Brandon Weeden started Dallas Cowboys things off on a high note - constructing a promising opening drive before letting a snap get away from him and giving the ball back to San Diego in what would be a 17-7 preseason-starting loss.
Dustin Vaughan stepped in and did a nice job - going 12 of 18 for 106 yards. Vaughan held onto the ball a bit too long at times, but showed some Romo-esque playmaking ability by making something out of nothing a few times as well. Showers, who I don't really know much about, surprised me with his poise and pocket awareness. He also showed some ability to make plays with his legs, running twice for 18 yards and one first down.
Read more on CHQ's QB review here.
Gus Johnson received the majority of the team's rushing attempts - as expected - before getting sidelined with a shoulder injury. Johnson had 13 rushes for 35 rushing yards and a touchdown. While he didn't "wow" anyone, Johnson showed some toughness/physicality and played angry. He fought for tough yards on several occasions, including his 5-yard touchdown and a conversion on 4th & 1. Gus "The Bus" is still a long-shot to make the team, but he at least showing that he has enough promise to potentially earn a spot on the practice squad - depending on the extent of his shoulder injury, of course.
Bernie powers Gus Johnson into the endzone. https://t.co/ZsPBf575fm— Patrick Conn (@DraftCowboys) August 14, 2015
How unwilling is Gus to give up this dream?
And it turns out, Gus might be right. As there are different levels of shoulder separations, CHQ is told Gus will rest this weekend (while the three vets work towards their return) but possibly practice again during this camp.
The only other running back who got any carries for the Cowboys on Thursday was Lache Seastrunk. While Johnson showed some promise, Seastrunk showed pretty much nothing. He had 5 rushes for just 16 yards (barely over 3 YPC) and had a dropped pass that could have gone for a big gain in the 4th. Don't see Seastrunk sticking around too long. ... especially if Dallas fishes around this week for a different (deep-backup) running back body.
Tyrone Crawford didn't play much but that didn't stop him from making a big impact. Crawford stuffed Melvin Gordon for no gain and just a few plays later drove the OG into Phillip Rivers' lap. Crawford continued to excite fans with his potential to be an elite DT. This is going to be a huge year for Tyrone and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see him in the Pro Bowl when it's all said and done.
Tyrone Crawford doing Crawford things https://t.co/Y6UnZSn7F4— Patrick Conn (@DraftCowboys) August 14, 2015
Behind Tyrone Crawford, the Cowboys have been looking for their backup 3-tech. Well, it seems that they've found their guy in another Crawford - that is Jack Crawford. The native-Brit had a sack/forced fumble in the 2nd quarter on 3rd down as well as 3 tackles. The combination of Crawford & Crawford will give the Cowboys a disruptive duo in the middle of their defensive line.
First-round pick Byron Jones had a solid game as well. He gave up a catch to Keenan Allen in the 1st quarter, but a few hiccups are expected for rookies. However, Jones also led the team in tackles (5) and showed that he isn't afraid to get physical and to stick his nose in there to make the stop. Overall, it was a promising start to Jones's NFL career as he played both CB and safety.
Byron Jones not afraid to hit. https://t.co/Dm9ScLcPKA— Patrick Conn (@DraftCowboys) August 14, 2015
Corey White was the team's most impressive defensive back on Thursday. White had a several pass breakups and nearly came away with an interception on a couple of occasions. He also made a couple nice plays while playing free safety. White could prove to be a steal for the Cowboys in free agency.
Second-year wideout Devin Street was extremely impressive. After an inconsistent training camp, Street made some big plays on Thursday night - hauling in 3 catches for 45 yards. Street's first catch was an adjusting grab on the sideline that was just short of a 1st down, his 2nd was a leaping grab for a 20-yard gain, and his 3rd was a 21-yard reception to convert on 3rd & 17.
