The Dallas Cowboys took the field at AT&T Stadium for the first time this preseason, hosting the Miami Dolphins on Friday night in front of their home crowd. It would be the first time fans got a look a Tony Romo during the preseason, but unfortunately we’ll have to wait at least one more week before seeing first-round pick Ezekiel Elliott.
Not that there was a shortage of thrills in the 41-14 win, even without Zeke.
Cowboys 20 Takes: Dez, Dak & 'The Juice' As We Move To The Star In Frisco ...
1. The first Cowboys drive, which was lead by Tony Romo, was a bit discombobulated to say the least. Considering it was Romo’s first time leading a drive since Thanksgiving night last season, a little rust is to be expected. But the drive was also plagued with multiple offensive penalties, and a couple of poor throws from the man himself.
2. The Cowboys defense came out and stifled the Dolphins attack, forcing a three-and-out, and sacking Ryan Tannehill in the process. The sack was credited to Tyrone Crawford, who beat his man quickly, and took down Tannehill with force. It would be one of a trio of sacks recorded by the Dallas defense here, some of which was dictated by the lopsided score.
Another D name worth mentioning: Kyle Wilber, a linebacker by trade, pushed into having to play RDE ... and playing it very well. Also, a hat-tip to rookie UDFA Shaneil Jenkins, a late-camp signee after being cut by Denver. He's recorded two sacks in two games and caused a fumble here, too. A keeper?
3. Alfred Morris looked good running between the tackles against a very stout Miami defensive line. He showed the explosiveness and vision that made him so successful in Washington, and got some great help from his offensive line as well. He made a case to see some carries during the regular season behind Zeke as he ended up with 13 carries for 85 yards and a touchdown. We still think Zeke is the bellcow here. But Morris (who was also good in pass protection) has also done exactly what we expected on the day he was signed: He's RB2, with Darren McFadden in limbo.
Speaking of the starting offensive line, this group looks every bit as good as billed, even without superstar left tackle Tyron Smith. They faced arguably one of the best defensive lines in football on Friday night, and handled them with relative ease.
Offensive line cohesion, Zack Martin told CHQ after the game, is "very important. We've been lucky to play together for a few years. We're continuing to get better.''
Tyron (stinger) will be fine when it's go-time. And then "better'' takes another leap forward.
4. The second Romo-led drive was much for successful for the ‘Boys, and it may be indicative of things to come during the regular season. The drive began with Romo hitting Dez on across the middle for 18 yards, on a great display of both player’s abilities. Romo’s rapport with Witten was there as well, and the line dominated at the point of attack, leading to Alfred Morris’s 15-yard scamper to the end zone.
After two quick drives, Romo’s night was finished. He ended the game 4-5 for 49 yards, with no touchdowns. More importantly, he took a hit and got right back up. Even with Chaz Green occupying the left tackle spot, the pressure on Romo was relatively minimal.
5. Mark Nzeocha exited the game midway through the first quarter with an apparent Achilles/heel injury. If Nzeocha is lost for any period of time, it would be a setback for the team, but more importantly, it would be absolutely devastating to the young man. Nzeocha battled injuries all last season, and one right now would be a major blow to his career.
Hope that is so.
6. It looks like the Dolphins got the memo, and decided to start Laremy Tunsil on Friday night. Tunsil is an absolutely elite talent, and it showed on the field all night long. He handled is assignments with relative ease, especially in pass protection. He’s going to be a good one for a long time to come.
7. The second possession saw the Dolphins drive the field a bit on the Cowboys’ defense, but would ultimately come up short, turning the ball over on downs inside the Cowboys’ 10-yard line. The pass defense held up well against the Dolphins receivers in the red zone, and forced three straight incompletions to stall the drive in its tracks.
8. Dak Prescott took the field on the Cowboys third drive and continued to impress. Prescott went 4-4 for 76 yards and 28-yard touchdown pass to Dez, on a beautifully thrown deep ball. Like we said last week, it’s still early, but every drive that Dak is on the field, he does nothing but make his case for the primary back up QB role.
9. Dak showed his human side on the fourth offensive drive, throwing the ball off balance, which led to a pick for Miami. Luckily for Prescott, the interception was nullified by a roughing penalty, and the drive continued. We don’t want to overanalyze this, especially since the pick was reversed by the penalty, but Prescott can’t take risks like that in the NFL. It may have worked in the SEC, but off-balance throws on the run with poor footwork like that one will get him in trouble at this level.
10. Following the (almost) interception, Prescott kept his cool, and drove the team right down the field. And despite TWO touchdowns being nullified due to penalties, Prescott got the team in the end zone yet again. This time on a 20-yard touchdown run, where he called his own number, after being unable to find and open receiver. If he can utilize those legs like that on a consistent basis, it will make him even more dangerous for opposing defenses.
