dallas Cowboys will be going back to the drawing boards for Friday’s matchup against the Miami Dolphins. The Cowboys could not pull this one out but there was a lot of optimism that came with this game. Some people will look at the final score of the game and not realize how good the first team and second team offense and defense played.
First off Lucky Whitehead wow. Whitehead took the opening kickoff to the house for a 101 yard touchdown that’s the first of many positives that came out in this game. Last year the Cowboys weren’t terrible but by no means great in the kickoff/punt return category. Seeing Lucky use his speed and vision to the best of his ability is a big positive for the team. Dan Bailey was also perfect on the night. He did miss an extra point early in the game but luckily a penalty on the Rams gave him a second chance. One thing the special teams struggled with was punt and kickoff return coverage. That must change before the Boys see a familiar face in Dwayne Harris week one at AT&T Stadium.
Dak Prescott was handed the reigns to the offense and boy did he take advantage of that opportunity with Tony Romo having the night off. Prescott finished with a stat line of 10 for 12 passing for 139 yards and 2 touchdowns and 2 rushing attempts for 14 yards. The two in completions were drops made by second year player Geoff Swaim.
Not only did Dak make the easy underneath throws that we all knew he’d be good at but his first touchdown pass to Dez Bryant was impressive. Dez ran the same back shoulder fade route we’ve become accustomed to seeing when the Cowboys are in the red zone. Dak threw a perfect ball at Bryant’s back shoulder and Dez came down with the ball in the end zone for the Cowboys first touchdown of the night. His second touchdown of the night may have been ever more impressive. Prescott threw a beautiful deep ball to Terrance Williams who was running a double move route. Dak did a great job of holding the safety in the middle of the field with his eyes and a pump fake then dropped a dime to Williams for six.
For his first career NFL game there was not one single negative I could give Dak Prescott. Jameill Showers was given the second half to try and move the ball with a lot of the third and fourth team players. Showers looked good as well but didn’t have as much help as Prescott had in the first half. Showers final stat line was 8 for 16 passing with no touchdowns and 1 rushing attempts for 17 yards. Showers made good plays with his arm and his feet. For a second year player with little NFL quarterback experience Jameill performed well with the limited assistance he received. Looks like giving these young guys a shot to earn the QB2 role was a smart move by the Jones’s and coaching staff.
The Cowboys didn’t run the ball as much as expected. The offense only ran eighteen rushing plays in all four quarters. Darius Jackson had the most carries with 12 and gained 47 yards off of them. Alfred Morris saw the second most carries with 3 attempts for 11 yards. The other rushes were from fullback Rod Smith and wide receiver Lucky Whitehead. Jackson had some good rushes throughout the game using his patience, vision, and speed to break off impressive runs.
The receiving group was solid for the most part. Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, and Brice Butler did good work in the limited work they received. Devin Street and rookie wideout Chris Brown both made a couple of nice catches in the second half. Andy Jones dropped two big passes by Showers and that was disappointing to see. Geoff Swaim struggled as well dropping two passes early from Prescott.
In the first half you couldn’t have asked the offense to do any better. From the quarterback to the offensive line the first half was great. It got tough when the third and fourth team players came in the game. Is that something to worry about? No, because a majority of the guys who were in the game late in the fourth quarter when the Rams made their comeback won’t be on this team.
The defense had a similar night as the offense. The first half they looked good but lost it in the second. Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr started at corner and did a great job in the few series they played. Anthony Brown got the start as the slot and was solid. Brown gave up a few completions early but was right there to make the tackles. Brown also had a nice run stop in the first half. You rarely see rookie cornerbacks willing to stick their nose in and make tackles in the second level.
Cedric Thornton and Shaneil Jenkins were the defensive lineman who stood out the most. Thornton’s jump off the ball was incredible last night and it was consistent. It seemed on just about every play that Thornton was in the backfield just as the ball was snapped. Jenkins was the only player to register a sack and he also is the newest member of the Cowboys defensive line. Getting production from a player who is as new as Jenkins is a plus in my book.
The defense had two turnovers in the game that’s also a really good sign coming off a historically bad season in the turnover column. Mark Nzeocha intercepted after Jared Goff was drilled on a blitz play by Derek Akunne in the second quarter. Deji Olatoye intercepted a pass by Sean Mannion in the third quarter.
Overall the defense had a decent performance. Holding the Rams offense to only seven points in the first half is no small task even without Gurley in the backfield. While some starters did play, about half of the likely starters did not. Orlando Scandrick, Sean Lee, Tyrone Crawford and Demarcus Lawrence did not play. Also some key role players did not see the field. Terrell McClain, Maliek Collins, Charles Tapper, and Justin Durant.
Ideally you’d like for the scoreboard to show a win for the Cowboys but it’s preseason and you don’t really win one of those contest, you survive them. The first and second team offense and defense were up 24-7 at half and no one was injured. That is a great first game in my opinion. Now let’s just wait and see what the team looks like with Tony Romo, Ezekiel Elliott, Jason Witten, and all the defensive players I listed above before we make any further evaluations.
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