(DISCLAIMER: Yes, I know it is just a pre-season game. Don't be a buzz-kill.)
Funny how things work out. The Dallas Cowboys played the Oakland Raiders on Monday. They came away on top 3-0, and I felt sick to my stomach for at least the next day.
Saturday, they played the San Diego Chargers and would up on the short end of a 28-20 score. And I promptly poured myself a big, cold glass of the finest Kool Aid.
Against the Raiders, nothing worked all that well for the starters. Against San Diego, the Dallas first and second teams clearly had the best of the Chargers' first team. And that makes all the difference in the world. It is even sweeter tasting when you consider that the team still was missing nineteen walking wounded players, including nine projected starters. Even so, the deep feeling of dread I had about the opening game against the New York Giants has largely faded away. I'm not saying to book that one as a win, but I do feel that this Cowboys team is going to be competitive.
Of course, the real purpose of pre-season, besides getting everyone physically and mentally ready for the real games, is to evaluate your players. My focus here is on the new additions to the team, both free agents and draftees.
And we have a lot to talk about.
Pour yourself a glass of the blue stuff and join me - there are more good than bad things coming up after the jump.
First, the draftees
He saw limited snaps, largely because the Chargers' offense saw the field so little in the first quarter. He then sat so others could get some evaluation, since he is assured a spot. Got two tackles, but most importantly was not overwhelmed by being in live NFL action. Targeted only one time, I believe, and obviously did not get burned. No bad news here. He himself felt his performance was "good, not great", and his teammates felt he did fine.
He did not stand out this game, only chalking up one tackle and one assist, but the Cowboys-friendly announcers had good things to say about his performance, specifically mentioning how the DE in a 3-4 has a hard time shining. Looks like a solid, potentially very good third round pick.
Four catches for 31 yards. Seemed to be doing a good job on blocking assignments. I don't recall him getting called for any mistakes (could be wrong there). Overall, is shaping up as a very competent and un-Martellus Bennett like thrid tight end.
I don't have any info on Danny Coale, who I though was going to play. I think he lined up early, but never got targeted, and then got taken out. Not sure. The other draftees did not see the field.
The free agents
Ladies and gentlemen, we have us a ball-hawking cornerback. Let me just throw in this to start.
Asked Brandon Carr if he baited Rivers on first pick, he said yea I got that from Deion (Sanders).— Clarence Hill (@clarencehilljr) August 19, 2012
Of course, that was talking about the first of the two picks he got against Philip Rivers. You know, that guy who so many people insist is better than Tony Romo. He completed every pass he threw in the game. It just happened that two of them were to Carr.
Rhymes with Star. Just wanted to point that out.
We all expected this. It just feels so good to see it confirmed on the field.
He is a convenient excuse to talk about the biggest success story of the week, the greatly improved performance of the offensive line. From what I can tell, he had a very solid game. But overall, the entire line did much better, although David Arkin did have some unfortunate penalties (including the one where Dez Bryant had that mind-boggling one-handed catch about fifteen feet above the ground on the end zone line). There were a couple of plays where Romo dropped back, went through his progression, didn't find anything, sent his wife a text message telling her he loves her and little Hawk, went back through the progression again, and finally threw the ball.
There were also some good running plays, and very effective short passes. Murray ran with some authority. Most importantly, the Cowboys got the ball on the second Rivers interception. (The second by Brandon Carr - did I mention he had two?) After a beautiful pass byKyle Orton and a really, really nice catch by Kevin Ogletree (who has sold Jerry Jones, at least, on him being the third WR), the ball was at the five yard line.
And the Cowboys powered it in with two runs right up the gut. Part of the credit goes to a UDFA free agent I will mention shortly, but the line had that surge you need to punch it in on the goal line. This was one of the most important moments of the game. This ability to play a little smash-mouth is desperately needed. And it looks like the team has it. Getting Bernadeau into the mix seems to be a key part.
Also a part of the improved running game. No catches or carries, but I saw him on a couple of plays, and seems to be playing with fire. Did not see if he was in on the rushing touchdown, but he was in when DeMarco Murray was showing that he is all the way back.
One bit of bad news. Connor showed why Bruce Carter may be the player that needs to start next to Sean Lee. He had coverage on the tight end on a crossing pattern, and just got outrun. Not horrible, but is looking more like the backup for the position.
7/10 for 83 yards. Got picked, but the ball was in the right place and Andre Holmes let it bounce off his hands. The play was called wrong by the referees - it should have remained Dallas' ball due to a blow to Holmes' head before the ball was intercepted - but it still went in the books.
More important was the rifle shot to Kevin Ogletree to set up the rushing touchdown. It was just a great pass, and also part of the Tree's very good night. Orton led the team to the touchdown, too. Just looked comfortable and pretty dang good out there.
Nate Livings is still working his way back.
And some selected UDFAs.
Seven catches. 104 yards. Takes a hit and pukes. Get's angry because he came out just before the team scored a touchdown. We have us a Foot Ball Player here. His strength looks to be as the second or third option, because by the time the quarterback gets to that, Beasley is open. And he did well after the catch, too. Once again, he is making it very hard to justify cutting him. And he's just so cute out there with all the full-size players.
The team gives Stephen McGee almost all the second half, and he still is Captain Checkdown. Nothing happens offensively other than an interception and a fumble (by him).
Then with 2:53 left in the game, Carpenter comes in. He completes six of nine passes (four to Beasley), overcomes a fumble that is fortunately recovered by Tyrone Novikoff, and finds Dwayne Harris (another wideout with a pretty good night to his credit) for a touchdown on fourth and fifteen.
That idea of cutting McGee and putting Carpenter on the practice squad to save a roster slot just looks better and better, doesn't it?
Every year, it seems like there is at least one player that just come out of nowhere and winds up starring in camp and maybe even making the team. Olawale is looking like that guy. He was the workhorse at running back in the game, scoring the rushing touchdown from two yards out, carrying the ball ten times for 30 yards total, and adding 30 more yards on four receptions. He was running hard, showing good hands. looking like a capable backup.
Which one Felix Jones did not. I know it is just a pre-season game (I've heard that somewhere), but Jones just did not look good. I only have the eyeball test, but he only had one run he really showed a burst on, and he dropped another pass. When I recall a certain conditioning test he failed, I wonder just how secure his roster spot really is. And if Olawale could be getting a look as a possible replacement.
Brodney Pool is gone. Andre Holmes did not help himself a lot tonight. There is a chance all three members of the Remedial Running Club may be gone. I'm not saying it is certain, or even likely, but it could happen. And I don't see how it would be a bad thing, if they all are beaten out by better players, ala Barry Church making Pool expendable.
Those were the performances of note from the new Cowboys. Not a lot bad there. Frankly, although the Cowboys lost on the scoreboard, I think they won big time when you look at what was accomplished.
Before I go, here is one other note that will make you reach for some Kool Aid.
Jason Garrett said there were no new injuries to report.— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) August 19, 2012
And that may be the best thing of all.