- Saturday night marked the beginning of the Dallas Cowboys preseason campaign. It would also be the first time we have seen an L.A.-based franchise play a home game in the NFL since 1994, when both the Raiders and the Rams left the city for seemingly greener pastures. However, considering the Cowboys would be without Tony Romo and first-round draft pick Ezekiel Elliott, and the fact that it is in fact preseason football, we won’t really get our full view of what the Cowboys will be like until the home opener on September 11th. But Rams 28, Cowboys 24 (review our First-and-10 analysis here) was an event, for 89,000 folks at the LA Coliseum, for a national TV audience, and for a host of job-seeking Cowboys.
- Things opened up with a bang for the Cowboys, when Lucky Whitehead returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. The Cowboys special teams was hit-or-miss last season in the return game, so the hope here is that the ‘Boys have finally shored up that part of special teams. The coverage on the following kick was a bit shaky however, so there is still some work to be done there.
- The Cowboys defense would take the field first, and face Case Keenum and Benny Cunningham, instead of Todd Gurley and top overall pick QB Jared Goff. The Cowboys defense would stonewall the Rams offense thanks to a false start penalty on the Rams, and force a three-and-out. It was a strong first showing for the Cowboys defense, which got to the ball quickly and tackled with effect.
- The Cowboys offense would begin things behind fourth-round draft pick Dak Prescott out of Mississippi State, who got the start in place of Tony Romo. Prescott looked sharp on his opening drive, which was highlighted by a back shoulder pass to Dez Bryant, which Bryant pulled down in electrifying fashion. Prescott finished the drive 6/7, including a touchdown pass to Dez, which was every bit as impressive as the back shoulder throw that he pulled down earlier in the drive.
- Alfred Morris got the start at running back for the injured (well, "bubblewrapped'') Elliott, and looked strong running between the tackles, and catching passes out of the backfield. In conjunction with Zeke, Morris should provide the Cowboys with one of the best running back tandems in the NFL. ... though CHQ continues to be told the Cowboys think of Zeke as a three-down back.
- The Rams second possession on offense would prove to be a bit more difficult for the Cowboys defense. Keenum guided the Rams down the field relatively easily, and guided his offense right down the field for a touchdown. The drive was capped off by a 14-yard touchdown run by Benny Cunningham, on a play in which the Cowboys exhibited some pretty terrible tackling.
- The Cowboys would respond after another stellar drive by Prescott, in which he guided the offense on a six-play, 75-yard drive in just three minutes and five seconds. Prescott cashed in on a 32-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Williams, on a very impressive throw from the rookie that only Williams (after a crisp route) had a shot on bringing in.
- Goff would take the reigns for L.A. late in the second quarter, and struggled, going 4/9 for 37 yards and an interception. The drive ended on a sack back to midfield, on a play in which Goff never really had a chance.
- Prescott ended the first half going 10/12 for 139 yards and two touchdowns, as well as leading the Cowboys down the field for a field goal towards the end of the half. The battle for the backup quarterback position got a little more interesting on Saturday night after Prescott’s performance. ... or maybe it's no battle at all ... And maybe that QB trade isn't needed at all?
- The second half opened up with the Rams on offense, and being led by quarterback Sean Mannion, who took the Rams right down the field on a six-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. It was not a good showing for the backups on the Cowboys D, a lot of whom are fighting for spots on the roster.
- The second Rams offensive possession was much better for the ‘Boys defense, as they shut down their opponents on three plays. Mark Nzeocha, who is fighting for playing time, was very impressive while he was on the field, tallying five tackles, an interception, and a pass deflection.
- After a getting a good look at Dak Prescott in the first half, the Cowboys handed the ball over to Jameill Showers in the second half, and he made some very impressive plays of his own on his second drive after a shaky opening drive. ... The highlight of the drive being a broken play, in which Showers avoided a sack, scrambled right, and fired a 47-yard bomb to Vince Mayle down to the Rams 33-yard line. The drive would end with the Cowboys turning the ball over on downs inside the Rams 10-yard line, but Showers was able to show a lot of good things. “It was fun,'' Dak said. "It was going out there playing ball. I just went out there with a clear mind and had fun.”
- Showers didn’t have the luxury of playing behind (newly contracted up) Travis Frederick and company on Saturday, so he found himself under a bit more duress than Prescott. All things considered, Showers performed pretty well, finishing the game 8-16 for 99 yards with no touchdowns. Chaz Green was the left tackle all night, by the way, and ... needs a lot of work. And maybe a lot of conditioning. Tyron Smith joined other vets in sitting out, in his case due to a stinger. (Want more on Frederick? Fish goes 1-on-1 with him and with Tony Romo on the subject of the new contract, here.)
- Cornerback Deji Olatoye made a very impressive interception in the second half, and had a great showing overall. If nothing else, he gave himself a real shot to make this roster moving forward, as the Cowboys still need all the help they can get in the secondary.
- Ultimately, the Cowboys gave away a lead to the hometown Rams late in the game, when Sean Mannion hit Aaron Green for a short nine-yard touchdown reception of the backfield. While the result itself means nothing, it was disappointing to see Dallas blow a 17-point lead in this kind of fashion. Really, you needed a fourth-down stop ... a sack ... an avoidance of a penalty ... something. We might have to deal with this a lot in 2016, however.
- The Cowboys lack of depth along the defensive front seven is noticeable to say the least. The suspensions along the defensive line are already rearing their ugly heads, and a solution is needed quick. That's not to say that Derek Akunne, Cedric Thornton, Jack Crawford and newcomer Jenkins didn't have good moments. But this D-line has a patchwork look to it. Maybe Benson Mayowa gets healthy and plays next weekend at home against Miami.
- Dez Bryant is back. The Cowboys best offensive weapon was injured during most of the season last year, and showed us on Saturday that he is ready to pick things up where he left off and dominate. "When Sept. 11 comes,'' Dez told Fish, "everybody's going to see the Dez they want to see.'' (Fish's exclusive visit with Dez is coming soon to Cowboys Premium. Stay tuned.)
- The future of the quarterback position is bright. Maybe. It’s early, but Dak Prescott performed extremely well in his live action NFL debut. At least for now, Cowboys fans can rest a little easier. Fish talked about the Browns wanting a fourth-round pick or higher for Josh McCown; we can see how Dak's work here will keep that level of trade from being made for a while.
- The Cowboys Need Zeke. Zeke didn’t see the field in the first preseason game, and the ball start fell to NFL veteran Alfred Morris who ran hard. Darius Jackson came away averaging 3.6 yards per carry. In the case of both, coaches will say they "need to see the film'' to truly evaluate. We bet what they'd really like to see is ... Zeke. Maybe he returns to practice this week. CHQ is in Oxnard, of course, and will monitor.
- Mark Nzeocha can play. The second-year linebacker, who played in place of Sean Lee, was very impressive on Saturday night. If he can play like this consistently, the Cowboys may have found at least one solution to their linebacker woes. Ball-hawking might have to be the answer on a team that figures to be shy in the pass-rush department ... and doesn't want to have to score 30 points every week to win. Talk about that, and much more, here on CowboysHQ.com Boards!
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