Part of the excitement of pre-season football is a chance to see how the new acquisitions of the team perform. Unfortunately for fans of the Dallas Cowboys, the opening game against the Oakland Raiders turned into the Freddy Krueger of winning ugly.
It didn't help that so many of the players the Cowboys picked up in the very eventful offseason were injured and out for the game. Draftees Morris Claiborne, Danny Coale and Matt Johnson joined free agent signee Nate Livings in sitting this one out. Add in the fact that the overall performance of the team pretty much reeked (especially on offense and kick coverage), and it was not much of a showcase for the new additions to prove their worth.
But there was some activity to evaluate. Some players were pretty much what we expected. One, top free agent Brandon Carr, was not really tested that I could see, and that was not much of a surprise. For now, it does appear that the opposition is likely to respect him and prefer to attack the secondary elsewhere - which was not all that bad during the game.
Find out how the others did after the jump.
Lawrence Vickers didn't get much of a chance to show his ability with the supremely underwhelming performance of the offensive line and a very tentative-looking running attack early in the game. Kyle Orton looked like what he is, a backup quarterback. Dan Connor was interesting mostly because of the 4-3 looks that Rob Ryan put out there, with Connor joining Sean Lee and Bruce Carter, but since the starters were so limited in their playing time, he also did not have much chance to shine. And Mackenzy Bernadeau played, but with the general disarray on the offensive line, there is not much to judge him by.
Tyrone Crawford showed good energy. He still is developing, but the fact that he was not sidelined by his minor injury issues is one of the best things about him so far. As the regular season draws nearer, the team is going to need more of the roster to play through their nicks and bumps.
Kyle Wilber suffered a significant injury of the game with his broken thumb. It will only set him back more. Given his draft position and the way he has played in his limited opportunities, it is likely he will make the team, but his contributions are certainly not going to be as much as we would like.
Caleb McSurdy was active, but not really effective. It is looking more and more like the team will try to get him to the practice squad, which is not a bad outcome for a seventh-round pick.
The one new player that really took advantages of his chance was tight end James Hanna. After developing a reputation for bad hands, the light might have come on for him. He had two catches in the game, and a solid hit on special teams. Both bode well, as does the fact that he was targeted five times during the game, which indicates the team is trying to work him in.
Several weeks ago, the third tight end was seen as one of the questions the team had to face. There was even some speculation that it might go with just two TEs. But by taking advantage of John Phillips being one of the legion of players missing time due to injury, Hanna has penciled himself in as an answer. He is showing at least the possibility of being what Martellus Bennett never was, an effective player in all phases of his game. Given that he was the fallback choice after the player the Cowboys wanted in the sixth round, Cyrus Gray, was taken before Dallas came up, Hanna is starting to look like a pretty good deal for the team.
Hopefully the Cowboys will get much more to look at from these players in the remaining pre-season games. As more of the walking wounded get on the field, we will have a better idea of what they bring to the table. And maybe the remaining games before the start of the season will be a bit more entertaining. Given that the 3-0 score of the Oakland game was the lowest scoring contest the Cowboys have played in the history of the franchise, that at least seems likely.