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Dallas Cowboys Preseason: Ten Observations From The Vikings Game

The Cowboys “dress rehearsal” game against the Minnesota Vikings has been completed. The starters saw a lot of action. What did you see that stood out the most?

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys played the Minnesota Vikings last night in their preseason dress rehearsal. Fans finally got to see a good dose of action from the Cowboys team that will most resemble the one that's on the field on Sundays. With the starters playing into the second quarter, there was a lot to look at. Here are the ten things that stood out the most.

1. NASCAR package comes at you fast!

The defensive line arrangement of DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory on the edge and Greg Hardy and Tyrone Crawford in the middle was exhilarating. The pressure comes quick and it there is no escape. Many times in the past, a quarterback could just scamper to one side or the other and buy himself some time. Not anymore.

2. Darren McFadden runs well in open lanes.

There are two things I noticed about the running game. First, when Joe Randle was in, the interior blocking was horrible. Travis Frederick, Ron Leary, and Mackenzy Bernadeau got pushed around early. You could see the linemen get all clogged up together where Randle had very little space to maneuver. The one good running lane Randle had, he made a nice run, but it was nullified due to a Leary hold.

But when McFadden entered the game, the line had gelled and the blocking improved. The execution of the interior line was outstanding as the guards would sweep across and seal off a nice running lanes. And McFadden attacked swiftly and flew through the gaps. Could it be that he might fit nicely into this offense? If you didn't think so before, you got to at least consider it a possibility now.

3. Tyrone Crawford and Nick Hayden made a big difference.

It is no secret that having Tyrone Crawford on the field is huge for this defense. He can be seen pushing lineman backwards regularly. But Nick Hayden was no slouch himself. He showed a lot of power and complimented Crawford quite well. The Cowboy made strong run stops on two consecutive plays, turning a Vikings second-and-two into a fourth-and-one. Forcing their will on the blockers allowed Andrew Gachkar to shoot into the backfield and make a key third down stop. It is nice to see the Cowboys show some short yardage stopping ability.

4. Barry Church launched himself at everything.

Another advantage of good physical play by the front line is the clear shots it gives the safeties. Barry Church took full advantage. He would react quickly and attack the run from 15 yards out and beat the ball carrier to the line of scrimmage. There were several times where he would come flying in and be involved with the stop.

5. Tony Romo eased himself back slowly.

The Cowboys pass protection was real good, even in the earlier part of the game. Romo would act decisively in the first few possessions, not allowing himself to get into any real trouble with the pressure from the defense. As a result, he didn't take much time looking for open receivers. This caused him to rush throws to A.J. Jenkins and Gavin Escobar, as well as just playing it safe and taking a sack.

But then, Romo started getting comfortable. He would stutter-step a little more in the pocket which allowed him to find receivers for big plays. Nothing is more beautiful than watching Tony do his little swirly-loopty-loop and find an open receiver in the end zone. If you wait long enough, even Lucky Whitehead can get himself open.

6. Brandon Carr wasn't that bad.

Giving up a big pass play combined with a defensive holding penalty on a third-and-long play seems like he had a bad day. He didn't. First off, the defensive hold was questionable. It looked like he had his hands off the receiver pretty close to the five-yard window. Second, the big play he gave up was a great throw and catch. You have to give the Vikings credit. That was a nice play. Carr's coverage was really good. The ball was just put in the perfect spot.

But despite a couple negative plays, Carr responded by doing something he didn't do at all last year - intercept a pass.

7. Morris Claiborne wasn't bad either.

Like Carr, he also got tagged with a penalty, but his was more obvious. All in all, Claiborne played well. He wasn't attacked by the quarterback like he was in his last game against the St. Louis Rams last season. His coverage was tight.

This is a good start for a cornerback group that is going to be under the microscope a lot this year.

8. Cole Beasley is a valuable tool.

I have mixed feelings about the Beasley punt returner project. Let's face it - he's going to be good at it. He's got great hands, can stop on a dime to shift direction, and has good speed to run off nice gains. It's those same attributes that make him such an effective slot receiver. There is no denying that Beasley has turned into a playmaker for this team. The problem however, is that he's going to have full speed tacklers coming at him several times a game and when they get a good lick on him - it could be damaging. Is resorting to using him as a punt returning overextending him?

9. Special Teams is a real issue.

If this was the dress rehearsal game, then does that mean it applies to the special team group as well? If so, the team has a problem. Granted, the makeup of the roster still hasn't been determined so Rich Bisaccia doesn't really know which guys he'll have at his disposal just yet. Yes, it will get better when there is more consistency with the guys in this group, but a lot of the guys on the field Saturday look like strong candidates for the regular season squad. This will take some adjusting and re-adjusting, but so far it doesn't look very good.

10. Davon Coleman is making this team.

Another game, another great performance. With Terrell McClain expected to be strong candidate to challenge Nick Hayden for his starting spot at the 1-tech, Coleman finds himself fighting with Ken Bishop for the final defensive tackle position. Let's just end that foolishness already. Coleman's making it. Sure, he has flashed some good play in the preseason before only to see it disappear later, but he seems to have things figured out.

Those are the things I saw. What about you?

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