We have waited a long time to finally see the Dallas Cowboys back in action. Okay, so we didn't get that outstanding performance that all Dallas Cowboys fans wanted to see from their team last night, but that doesn't mean there weren't some players who stood out.
Whether the Cowboys win or lose doesn't necessarily doesn't really matter. One of the elements of the NFL pre-season that does matter is the individual performances of players. It was good to see the defense pull out the win for the Cowboys, but at the end of the day what truly matters is the performances of the players who are fighting for a spot on the 53-man roster.
I wasn't pleased by the overall performance of the team, but it's too early to jump the gun on this football team. If by the third pre-season game we are still seeing poor offensive line play when our injured lineman return, costly mistakes and sloppy football, then we should worry.
The Cowboys will take on the San Diego Chargers this Saturday, and I can't wait to see this team get back on the field and perform at a higher level. But before we can look forward to the Chargers game, we need to focus on the players who made an impact against the Raiders. The starters really didn't play that much, and the pre-season is more about the non-starters on the team. Let's take a closer look at the non-starters who increased their stock with good performances in Oakland.
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We all know that the offense wasn't that good last night. The limitations of the offensive line showed, which is unfortunate because I wanted to see what these young wide receivers could do. Outside of Dez Bryant, second year undrafted free agent Andre Holmes was the best wide receiver last night.
Listed at 6-5, 208 pounds, Holmes put on full display the size and speed combination that have prevented the Cowboys from signing a veteran wide receiver like Plaxico Burress. Holmes caught three passes for 40 yards on five targets.
The Cowboys love the size that Holmes has, and he understands that his size can be key in his success.
"I’m a big guy and I know they want me to go up and get the ball," Holmes said. "That’s one of the reasons I’m here and I think it’s something I’ve got to do more of – go get the ball when they put it up for me. So hopefully I’ll get more opportunities to do that."
Holmes still needs to work on his route running, but he looked pretty good when he put his foot in the ground and made a strong cut. He showed that he has smooth hands when he went up and plucked the ball out of the air. Granted it's a small sample size, Holmes may be the front runner for the role of the #3 WR.
This past February, Hanna had a great NFL Combine workout, but he managed to fall all the way to the sixth round of the draft. The book on Hanna was that he was a great athlete, but he had trouble blocking and possessed suspect hands.
Jon Gruden really liked Hanna, referring to him as a "Joker Deluxe" type of tight end who can make an impact in the passing game. That is exactly what I had envisioned for Hanna in this offense when we drafted him.
Hanna was targeted five times, which tied him with Andre Holmes for the most targets on the team. He only caught two passes for 15 yards, but it was clear that Jason Garrett wants to get him involved in the passing game. He has answered the concerns about his hands during training camp, and he continues to improve as a blocker. Hanna also showed good hustle on special teams, which is an area that backup players need to excel at.
When all of the BTB writers sat down to pick a pet cat, I decided to take Adrian Hamilton. Hamilton may have been playing against inferior competition, but his stock is definitely on the rise and it may be hard for the Cowboys to sneak him onto the practice squad.
Hamilton showed us his athleticism as a pass rusher when he used his spin move, but his bull rush also allowed him to break through the offensive line. His hit on Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor was one of the highlights of the evening.
Rob Ryan needs another pass rusher for his defense, and he may have a new toy in Hamilton. With Kyle Wilber going down with a broken thumb, it may be time for Hamilton to get more reps and see what he can do against better competition.
The Cowboys have been pushing the versatility theme in training camp by playing Alex Albright at tight end, inside linebacker and outside linebacker. Albright is in a difficult position to make this team because of the competition he is facing from Adrian Hamilton at outside linebacker, but he is also battling Orie Lemon for a possible spot on the team as a backup inside linebacker.
Albright's versatility to play multiple positions may be his ticket to making the 53-man roster. Last night he was all over the field, racking up a game-high nine tackles. He took snaps at inside and outside linebacker, but he also showed his ability to make an impact on the special teams unit.
After a good performance, you would think Albright would be gloating, but he is focused on improving his game and becoming a better football player.
"You got to take it with a grain of salt," Albright said. "With every good thing I did, I’m sure I did a couple bad things. I’ll clean it up tomorrow and hopefully I’ll keep progressing and make some more plays the next game."
I believe that Rob Ryan really wants to keep Albright around. Ryan went out of his way last year to praise Albright over Mark Herzlich. His stock is on the rise, and it will be extremely hard for the other backup linebackers to push Albright off of the 53-man roster right now.
Entering the game last night, the talk of the defensive line had been Clifton Geathers, but it was undrafted rookie free agent Ben Bass who showed the most promise. The Texas A&M product was consistently disruptive and he showed great hustle for a 6-4, 288 pound defensive end.
Bass filled up the stat sheet with five tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack. The entire field looked completely out of gas late into the fourth quarter, but Bass continued to bring everything he had. You want to see players give it their all and hustle in the pre-season games. When you see a player like Ben Bass go all out, it tells you that he is hungry to make the football team.
The Cowboys will have a tough decision to make with Bass and some of the other defensive lineman. If Bass continues to play at the level we saw from him last night, it will be impossible for the Cowboys to sneak him onto the practice squad.