Dallas got a jump on 30 other NFL teams by playing a live action game a week early. As such, they trotted out mostly second-, third- and fourth-stringers in their opening game. So while it was fun to watch the uniforms they love, fans didn't get a chance to watch the stars with stars on their heads until this past Friday night.
As is often the case in the preseason, the final results matter little in the grand scheme of things. Of course, nothing beats a victory and for the team as a whole a victory is something that will always be enjoyed. Up until the dress rehearsal game, normally the third week (fourth for the Cowboys in 2013), it's probably more fruitful to look at individual performances and how players are used as opposed to overall team results. So, let's do that.
On Friday night, the Cowboys kept their starting offensive line in for the entire first half. This allowed Kyle Orton to play behind competent protection, as we all know the backup tackles at the moment (Darrion Weems and Edawn Coughman) really don't give a chance to evaluate much of anything on offense. I think this was key for Orton, as word was he was struggling mightily to this point of the offseason work. Here's a look at the snap count for the offensive linemen.
|Player||Pos.||Snaps||% Team Snaps||Notes|
|Frederick||C/RG||48||87||23/25 snap split|
|Player||Pos.||Snaps||% Team Snaps||Notes|
|Coughman||RT/RG||32||58||28/4: Moved to RG after DA done|
|Arkin||LG/RG||28||51||25/3: Moved to RG after TF done|
|Godfrey||LG||7||13||Played when DA moved to RG|
|Nelson||RT||4||7||Played when EC moved to RG|
This breakdown makes it fairly easy to judge the "important" Cowboys performances on offense. Not taking anything away from the players that manned the fort in the second half, but the primary weapons and key backups were all together in the first half. As such, we can get a fair take of where people stand. On the offense, the results are fairly good.
Contrary to last week, the Cowboys were more passing oriented, as they looked to get both QBs involved.
Against Miami, Dallas ran 27 first half plays; 10 passing and a whopping 17 runs. In Oakland, Dallas flipped the script. The Cowboys ran 20 plays; 14 passing and only 6 rushes.
|Murray||2||8||4.0||(10 yd run wiped out by holding penalty)|
The team was able to turn in another great rushing performance behind this projected starting lineup. Although they only had six rushes, Dallas ran at a 6.0 yards per clip. The passing game was what we expect and hope to see from a Garrett offense. The two quarterbacks combined to be phenomenal.
I've been a vocal opponent of Orton's all off-season. Kyle, please continue to tell me to shut the front door. If this is the type of performance Dallas' O is going to turn in once the lights come on, it's going to be a very fun year following the team.
Of course, that's if we don't continue to see untimely penalties like those accrued during the first half. Jason Witten's hold on the first offensive play following the Lee/Hatcher forced fumble and recovery killed the opening drive, as so many first down holds will do. this one took Dallas out of the red zone. Later in the first quarter, Dallas would suffer a false start on 1st down inside the green zone (James Hanna), overcome it, but then be hamstrung by a third down false start (Ron Leary) they couldn't overcome. The issue was exacerbated by a special teams breakdown and a blocked field goal.
Hanna was one of several other players making their preseason debuts. Here's a look at how the snap counts broke down for the rest of the offense.
Finally, here are some general notes.
- For the entire game, the offensive line did a tremendous job in pass protection. Linemen only gave up one quarterback hit and two quarterback hurries. RB Phillip Tanner gave up a hit and a hurry in blitz protection to bring the teams total allowed pressures to six. Still a stellar game despite Oakland's under-par defensive line.
- Through two games (while 30 other teams have played one) the Cowboys offensive line is 11th in pass blocking efficiency.
- Jared Green's opportunity may have come and gone. With just two catches on five targets, and only one "success" (40% needed yards on first, 60% on second, 100% on third or fourth) he faces a tough, uphill climb.
- Tim Benford also didn't help himself. Four targets, three stops.
- Phillip Tanner's ascension was short lived. Although he had to deal with the second team line for all but one of his "focuses" (rush attempts + targets), he was "stopped" (non-success) five out of seven times.
- Joseph Randle had four successes out of nine focuses.
- TE Gavin Escobar played in almost half of the offensive snaps (49%) but was never targeted once. Maybe the team wanted him to especially focus on his blocking in this game? Maybe just coincidence.
- Running left handed in the second half was on exercise in futility. The Cowboys tried five times for 12 yards, a 2.4 average, outside of LT Darrion Weems (with or without TE to that side).
- QBs had a 158.3 passer rating when targeting Cole Beasley on the night. 118.8 towards Dez Bryant. Shake up the starting lineup! [/sarcasm]