The Cowboys left Fawcett Stadium with what I would call a satisfying preseason game against the Miami Dolphins. More things went right for Dallas than went wrong, one of the big ones that went right is no apparent serious injuries. The running game got going, the offensive line did a credible job, and the defense did manage to get some turnovers, albeit mostly from sloppy ball-handling on Miami's part. Let's take a look at what the combatants had to say about the game.
Let's start with a combatant that saw only the sideline, starting QB Tony Romo. Sounds like #9 hasn't taken kindly to the insinuation that he didn't spend enough time around the facility before his huge contract. Of course, this was made famous by the free-speaking Jerry Jones, who basically said he wanted Romo to spend more time at the facility.
"I think that was wrong," Romo said. "He didn’t want me to spend more time at the facility, I mean, I wear the facility out. He asked me if I wanted to spend more time in the coaches meetings, something I’ve never been able to do before. I told him, ‘Yeah.’ I thought that was a positive for us as a football team. Just any time you can get in there and be involved, in that aspect, it’s a good thing. I was on board with that. I thought it was a good thing, and it’s been great so far."
Okay, maybe that is true. I have noticed that your name is not showing up in celebrity/athlete golf matches, but then again you were dealing with the cyst surgery. It's all good, I'm sure Romo will be Romo again this year, and that's good enough if he can get some help.
Speaking of help, maybe a running game would be a good start. Yes, I keep beating this drum, but the Cowboys have to run the ball with more credibility than last year. That running game was dismissed by opponents as an afterthought. On Sunday night, the Cowboys ran the ball and ran it with authority.
"We want to be a more physical team running the football,’’ Garrett said. "I thought tonight was a good start running the football. We ran it a few different ways. We ran it inside, had some edge runs as well. I thought the runners ran hard. I thought Phillip Tanner really ran hard and was taking advantage of the opportunity we gave him.’’
Yes, Tanner was very impressive. Tanner looked lighter and more nimble in this game, but kept his power and aggressiveness. He's making the Cowboys seriously consider carrying four backs.
"Just coming out here and making the best of every opportunity,’’ said Tanner, who is eight pounds lighter and moving much better than he did a year ago. "Coach Garrett preaches that to us all the time, whether it is one play or 100 plays. Make the best of every snap.’’
With DeMarco Murray and Lance Dunbar playing at 1 and 2, Tanner is making his bid to be either 3 or 4. He'll have to make it hard on the Cowboys to cut him, because Dallas surely wants at least a one-year evaluation of draft pick Joesph Randle, who also did good work on Sunday night.
"Once I got the pre-game jitters out of there, it was a great game," he said. "The offensive line did a great job, and I was just out there trying to capitalize on the yards when I was out there."
"It’s a little bit of all of that," he said, asked if he relied on vision or "feel" to find room. "The people that can balance that the most are probably the best running backs." So how did he do it? "I don’t know. I was just playing football," Randle said.
Just making plays, and producing.
Of course, that running game doesn't function without the offensive line. The line, particularly the interior line, has been the Cowboys biggest issue on offense. Against the Dolphins they were pretty good. Ronald Leary and Travis Frederick got some nice kudos.
"I don’t want to be the coach, but I’m comfortable [with Leary]," owner Jerry Jones said. "He has a substance. It’s not just his size, but his punch. He has a base in the middle. You put that with Frederick in there, and that changes things up for us from what we had."
"Leary and Travis, specifically, we really had our eyes on those guys," Jones said. "We saw them do some good things. It’s going to give them some confidence."
Okay, Jerry if you're not trying to be the coach, then let's see what the actual coach said.
"We have tried to be a more physical team running the football," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "We tried to address a personnel issue we had up front by drafting Travis Frederick. We felt like we got a couple of young lineman coming to make us bigger and stronger up there, to help us run the ball better. I thought tonight was a good start running the football."
"We ran it a few different ways. We ran it inside; we had some edge runs as well. I thought the runners ran hard. I thought Phillip Tanner really ran hard and really took advantage of the opportunity we gave him. So I thought that was a good start in the running game."
A good start. We'll see if the Cowboys new-found running game continues to work as the competition and intensity ratchet up.
On the defensive side of the ball, it was all about getting turnovers and pressuring the passer. On the turnover side of things, the Cowboys did pick up two. But, about 50% of those turnovers were gifts by the Dolphins. On the first one, no one touched the running back for Miami who couldn't handle the exchange, that's the gift part. But, you have to work to recover the ball, and the Cowboys did. Same thing on the second one, the Dolphins receiver could have made a catch instead of deflecting the ball, but Dallas had to intercept the ball, and then as a bonus turn it into a pick six. So they didn't really cause the turnovers, but they made them count when presented with an opportunity.
Garrett talks about turnover philosophy.
"Turnovers were the name of the game in the first half," Garrett said. "We took the ball away from them on their first offensive play. I think it was an exchange problem, but we were around the ball and came up with it."
"Turnover differential has the biggest correlation between winning and losing in the NFL."
The Cowboys on defense do seem to swarm to the ball with more urgency so far. At least one guy is listening.
"They talk about turnovers before the play, during the play and after the play every day," [DeVonte] Holloman said. "I was just happy to get into the end zone once I intercepted the pass."
"I didn't want the quarterback to catch me. I'm happy. I got my first handshake from Coach Garrett."
Holloman showed some skill on that play. Deftly plucking the ball out of the air, keeping his balance, getting his motor going in the right direction, then the nice stiff-arm on the QB.
"I thought he was going to get me," Holloman said. "I was saying the whole time, ‘Don’t get me, don’t get me, don’t get me,’ and he laid out and I happened to throw a stiff arm and got away. Just blessed to make that play."
As nice as Holloman's play was, the defensive star of the night was George Selvie. A street free agent just a few weeks ago, called into camp when defensive ends started dropping, he's done nothing but impressing. Including making it to practice on his first day.
"It’s gone real fast. Getting the call at six o’clock in the morning, flying out to California, and getting there it was like, ‘Ok, nice to meet you – we’re going to need you to practice at 4 o’clock,’" Selvie said. "I’m like ‘Uh, alright.’ But I’m just grateful for the opportunity; I thank God every day for the opportunity."
He's been opening eyes since that first day.
"He’s a good football player, he’s a hungry football player. He works very hard in practice, and you saw him show up again in the game tonight," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "It didn’t surprise us that he was going to do that based on the way he’s been practicing."
Selvie was itching to get back into football, and has plans to stay.
"You try not to think about it, but in the back of your mind you’re like, ‘Man, people are in OTA’s, people are about to start camp,’ and I’m sitting at home still working out, playing with my son," he said. "But I finally got that call, and when I got the call I was ready. That’s all about being prepared."
"Going out there, playing hard, making plays," he said. "It’s a producing league. You produce, that’s the way you stay in."
He sounds like he's begun channeling Garrett, stacking one good practice or game on top of another.
"Through the last three years, I’ve been through some stuff," Selvie said. "So just going out here and having a good game, starting off right. We’ve got four more games left, still got training camp left. I’ve got to build off that. I can’t stay settled. I’ve got to go for greatness, and that’s what I’m going to try to do."
Keep on chopping, big man. That game last night certainly got you noticed.