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Cowboys @ Rams: Five Thoughts On The Game Including Dak Prescott Passes First Test

With the first preseason game in the books, what did we see? Here are my five thoughts on the Cowboys game against the Rams.

Don't forget the guys catching those passes from Dak.
Don't forget the guys catching those passes from Dak.
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Cowboys lost their preseason opener to the Los Angeles Rams, but it still left a good taste in our mouths as the team was leading 24-7 after the half the mattered. The Rams would score 21 unanswered points in the second half, which would have been a disappointing let down if many of the guys on the field weren’t deep reserve players. Fans were pretty jacked about what they saw, particularly their first glimpse of the Cowboys new rookie backup quarterback. Here are five observations from Saturday’s game.

Dak was phenomenal

If there is any discomfort from Cowboys fan right now, it mostly stems from the anxiety we feel knowing that Tony Romo’s window is closing. Many of us feel very good about the talent the team has and the bright future that awaits, however, without a franchise quarterback at the helm, it’s going to be hard to do anything special. Life without Romo looks bleak.

But on Saturday, even if it was just for one half – that unsettling feeling went away. The Cowboys rookie quarterback, Dak Prescott, played remarkable. He was 10 for 12 passing for 139 yards and two touchdowns. Both his incompletions were drops by tight end Geoff Swaim. The kid was on mark. And I’m not just talking about these little dump off passes that many of us expected to see. He was throwing the ball down the field with great accuracy. He had four passes of 15 yards or more, including perfect strikes to Brice Butler (for 22 yards) and Terrance Williams (for a 32-yard TD).

He didn’t have his All-Pro left tackle, he didn’t have the great security blanket of his future HOF tight end, and he didn’t have the services of that hyped-up explosive rookie running back everyone is talking about. All these things would have helped make things a lot easier for him, but it didn’t matter. He had plenty of weapons to do some real damage. He utilized his WRs very well, never miss-firing on any of his targets. Dak showed great poise and looked like a seasoned pro going through his progressions.

This is a great sign for Cowboys fans. Can you imagine a season where all is not lost should something happen to Tony Romo? No one wants to think about that, but if the Cowboys have themselves a good backup, that’s a huge win for this team.

I forgot how good the receivers are

Everyone talks about what a down-year players like Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams had last season, but you can’t overstate how much difference it made having a good quarterback. Whether it be Cole Beasley catching passes over the middle, Bryant making great back-shoulder catches, or Williams deep – it all returned just like it was 2014 again.

Beasley is a tough cover and if you have a quarterback that can hit you in stride, he’s going to be very difficult to stop. Dez is just a beast and is an absolute nightmare to have to cover one-on-one. He’ll win that matchup on a great majority of plays and often times, he’ll make the defender look as if he doesn’t belong on the field. And Terrance Williams looked outstanding. He had a nice double move on the Rams DB to create enough space for Dak to drop the pass right in his hands, but what impressed me the most was his blocking. Williams is a physical blocker and he was constantly taking his opponent out of the play, springing his teammate for addition yards. You really start to have an appreciation for how effective he is if you watch Devin Street try to do the same thing. Night and day.

No presence of a pass rush

The Cowboys would throw out several different players on the defensive line as they looked for players who could get some push into the backfield. Nobody was able to step up. Mike McAdoo had a nice inside move that enabled newcomer, Shaneil Jenkins, to fly through and get a sack. But outside of that, there wasn’t much there. The Cowboys best defensive play came on a blitz when rookie linebacker Derek Akunne was able to hit Jared Goff, causing the ball to float in the air and into the hands of Mark Nzeocha.

It should be interesting to see how the pass rushing situation materializes over the next few weeks, but so far – it’s not off to a good start. Granted, the Cowboys were missing their top two defensive linemen in Tyrone Crawford and DeMarcus Lawrence, but someone needs to step up.

I’m done with J.J.

I figured being designated to a reserve role might light a spark under the Cowboys fourth-year safety. With Byron Jones locked down at free safety, some of the pressure might be off of Wilcox. And these preseason games should provide him with an opportunity to go against some weaker opponents.

But it doesn’t matter. He’s terrible.

Wilcox is out of position regularly. When he is in position, his arms look like they have fallen asleep as he can’t pull down anyone. Again and again, number 27 is the player missing tackles. He did have one good play where he laid a nice lick on the Rams receiver that jarred the ball loose. That’s one thing Wilcox is good at – hitting. But for him to be able to demonstrate that skill he has to be able to (A) catch up to the receiver and (B) square up on him. Failure to achieve both of these things is going to lead to a negative play for Wilcox.

In fairness to Wilcox, he wasn’t the only defender missing tackles. Many players participated. For some reason the absence of Sean Lee makes the run stoppers look completely incapable of tackling anyone.

Swaim’s a blocking tight end

It’s been nice hearing about all these passes he’s been catching at camp. Could it be that he can become a complete tight end that can both block and pass? We know he’s a good blocker, but if that’s all he can do, then he’s just a younger version of James Hanna. Saturday, he would get a chance to showcase his pass catching ability.

It didn’t go well. Prescott would deliver perfect passes, but he couldn’t come down with them. And on one play, I’m pretty sure he tried to catch a pass with his feet. It was a poor showing for Swaim and could be an indicator that he’s not ready to add pass catching to his repertoire.