Most fans of the Dallas Cowboys came away from the Oakland game with mixed emotions. After the terrific showing against the Dolphins in the first preseason game, the Oakland affair was decidedly a mixed bag. It had bright spots and dim spots, but in general it was exactly what a preseaason game is meant to be, a learning experience. A chance to evaluate players, not give away too much, and try to stay healthy. Let's see what the players and coaches thought about it.
Sometimes it's hard to keep one thing in mind, coaches tend to stay vanilla in the preseason, especially when the team they are playing is also on the regular season schedule. The Raiders are just that. Holding back is still no excuse for not executing the plays that are called, but in a regular season game, we might have seen a little more creativity in different areas like the red zone. In an article by Mickey Spagnola on this very subject, Romo concurs.
"It was good," Romo said of what took place in the team’s first three offensive series. “We did what we’ve been doing in training camp and moved the ball real well. We were holding back on a lot of our stuff, red zone stuff and some other things. We would have liked to have scored a touchdown, but we got hurt by penalties more than anything, and that aspect of it is just going to hurt you no matter what."
Penalties are still an issue for Dallas. Same as it ever was. But remembering that the Cowboys were holding back in this game reduces the sting a little bit of not punching the ball into the end zone, but that's only true if they can actually get seven come the regular season.
But what Romo really wanted to talk about after the game was the offensive line. I was a huge skeptic that this line was going to be able to protect Romo and open running lanes, but so far, they are getting the job done. Standard caveat: It's only preseason. Still, you can only evaluate what you see, and so far they are passing the eyeball test.
“I don’t want to get away from here without talking about the offensive line,” Romo said. “There were a couple of times I had all day and we had a sack, an incompletion on those two plays, so that’s going to help us a lot if we’re able to do that.
“That’s different. I know what it’s like to play behind that, and having that ability like they did tonight would be a huge bonus for us.”
Indeed, even Lance Dunbar in the running game has noticed a difference.
“It’s probably the biggest the holes have ever been,” Dunbar said.
Garrett praised Dunbar's effort.
“I thought (Dunbar) ran the ball well,” Garrett said. “For a small guy, he’s quick, he’s explosive, but he’s also tough. He’s not afraid to run physically in there. He seems to be able to get to the edge a lot. Watch him at the end of runs, he’s delivering blows, and he’s a very good pass receiver as well.”
The Cowboys didn't run the ball as well as they did against the Dolphins, or nearly as much, but it was still pretty effective. And they got a running touchdown from Joseph Randle. So that's good.
On defense, the Cowboys managed to get two takeaways, another good sign for the regular season. Jason Hatcher and Sean Lee combined on one. The other came from rookie J.J. Wilcox, rebounding from a rough outing against the Dolphins.
“It was kind of just being in the right spot at the right time making plays for my teammates,” Wilcox said. "That’s the main thing. I don’t want to be caught out of position. With that being said, it felt good. It’s kind of bad when they’re coming to the secondary, but as long as I can be there and make plays for my teammates, I’m proud.”
The problem for Dallas is they allowed the Raiders to get two of their own. Nick Stephens gifted one to the defense with a poor decision. Then B.W. Webb muffed the punt that allowed Oakland to win. Garrett wasn't pleased.
“Too many turnovers,” Garrett said. “We had two of them, the fumbled punt and the interception early on in the second half. Obviously, when you get a field goal blocked, that’s not a good thing either. Those are plays that are going to hurt you. They aren’t winning football plays.”
Garrett touched on a big negative aspect from the game, the play of the special teams. They checked the box on just about every kind of bad play you can imagine. Special teams coach Rich Bisaccia knows it.
"We had a field goal blocked and we had a turnover in the red zone, fumbled a punt. Obvviously we didn’t play very well," special team coach Rich Bisaccia said. "It’s just players. I did a poor job, obviously. We did a poor job. We didn’t cover very good. Turned the ball over and had a field goal blocked. So we’ve got a lot of work to do."
Coach Garrett piles on.
"Special teams is really important to our football team," coach Jason Garrett said. "It wins and loses games every week. The big yardage plays, potential turnover, the takeaway-type plays, the potential run plays, and in each of those categories we didn’t do as well as we needed to. I thought we ran better on special teams than we did last week, particularly the young guys, (and) that was a point of emphasis last week."
That will be an interesting area to watch in the next preseason game.
Another thing that drew the ire of Garrett was the play of rookie B.W. Webb. The new-model Garrett is not as reluctant to blast players in the press as he previously was, and Webb received the treatment after this game.
“You’re not allowed to have rough nights,” Garrett said when asked about Webb’s outing. “One of the things you're always looking for in any kind of player -- a young guy or a veteran -- is you want to make sure they respond to the success and adversity of the game. There were a couple of missed tackles early on from him, I thought he came back and tackled better and then he obviously he had the dropped punt."
“You're not allowed to have bad nights. You can never excuse your way out of it. You gotta keep battling, keep fighting and whatever opportunity you get, you got to make sure you take advantage of it.”
Last week, safety J.J. Wilcox received similar treatment. He came back this week and responded. Wilcox said:
“When I was a little kid, my dad was on me hard,” Wilcox said. “When I got to college, my head coach was on me hard. Here, I see coach Garrett on me hard. I’ve been blessed and fortunate to have some coaches who really care about me and want to push me and see me do best. I think he got the best out of me this week.”
Your move, B.W. Webb.
And finally, there was the "broken play" to Dez Bryant. The one where he ran a quick slant, Romo pump faked and Dez slid around the defender for a catch. Dez comments here:
"That was real good by Tony," Bryant said. "The guy was off and he gave him a little pump and I just slipped in the hole and he just delivered (it) right there. That was just great instincts by him and I never make that play without him having those great instincts."
But for a great breakdown of what actually happened on that play, go here.