Expect to see Street take a step up this year. https://t.co/43tKOnbFfV— Patrick Conn (@DraftCowboys) August 14, 2015
If Street continues making plays like these, he may end up stealing a few snaps away from Terrance Williams after all.
Lucky Whitehead is another wide receiver who is fighting to make the team. He's had a solid camp and is the favorite to win the punt/kick returner job. Whitehead ran back a punt nearly 20-yards before coughing the ball up at the end of his return. However, he showed off his speed and elusiveness before the fumble occurred. He also had a kickoff return for 38 yards towards the end of the 2nd quarter.
"I was a little nervous,'' the kid admitted. "I've got to learn from it. I'm going to watch film and get better. I think I'll be fine."
We (and Lucky himself) predicted he'd be a Game 1 standout. We think he'll be fine, too. But you gotta hold onto the ball. Or else.
Gavin Escobar led the team with 5 catches for 47 yards - an impressive performance by the 3rd year tight end. The most impressive thing about Escobar on Thursday was how strong his hands are. Several of his receptions were in tight coverage with the defender all over him and Escobar was able to hold on and come down with the ball. His height and hands make him a matchup nightmare for defenders. I predicted last month that Escobar will have more receiving touchdowns than Witten in 2015 and Gavin just boosted my confidence that it could come true.
Meanwhile, James Hanna injured a knee that might sideline him for a week or so. Fish will have updates on that and much, much more live from Oxnard starting at noon (DFW time) on 105.3 The Fan's "Fishnato.''
Rookie OG La'el Collins was dominant in his first NFL performance. Granted, he most played against backups, but he still made the most of his opportunities. Collins created a big lane for Johnson on his rushing touchdown and straight-up manhandled several guys that he went up against. He's still a ways from stealing Ronald Leary's starting job, but he was able to close the gap between him and Leary a bit on Thursday.
Johnson follows La'el Collins https://t.co/AD3SFDmWL9— Patrick Conn (@DraftCowboys) August 14, 2015
With Collins' stock going up, another offensive lineman's stock dropped significantly. Darrion Weems had a pretty rough game. He was dominated by defensive linemen while playing at left tackle and was called for a holding penalty in the 4th quarter. If Weems wants to be the team's swing tackle, he'll have to make big improvements during these next 3 preseason games.
Second-round pick Randy Gregory also had an impressive NFL debut. He showed off his quickness and strong hands and he was able to consistently generate pressure and get in the backfield. His consistency finally payed off with just over a minute to go in the 3rd quarter when Gregory brought down Sorenson for a sack. With Hardy out for the first 4 regular season games, the Cowboys will need Gregory to continue causing problems for opposing quarterbacks. So far, things look very promising.
“Hopefully,” he said when asked if his sack can be the first of many. “If I was a betting man, I’d say yeah, but obviously there’s a process with that. I’m going to enjoy that process. I’m going to work hard. They’re hard earned. They don’t come easy. You saw that today going up against even the second team and third team. They don’t come easy.”
Gregory wasn't the only defensive end that showed promise. 2nd-year pass rusher Ben Gardner did a really nice job playing in his first game since October of 2013. Gardner has underrated athleticism and an extremely high motor. This was on display in the 3rd quarter when Gardner made a tackle for a loss and QB hurry on back-to-back plays to set up a punt. Has a chance to be a very solid rotational DE for the Cowboys this season.
Fish apparently had some sort of "pizza party'' with Gregory after the game and will have a Premium column on Randy this weekend.
Damien Wilson stood out big time. Made a big tackle for a loss on 3rd and 1, showing off his awareness and great instincts. People have said that Wilson could be this year's Anthony Hitchens, but based on what I've seen from college tape, camp and now a preseason game, I think he can be even better. That's not a knock on Hitchens, that's just a testament to how highly I think of Wilson.
All in, all, a lot to be fired up about.
Dez was all kinds of fired up after Street catch https://t.co/VLrQjz3AZ7— Patrick Conn (@DraftCowboys) August 14, 2015