The Dallas Cowboys accomplished some good in the Hall of Fame game. Some players made a move to secure positions, or better positions, on the roster. Here are some observations of what transpired.
- THEY RAN THE BALL!!!: Lance Dunbar, Phillip Tanner, Joseph Randle, Kendial Lawrence.... it didn't matter who was in the back field for the Cowboys in Canton, they ran the ball and ran it well. The backs had some holes (see my third note) and they hit them well. Taking it to the edge, or cutting it up inside, this game made Bill Callahan's life easy.
- This defensive line made plays: Not a single starter played along the defensive line for the Cowboys, but the way the game looked, you never would have known it. Nick Hayden, Kyle Wilber, Monte Taylor, and the player of the game, George Selvie, were in the back field all night.
- The left side of the offensive line could actually be good: When the Cowboys had their first offensive linemen in the game, Tyron Smith, Ronald Leary and center Travis Frederick played very well. They opened up holes for Lance Dunbar on the first series, and the back was able to run to the left side anytime he wanted to. Even after Tyron Smith left the game, Ron Leary did a good job, he helped the backup tackles on the combo blocks in the run games, and got to the second level on linebackers for Phillip Tanner and Joseph Randle as well.
- Matt Johnson outplayed JJ Wilcox: One of the popular subjects of training camp so far has been J.J. Wilcox, and how he was making a lot more plays than his second-team safety counterpart Matt Johnson. However, early in this game, (prior to Matt Johnson's fluke ankle/foot injury) Johnson was the better of the two young safeties. He made a very solid hit on Lamar Miller coming out of the middle of the field on a run play early, had a very solid shot on a WR running a slant route as the curl-flat player in a Cover 3 look, as well as making the potential TD saving tackle on which he hurt his ankle. Meanhile there were many times that Wilcox was out of position, letting guys get across his face for easy catches and missing a couple of tackles as well. It was disappointing to see Johnson come up hurt, but last night was a glimpse at what this guy could do.
- Travis Frederick needs to play Center: I think it's time to put the talk of Frederick playing guard with Phil Costa playing center to rest. Frederick played well at center early, made the line calls with authority, handled the 1-technique in the run game, and helped out Leary and Arkin when he was uncovered in pass protection. However, the guard stuff wasn't as good. He struggled with the quickness of having to block a 3-technique, and his miss was the reason Alex Tanney got lit up in his first series at QB. Also, Phil Costa was less than impressive. He was in his own backfield much too often and cut off the backs paths to the holes several times by getting pushed backwards.
- Not (overly) concerned by the yards allowed: We've talked a lot since Monte Kiffin was hired as the defensive coordinator about how this defense would give up yards both in the run game and the passing game, but it would give up few big plays and force turnovers to help the offense. That is exactly how tonight played out. They were able to force two turnovers, and get their hands on several more balls, with only one defensive starter (Justin Durant) seeing any time. Sure you never want to see your team give up a touchdown in the final minute to make it a one-score game, but you have to remember a lot of the guys on defense for the Cowboys that series won't make the team and several will probably never play a down in a regular season NFL game. The QB for that series is everyone's second favorite former Cowboy Training camp hero who was cut (after Danny Amendola), Matt Moore, who has played in 37 NFL games and started 25, completing almost 60% of his passes along the way.
We'll be able to learn more about the new looks on offense and defense once the team gets to Oakland to play the Raiders on Friday night, as the starters on both sides begin to actually play. It is difficult to evaluate guys based on one game. However, it is not difficult to be pleased after a performance like the Cowboys displayed in Sunday's Hall of Fame game.