Monday's preseason game marked the first Cowboys game since January 1, and brought with it the chance to see many new faces wearing a Cowboys uniform. One of the most eagerly anticipated debuts was that of cornerback Brandon Carr, who joined the Cowboys in March after four years and 64 games started for the Kansas City Chiefs. And it looks like Carr's debut went well:
"I was wondering how it was going to feel with a new team, new colors, a new coaching staff. But I just felt right at home," said Carr. "There’s always things you need to work on. But overall, we did pretty well. All of our units came in on defense and did what they had to do. That means keeping points off the board. That’s our goal each week."
More player and coaches quotes after the break.
The Cowboys have a long injury list, and had seven projected starters miss the Oakland game. Garrett doesn't want to use that as an excuse for Monday's performance and said expected more from the backups in that situation:
"We are expecting these guys to come in and play," Garrett said. "The next man up philosophy. There are things we have to get better it. It was not a good performance.
At the same time, Garrett recognizes that some of the mistakes that bogged down the game for the Cowboys were a result of some of the younger players being overeager on the field:
"Each of those is a case (where) a young guy is trying to do a little too much," Garrett said. "Running into the kicker, Teddy being offsides giving them a first down when they’re punting, and obviously that’s line one, you can't give them the ball back in those situations. Those guys are trying to make a play and sometimes you got to play with poise, do your job, let the game come to you a little bit, and I thought those guys came back as the game wore on. But overall there were too many penalties, and it hurt our team."
The Cowboys' first team offense managed to gain just 22 yards on 11 snaps. If you were to take away Dez Bryant's 24-yard reception, you'd have the Cowboys with negative yardage for the remaining 10 snaps. And that is not really a situation you want to be in according to Jason Witten.
"We’ve got to execute better offensively," tight end Jason Witten said of a first-team offense that scratched out just 22 yards on 11 snaps. "We’ve got all the other stuff — playing hard, communicating. We’ve got to execute."
The Cowboys' secondary has received a lot of accolades after the raiders game, and the safety play stood out in particular. Lost in all the post-game hoopla was the fact that Barry Church recorded his first ever NFL start on Monday night. Sure, it was a preseason game, but still:
"It was definitely a little nerve-wracking even though it was preseason," Church said. "But the first NFL start felt pretty good to get under my belt. I hope it’s the first of many to come."
In preseason games, you expect a couple of rookies and bottom-roster guys to wow you with their performance. You don't really expect that from the starters because you know what their level of performance of a starter should look like: Yeah, Romo can still throw the ball; Witten can still catch it; Ware can still rush the passer; move along.
Occasionally though, even an established veteran wows you with his performance. On Monday, Marcus Spears was one of the veterans who played above expectations. Spears played well, looked dynamic and recorded four tackles, one for a loss. Spears knows that his roster spot could be on the line, and appears to be playing accordingly.
"You have to prove yourself every year," Spears said. "But this year I’m an eight year guy. We got a third round pick and a lot of guys in the room who can play. I have to perform the best I can and let the chips fall where they may. I’m going to keep grinding and see what happens."
If this is what happens when you get good competition for a roster spot, I want more of it.
The Cowboys frequently lined up in a 4-3 look on Monday night. Whether this was because they were playing a vanilla front (highly likely) or whether this signals a shift in the defensive scheme (incredibly unlikely) remains to be seen. ILB Sean Lee was noncommittal when asked about the package:
"We’ve used it some in camp," Lee said. "And we have a lot of things waiting. As we use more and more packages, I think we’ll get better with them."
Having three inside linebackers on the field at once also afforded Bruce Carter more snaps than he may have gotten in a 3-4 scheme, and Carter liked it:
"It felt good to get out there and move around a little bit," said Carter, who made the Cowboys’ first tackle of the game. "Just to get the feel for it. I’ve been out a while."
Jerry Jones apparently spent part of the time watching the game with John Madden, and says they focused on watching the offensive linemen in the second half, during which they saw "saw some of our guys doing some good things."
"Parnell did good, of course. Smith is good, but he didn’t play in the second half. But Parnell did good. Leary did some good things in there. But Parnell particularly impressed me."
In the battle for the number three wide receiver spot, Monday's game didn't really answer any questions. With three preseason games left to go, wide receivers coach Jimmy Robinson indicates that it may take a while before he can figure out who that third receiver might be.
"It's a new ballgame everywhere you go," Robinson said. "I don’t know if I've got some set formula that helps me figure it out. Hopefully it jumps out at you, (and you) know who the guys are that have the makeup and who don’t. Quite often you’re faced with a tough decision. At some point and time, where guys are pretty close, you have to make the call and hopefully you will make the right one. We’re not at that point, but we will be."