ITEM: The Cowboys officially welcomed Ezekiel Elliott into action on Thursday night in Seattle. It was a much anticipated night for Cowboys fans, as they looked to finally catch a glimpse of the crown jewel of this year’s draft class. But the night began with a much more terrifying feeling for the Dallas faithful.
On the first drive of the game, Tony Romo took an awkward hit to his back, and began to writhe on the ground in pain. It wasn’t a hard hit, but it bent his back in just the right/wrong way -- the "perfect storm,'' the QB later called it, as we detail here -- and Romo was forced to exit the game. The entire Dallas collective, from fans to front office and everyone in between, held their breath as Romo went off the field. He walked off under his own power, but the damage was done. Romo wouldn’t see another play for the rest of the night, as the coaching staff agreed it was time to shut him down. Tony insisted that he was OK, and lobbied to get back on the field, but with his injury history, and his value to this team’s success, there was zero logic in letting him step back onto that field.
OK. But the Cowboys are smart, they will keep Romo wrapped in bubble wrap until September 11th, when the Cowboys open the season against the New York Giants. (And as Fish has pointed out, what is the downside of doing X-rays and an MRI here?)
ITEM: If Romo is going to be this fragile (which let’s face it, he is), should the front office reignite the search for a veteran back-up QB? If Romo does go down for any extended period of time, is Prescott the one to take over for him? Let's assume the answer is "yes.'' Do the ‘Boys need to find some insurance to put behind Dak? Is Showers really ready? Is there anyway to really have insurance on insurance?
The Cowboys are just one hit away from from being forced to rely on a rookie quarterback, and that’s a dangerous spot to be in. ... Even with everything Dak has shown us this preseason. I believe Dallas will eyeball a vet QB -- no longer because they need a No. 2 but rather because they need "insurance on insurance.''
ITEM: Following a three-and-out by the Seahawks defense, the Cowboys' next drive heavily featured Zeke Elliott. Elliott showed shiftiness and power, even going head-to-head with Kam Chancellor and winning the battle more than once. Chancellor is recognized as one of the hardest hitters and surest tacklers in the entire NFL, and Elliott lowered the boom on him twice on one drive. Think about that…
The drive was capped off by Jason Witten, who made an acrobatic play to grab a touchdown over the defender from Prescott.
ITEM: Zeke would go on to finish the quarter with seven carries for 48 hard-earned yards, and looked every bit the explosive game-changer that the Cowboys hoped he would be. It’s obvious that Elliott has a unique explosiveness, power and swagger that most other running backs (As good as Morris and Jackson have been) simply don’t possess. Zeke’s night was done after the quarter, but the coaching staff saw everything it needed to see from their new weapon. And Kam and the Seahawks, who thought they would do the pounded, instead got pounded.
"As advertised,'' said Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
ITEM: After the Cowboys touchdown, it was the Seahawks’ turn. Seattle moved it fairly easily down the field against the Cowboys D, until Dallas was able to hold strong inside their own 10-yard line. Seattle would be forced into a Steven Hauschka field goal, and a disappointing end to an otherwise good drive.
ITEM: The third Cowboys' offensive drive was stymied pretty quickly by the Seahawks defense, after Terrance Williams dropped/didn't fight for a perfect deep throw from Dak. After a couple of blown-up screen pass attempts, the Cowboys were forced to punt.
In review: Williams has to more aggressive and go after the football in situations like that, especially when the games actually matter. And yeah, Cowboys Nation gets to wonder, "Would Brice Butler have caught it?''
ITEM: The Cowboys defense was up to the task on the Seahawks next offensive possession. They moved fast to the ball and tackled well, forcing Seattle into a three-and-out. Byron Jones in particular made a great play closing in on Doug Baldwin on a quick out, bringing him to the ground and stopping the play in its tracks. The move back to safety for Jones looks to be working out pretty smoothly for the second-year man, and it seems like he’s found a home. Jones will be a key factor in the success of the Cowboys defense this upcoming season, as he is arguably already their best defensive back in just the second year of his career. ... though a healthy Orlando Scandrick has something to say about that.
Oh, and Mo Claiborne was good here again, too, making plays on balls that he himself thinks could've/should've been two picks.
ITEM: The Cowboys next drive ended with a missed field goal (get that bad one out of the way early, Bailey!), but there were some nice things to build on there. For starters, Prescott showed his ability to throw the ball on the run, hitting Brice Butler for eight yards. He also hung in and took his first big hits in the pocket as an NFL QB later in the drive, and completed the pass to Geoff Swaim for a short gain. Prescott was checked out by the training staff after the drive, but would return to action.
Also deserving of a special-teams mention: Lucky Whitehead can return. But Dax Swanson might need an NFL job somewhere, too.
ITEM: The Seahawks would take advantage of the Cowboys miss on their next offensive drive, marching the ball down the field and scoring a touchdown on a beautiful throw to Paul Richardson in the end zone by Russell Wilson. When it comes down to it, Wilson is simple a very difficult player to stop when he wants to put the ball in the end zone, and he just got the best of the Cowboys on this drive.
ITEM: Prescott was forced into the two-minute drill on the Cowboys final drive of the half, and looked very impressive. He stood tall in the pocket, made smart throws, and hit open receivers, all while remaining poised and confident against a very aggressive defense. He would ultimately get the Cowboys into field goal range, and tie up the game at 10-10 heading into halftime.
