Not a bad way to end the preseason, I think. I know that it was just a meaningless game and I know that a large percentage of the players on the field won't make the team, but I feel that some important steps were made last night for some very important players this season.
After a couple of weeks of hand wringing and worry, it's good to head into the season on a positive note. While none of the starters even put the pads on you could really sense the "team" aspect the Cowboys have this year. That's going to be an important part of this team as the season starts.
For this film review, I focused on a number of key players and wrote down a couple of other random observations. Since it was the final preseason game I didn't hit the "jump back" button as much as I normally would for a film review, but I did make sure to take note of some specifics from what was a surprisingly entertaining game.
After the jump, my brief impressions from a feel-good win.
- Obviously, the story of the game was David Buehler. The Cowboys kicker had not had the chance for a field goal in two games and there were still questions surrounding his ability to hit the big kick in the moments of a football game. After tonight the Cowboys should feel good about their situation at the position after Buehler went 4-for-4 on field goals on the night, including the game winner.
We'll have more on Buehler this weekend, but I wanted to focus primarily on the 51-yarder he nailed to end the first half. On top of being the longest field goal of his career and one that was kicked in the waning seconds of the half, it's important to note that the Cowboys didn't call a timeout before the kick. Buehler was forced to set up and make the kick within the confines of the play-clock, and he absolutely nailed it. His teammates have done nothing but rave about his poise and that was on full display tonight.
- Before the game I wondered if Stephen McGee would be able to do enough to justify the Cowboys keeping him on the roster. I never doubted they would keep him, as the Cowboys don't give up on their higher draft picks that easily, but I wanted to at least see something. I know that many here keep saying that "it wasn't until his third season that Romo really came alive" but I want to make sure we hold off on those comparisons. Romo and McGee had very different paths as backups for the Cowboys (it's also important to remember that it wasn't until his fourth season that Romo took over as starter).
I don't anticipate McGee taking the backup position at any point this season (at least I hope not), but I am encouraged that he could be that backup option in the near future. Against Miami, McGee showcased great decision making and an accurate and powerful arm. His stats would have been even better if there weren't a number of drops spread throughout the game, but I don't know how you don't walk away impressed with his performance.
It was against the backups for the Dolphins -- for the most part -- but McGee took great strides last night. Despite facing heavy pressure nearly all game he stood tall, moved up in the pocket and made decisive and accurate throws. He needs to learn how to put a bit more touch on his longer passes, but it was great to see him finally start attacking the defense down the field.
I counted just two passes all game that were bad decisions. Not bad for a third string quarterback in his second year in the NFL.
- Sean Lee. Sean Lee. Sean Lee. I watched this kid very closely tonight and once again came away with mixed impressions. There were times he was getting blown out of the play by blockers or was unable to shed his blocker to make a play on the runner. His blitzes, at times, were a bit poorly timed. There were times where you could see he was having trouble reading and reacting as quickly as you would like.
Then, he would do something great. Lee finished with two sacks on the game, both in the 2nd half. The first came when he exploded upfield as soon as he saw Tyler Thigpen begin to scramble and was able to bring the quarterback down for a loss. The second was more impressive, as Lee came on a delayed blitz and absolutely leveled the running back before sacking Thigpen again. He made good decisions in pass coverage and showed great instincts and speed in getting to the runner in the open field.
He's a rookie. He's still learning. But you can see that he's going to be a special player sooner than later.
- On the flip side, Jason Williams was incredibly disappointing. I know the Cowboys will keep him but I expected much more than just one tackle and penalty from the second-year player. Leon Williams had a pretty impressive game and it seems the Cowboys will have a tough decision to make when it comes to how many linebackers to keep on the roster.
- I didn't have time to really breakdown the offensive line play, but here are my quick hitting thoughts: Phil Costa was impressive. Pat McQuistan was horrible. Robert Brewster is much better at RT than LT. Montrae Holland is fine, as long as he doesn't start the play too early.
- There's no doubt in my mind now that the Cowboys will roll with two tight ends and two full backs. Chris Gronkowski has improved game and after game and was very impressive against the Dolphins. He had two key lead blocks at the goal line when the Cowboys scored and then went for two.
- Kevin Ogletree has to be the most frustrating player I've watched this year. He runs great routes, has great hands, but then makes some lazy plays, doesn't fight for extra yards and has a bad drop on third and one. Maddening.
I promise these film reviews will be much more entertaining once the season starts. I have a few tricks up my sleeve....