The last preseason contest of 2013 also coincided with my first pilgrimage to the palace in Arlington. Quite frankly, Texas Stadium had been a special place for me while growing up; I was fully prepared to hate it's successor. In my mind, because of that new tribute to Jerry Jones' ego, a place that was near and dear to me no longer exists. As it turns out my preconceived notions were incorrect.
There are many words that I could use to express my initial impressions of the stadium, but in all honesty, an e-mail that I sent to Tom Ryle sums it up nicely. "WOW...just WOW" I wrote. Having made his first visit to Jerry World the previous week, Tom knew exactly what I meant. Like he replied, it "kinda hits you right upside the head." Frankly, it was a moment that left me momentarily speechless, and that is something that does not happen very often.
On The Gridiron
Moving on from the architecture, I was there to watch the Cowboys, and to attempt to share the experience with my friends from Blogging The Boys. At first, I tried to do that through Twitter, but soon learned that it is a heck of a lot easier to tweet from the comfort of your couch than it is to do when you are watching the action live. Guys like Rabblerousr and OCC get some major respect for their ability to watch the action and document it for the rest of us at the same time. Both gentlemen are first team All-Pro.
On the field there were a couple guys who did stand out to me, but there was nobody on the bubble who made a solid closing argument for himself. On the other hand, I saw at least one who should have played himself right into the bloody hands of the Turk. It was a night of the good, the bad, and the ugly; let's take a look.
Phillip Tanner got the starting nod at running back for Dallas, opening the night with several consecutive runs. Mind you, Phillip is never going to be a pretty runner, that's just not his style. He is more of a bulldozer, but on a couple of his carriers, Tanner did break out a move or two. One that really caught my attention was a nice one-cut through the two hole. Tanner only played the first series, but he did get six carries for 35 yards. To my eye, Phillip Tanner was one of the few players who actually came to the stadium ready to play football.
Another Cowboy who I was impressed with is Sterling Moore. I don't know how much the folks watching from home could see, but from my view, Sterling did a nice job of shadowing his man; keeping his zone fairly quiet all night. For a fourth or fifth cornerback, taking his man out of the offensive equation should be considered to be a successful outing and that was what Moore brought to the game last night. It might not have shown on TV but, I assure you, it did show up on film.
Caleb McSurdy looked absolutely nothing like an NFL player. He was a liability in pass coverage last night, all the while managing to make himself look terrible against the run. The whole game was a struggle; not only was Caleb slow in a physical sense, mentally he seemed to be running in quicksand. In Kiffin's defense, McSurdy must be able to stick with his man on the seam route; however, this was a task he could not accomplish against the second and third string players that Houston sent his way. Don't even get me started about the stiff arm. If you watched the game, you know what I mean. I don't know if Caleb was embarrassed or not, but I do know that I was. His next professional football game should require a ticket.
Equally embarrassing was the performance of the Cowboys down roster offensive linemen. As Coach Garrett said in his post game presser, Alex Tanney didn't stand a chance. He was under fire all night long, as the line surrendered six sacks. It was a night when Tanney knew exactly what a drunk girl at a frat party feels like, he was getting hit on all night long. Not only did his line look like they had never seen a stunt before, but they didn't hold up when Wade Phillips defense played it straight either.
And The Ugly
Maybe it was the result of playing a fifth preseason game, or due to the short turn around time from Saturday night, but there was not much life in the team on Thursday night. For that, there can be no excuse tolerated. Sure it was a meaningless game for most, but for those guys who are on the bubble, it was the most meaningful game of their professional lives. The lack of intensity that I saw last night was disappointing. I could literally feel it all the way up into section 413. One of the mantras of The Way of the Rooster is to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves. Opportunity knocked loudly for several prospective members of the Dallas Cowboys, but nobody bothered to open the door.
A Final Take
It has been an up and down preseason for Dallas, and it did end on a down note. No matter, the time has come for it to get real. Remember, most of what we watched last night came from down roster players, and from guys who were playing the last organized football game of their life. Yes, the guys who survive the looming visit with the Turk will see action during the season, but even then they will not be surrounded by fellow down roster guys; they will be mixed in with better players. The time has now come for us to find out what the 2013 Dallas Cowboys have.