Until the regular season starts, and he is forced into action at one point or another, Prescott wont see a more realistic regular-season simulation than he did on the final drive of the first half, and he handled it beautifully. Prescott ended the first half 15-19 for 106 yards and a touchdown, but more importantly, he took his first real NFL hits, and didn’t flinch one bit.
"Poise'' is the word that keeps coming up here.
ITEM: On the opening drive of the second half, the Cowboys second-team defense had to go up against the Seahawks starters, and were able to hang tough and force a long field goal from Hauschka. Christine Michael (remember him?) had a couple of nice runs, but other than that, it was a nice showing for the defense.
ITEM: The following drive for the Seahawks wasn’t as kind to the Cowboys second-teamers, who allowed the elusive Wilson to move the ball through the passing game. The drive ended on the most Wilson play ever, as Wilson scrambled around in the backfield for about 10 seconds, and finally hit Tyler Lockett for a nine-yard touchdown pass. With any other quarterback, the Cowboys probably get off the field forcing a field goal, but that’s just what Wilson does.
ITEM: Without the first-team offensive line on the field for the Cowboys in the third quarter, Prescott and the Cowboys struggled to move the football with any sort of success. Dak didn’t have much time to throw, and was forced to use his checkdowns too often to sustain an effective drive. As good as Prescott has been this preseason, he can’t do it all on his own like he was having to do here.
ITEM: Trevon Boykin took the reigns from Russell Wilson midway through the third quarter for Seahawks, and moved the ball pretty effectively in his first drive. He even made a Wilson-esque play running around in the backfield, and extending the play until he found an open receiver for a decent gain. Boykin possesses a lot of the same tools as Wilson does, so it’s no surprise that they can use him in the same vein as the superstar QB on occasion. He eventually took off on a improvised play, and ran it in for 16-yard touchdown, putting the game out of reach for Dallas.
ITEM: Dallas DB Anthony Brown took a shot to the head on that drive attempting to make a play on the ball carrier and left the game. Brown was having a nice game up until that point, with eight total tackles, five solo, and a pass deflection. The sixth-round pick looks to be settling in nicely at the corner back position for Dallas, and hopefully, this injury won’t set back his progress for any significant time.
ITEM: Anthony Hitchens had nice numbers for the second-teamers throughout the night, with Hitchens finishing with seven total tackles. But I'm not sure he graded out well. Hitchens in particular will likely be forced into some serious playtime with the Rolando McClain suspension/adios ... or maybe Justin Durant keeps getting a crack here. Damien Wilson probably struggled, too. This group looks like Lee and a bunch of Jags right now.
ITEM: Jameill Showers took over for Prescott in the fourth quarter, and couldn’t really get anything going on his first drive. Showers threw a couple of bad passes, including sailing a pass over the head of Lucky Whitehead to end the drive. Dallas would be forced to punt for the third time in a row, giving Seattle the ball back at their own 22-yard line. As talented as Showers may be, he doesn’t seem to have the pocket presence and natural accuracy throwing the football that Prescott does. ... of course, based on this preseason, that's a pretty high standard.
ITEM: The Cowboys pass rush was subpar to say the least throughout this game. Something needs to be done to improve this aspect of the ‘Boys defense in a hurry, or they are going to be in serious trouble come September 11th against the Giants. The waiver wire watch for some front four help should begin right away. The names to watch on that list should become more apparent in the coming days, but rest assured, the eyes of the Cowboys front office will be open and searching. (The next NFL cutdown day is Aug. 30. Then comes the cut to 53 on Sept. 3.)
The D-tackles (including Terrell McClain here) are sound. The D-ends might not be so until Tank Lawrence is ready in Week 5.
ITEM: The Cowboys offense struggled to get going in the second half, but they mounted a nice drive on their second drive in the fourth quarter. It was highlighted by a couple of nice runs by Darius Jackson, but was ultimately cut short after a drop on a beautiful thrown deep ball from Showers to Andy Jones, as well as a sack by the Seattle defense on the next play. The Cowboys like Jones’s ability a lot, but he has had a bad case of the drops throughout the entire preseason during game time.
ITEM: Chaz Green does not look like the solve-it-all answer for the Cowboys at that swing tackle position behind Tyron Smith and Doug Free. ... but he's inching toward being better. He’s been struggling to keep his man in front of him, and tends to reach instead of trusting his feet and getting into position on pass protection. The Cowboys really need to solidify that spot in their O-line rotation, but as of right now, Green is having a hell of time trying to lock it down.
ITEM: Late in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys were finally able to get back into the end zone after a rough half offensively. Jameill Showers hit Rodney Smith on a back-shoulder fade in the front corner of the end zone, putting the Cowboys within 10 points of the Seahawks. It was a seven-play, 64-yard drive from the Dallas, that saw Showers go 5-of-7 for 64 yards and a TD. It was a better performance from Showers on this drive, but it was just too-little/too-late.
ITEM: Ultimately, the Cowboys would fall short in their third preseason game in Seattle 27-17, but should feel good about some of the things they saw. Specifically, from Zeke Elliot and Dak Prescott. Also, despite the scare from Tony Romo early in the game, the first team offense did a good job at moving the ball behind their big boys up front. Elliott finished with seven carries for 48 yards, while Dak was 17-23 for a 116 yards and a touchdown on the night.
They are left with two off-the-field concerns from Seattle: 1) How soon will Romo's back truly be fine? 2) How soon will Zeke realize that there is a spotlight on Cowboys behavior -- even something as probably-innocuous as strolling through a Seattle weed shop -- and that such a stroll can be a distraction and therefore a detriment to "The Team, The Team, The Team''?