Summing Up The Dallas Cowboys First Team Offense

In the Vikings game on Saturday, the Minnesota starting offense and defense came out for the first drive of the second half.  But the Cowboys first string was done for the night.  Jason Garrett and his staff had apparently seen all they needed to.  

The "dress rehearsal" game showed some good things about the starting offense, even with the absence of Miles Austin and the obvious extreme makeover on the line.  But it was only a half of play.  I took a look back at all three of the preseason games to see if maybe it would tell us a little bit more in total than just one half.

And as it turned out, the first team was on the field for a total of 29:18, or just about one full game's worth of play.  So maybe there is a little bit to be gleaned by looking at it all as a whole.

An overview of their performance after the jump.

The first team offense, which is essentially defined as whoever is on the field when Tony Romo is calling signals, had a total of eight possessions this preseason.  The results were, in order, FG, punt, INT, TD, punt, FG, TD, punt.   That's four scores for 20 points.  Not exactly dazzling, but in looking at the entire sequence I thought they were clearly getting better as the preseason progressed.  The one really ugly drive was the one that ended in Tony getting picked, and that was hopefully a result of having a little rust that needed to be knocked off.  Otherwise, half the drives resulted in scores, something that would not be a total disaster in the regular season.  Certainly, the percentage could be improved and we all would like to see touchdowns instead of field goals, but knowing you are going to put points up every other time you get the ball would be a good starting point for the season.

And the centerpiece of it all was the 77 yard drive following the tip drill interception by Gerald Sensabaugh.  The team marched down the field, with Tony going 6/9 on the drive, and then Felix Jones capping it off with a determined five yard dive to the end zone line.  That was just pretty.

More importantly, the overall view of the starting offense is that it is just about where it needs to be to enter the regular season.  Tony was 26/37 for 232 with 1 TD and 1 INT.  Not a bad stat line, particularly the completion percentage.

And there is another way to look at this preseason.  I wrote earlier that one of the things I am doing is comparing how this preseason is going with how things went last year.  Last year, things never got on track, with the starters only able to manage one touchdown during a pretty dismal performance overall.  The two TDs this year is a positive sign, and in one less game to boot, since the 'boys were in the Hall of Fame game in 2010.  This year, the passing game is starting to click.  There have been some passes down the field, not just screens and dump offs.  The running game has shown some good things.  And in a really encouraging sign, a bunch of rookie linemen have shown that the game is not too big for them, at least so far.  Plus, 2-1 just feels better, even if it is "just preseason".

There are a few issues.  Martellus Bennett suffered the only significant injury against the Vikings, and while he is out (two to four weeks, it looks like) it will have an impact on the running game, at least.  The backups at running back are not set, but DeMarco Murray did get in the game and looked pretty good, and the other slot is looking like a battle between Tashard Choice and surprising UFDA Phillip Tanner.  Wide receiver still has a group of guys fighting for the last few slots - and after last night, I am not even sure the 3rd WR position is firm.

The defense has a lot more questions, and it looks like the offense is going to have to carry it a bit in the first part of the season.  Based on the eye test of this preseason, they might just have enough to get the job done.

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