The final score read 28-24, Los Angeles over Dallas. But, as with most preseason games, that’s not the real story. Some players disappointed. Some did the best they could with what they had around them. Some flashed. Some were plain good.
And some were Dak Prescott.
Somehow an 83% completion rate, 11.6 yards per attempt, 2 touchdowns in 12 passes, and no interceptions didn’t add up to a perfect passer rating, but given that both incomplete passes were frankly and badly dropped (see "some players disappointed") that is a mere technicality. Prescott clearly wasn’t dinking and dunking his way down the field, but also spread the ball around, completing passes to seven different Dallas players. It literally would’ve been impossible for him to look better throwing the ball. He did get a delay of game penalty and a sack while the second team line took over, but all in all it was about as impressive a debut as one could have.
How good was Dak? Good enough that the NFL tweeted a video of every one of his throws:
The other Dallas Cowboy quarterback didn’t have the same impressive stats, but played some good football himself. Drops and not-quite-right routes dogged his evening along with some poor offensive line play, but Jameill Showers gave us a play for the ages.
On the wide receiver front there was nice work by Dez Bryant and Terrence Williams. Brice Butler had a nice catch and Lucky Whitehead made his presence felt with a nice jet sweep and a 101 yard kick return to open the game.
But Geoff Swaim and Andy Jones both had the dropsies, with a pair each and not much else to show for the game, though they each at least made a catch at some point. Alfred Morris and Darius Jackson were generally effective, though Jackson got stuffed on a 3rd and 1 behind the second string line. Dallas line play deteriorated quickly and by the second half, the Rams were dominating the Dallas backups. Chaz Green, however, did a decent job in with the first team (starting in place of Tyron Smith) and only really drew notice with a couple of penalties later in the game, both of which were questionable, and he did start to wear down (he played the entire game) and get beat late in the game.
On the defensive side of the ball it was very much a mixed bag. The team started, essentially, the second team line with Ryan Russell, Jack Crawford, Cedric Thornton, and David Irving. They got some pretty good push early in the game, but once Crawford and Thornton came out the entire defensive line was less effective. Irving and Russell played most of the game and Irving had a nice rush on what would end up being the game winning score for Los Angeles. Put simply, the early defensive line play was pretty good, but, like with the offensive line, got noticeably poorer as the game went on, although newcomer Shaneil Jenkins made a little bit of a flash with some nice penetration and a sack.
Mark Nzeocha got the start for Sean Lee and made a bit of an impression with a really nice pick to end Jared Goff’s first series, even though he later fumbled the ball. He also looked comfortable in run fits as well as coverage. Anthony Hitchens looked serviceable at Mike linebacker, and Kyle Wilber played Sam without much impact either way. The cornerbacks seemed to have decent coverage and rookie Anthony Brown, notably, was the first team slot corner. He and Josh Thomas allowed some completions but were in position and prevented yards after the catch. Deji Olatoye made a pair of really nice plays, breaking up a 3rd down pass and then, when a 12 men on the field penalty gave the Rams a first down on the punt, he had this nice interception on a Sean Mannion pass.
While the Rams would go on to dominate after that particular pass, which opened the 4th quarter, right before that pass the situation was this
End 3rd Quarter:— One Cool Customer (@OCC44) August 14, 2016
Cowboys Offensive Passer Rating: 144.4
Defensive Passer Rating: 72.7
Which is a definite improvement over last year’s typical defensive showing. Byron Jones and Barry Church started at safety but didn’t make any appreciable plays. J. J. Wilcox went in during the second quarter and had a couple of tackles, then missed a couple of tackles, then made a nice play from deep zone on a pass to separate the receiver from the ball. Kavon Frazier entered the game alongside Wilcox and played into the 3rd quarter, making a couple of hits.
Apart from Whithead’s return and Bailey’s typical reliability, the special teams were pretty ordinary, with neither punter really kicking well and coverage being fairly weak. Darius Jackson muffed a kickoff at one point and that may ding his bid to be a return man, despite the fact that the ball was recovered.
It does not appear that there were any notable injuries during the game.
But all in all it was very difficult not to like the performance out of the players we needed to see flashes from and, certainly the calls for a veteran back up presence will be silent... for a week anyhow.