But overall, counting both of his pro outings now, including last week's loss to the Rams (when he was 10-of-12 passing)?
“Dak knows he's playing great right now,'' Romo said. "And I suspect he’ll continue to do that.’
11. The majority of the Dolphins starting offensive skill-position players, including Ryan Tannehill, remained in the game until the end of the first half, until they finally scored another touchdown against the Cowboys second and third string defenders. I can’t for the life of me figure out why Tannehill was still in the game, especially after the helmet-to-helmet shot he took earlier the game.
Of course, any critic can say the same about Romo being in for one series, or two. And about Romo playing this Thursday in Seattle in Preseason Week 3, as is the present plan.
12. Prescott got the Cowboys in position for a field goal on their next possession, navigating the two-minute warning pretty well in the process. He got lucky when a Miami defender dropped an interception, but other than that, his impressive play continued. Dan Bailey would go on to knock though the 51-yard field goal attempt, and the Cowboys took a 24-14 lead.
After the Cowboys D caused a sack/fumble on quarterback Brandon Doughty, Prescott and the Cowboys were stymied, and had to settle for a field goal, taking a 27-14 lead into the locker room at half time.
13. I’m still very impressed with Deji Olatoye. His size and closing speed are potentially a huge asset to this secondary. He can cover bigger receivers, and can also stand up well in support for the running game. Every preseason game he plays gives the Cowboys more and more of a reason to keep him around. ... and you start to wonder if maybe he could even help a little bit as a safety.
Speaking of which: Rookie Kavon Frazier finally showed up. Frazier made a very impressive play on a fourth-and-goal attempt by the Miami offense, stopping the runner in his tracks and giving the Cowboys the ball back inside their own 5. Was it enough to threaten JJ Wilcox' roster spot? That was Fish's precamp 53-man prediction. Worth monitoring still.
14. On his next drive to start the third quarter, Dak hit Brice Butler on a beautiful deep pass down to the one-yard line to set the Cowboys up in scoring position. The very next play, Prescott hit Butler on a back-shoulder fade for a touchdown, for his second touchdown pass of the game, and his third TD overall.
Now, has Butler pushed Terrance Williams? Yes. But T-Will has pushed right back. He's had an outstanding summer, from route-running to blocking ... the works. It's become a very good Dez Bryant-led group.
15. On the following drive Dak got the Cowboys in the end zone for the fourth time, this time on a quarterback sneak from inside the one-yard line. Prescott would end the game going 12-15 for 199 yards and 2 touchdowns, while rushing for 28 yards and another two TDs.
This backup QB job seems to be Dak’s to lose at this point. And he's not going to lose it. And there's not going to be a trade for a QB. There is simply nothing good about undoing what's been accomplished, or ignoring it. Dak as QB2 is real.
16. You’ve got to feel a little bit for Jameill Showers. He hasn’t been bad by any stretch of the imagination so far, but because Dak put a stranglehold on the backup spot after Friday night’s game, he's in some danger here. Could the Cowboys only go with two active QB’s on the 53-man roster? I wouldn't want to lose him; he's a prospect. But there are needs elsewhere ...
17. Darius Jackson hasn’t really gotten a chance to play much behind the first team offensive line, and if he had, perhaps his results would have been different. He runs with purpose, and while he might not possess elite vision like Elliott and Morris do, he’s got the talent. He just needs to continue to improve, and if he puts in the work he can get there. As it stands now, Darren McFadden is on NFI with the elbow but Lance Dunbar is saying he's ready to roll ...
Good, tough decisions to be made here, if Dunbar is truly ready.
18. In the end, the Cowboys first and second teams looked very impressive overall against Miami. In particular, the Cowboys offensive line against that heralded, new-look Miami d-line, handled their business and gave their quarterbacks enough to time to do just about whatever they wanted -- yes, including Chaz Green. They also opened up massive holes for Alfred Morris to run through. I'll repeat: When Tyron Smith is inserted into this lineup, they are going to be scary once again.
19. Unlike last week against the Rams, the Cowboys held on to their big first-half lead, and won the game 41-14. The win moves the Cowboys to 1-1 on the preseason, as they prepare to head to Seattle to take on the Seahawks next Thursday night at 9 p.m. Zeke Elliott is expected to make his Cowboys debut in that game, which will be a very highly anticipated moment for Cowboys’ fans.
What will it do for the offense?
Fish notes that the 65 points in these first two preseason games is most for Dallas since it scored 81 points in 1971, and it's the second-most in the first two preseason games in team history.
20. And what will all of this do for Cowboys chemistry? Fish conducted a 1-on-1 with Dez Bryant, who painted quite a picture of where he thinks this team is headed.
"The most beautiful thing about this team,'' Dez told Fish, "is that we support each other. Do that, great things can happen. ... No disrespect to the Dolphins, but did you see our sideline? That's planned. We got juice!”