The 2016 season for the Dallas Cowboys took a major step forward when the team played it’s first exhibition game. The Cowboys ended up losing to the Los Angeles Rams, 28-24, but as always is the case with preseason, the final score isn’t what really matters. Instead, it’s the individual performances that mean the most, so let’s take a look at some of the winners and losers from the game.
Dak Prescott - It’s safe to say that the overall winner from Saturday night’s game was Dak Prescott. The fourth-round draft pick dazzled in his debut, racking up 139 yards and two TDs with a 154.5 rating. The stats were eye-popping, but the way he dealt with the situation showed uncanny poise and "gamer" ability. He never looked rattled, he spread the ball around to numerous targets, and when things went bad, he did his best to make positive plays. Like when the Cowboys offense went backwards on consecutive penalties.
In the second quarter, Prescott faced [trouble] for certain: second and 34 from the Los Angeles 48 after penalties had backed up Dallas.
Prescott found receiver Devin Street for an 8-yard gain.
Third and 26 from the Los Angeles 40: The Rams blitzed and Prescott scrambled for a 14-yard gain. The Cowboys were back in field goal range. Kicker Dan Bailey converted the 44-yard attempt.
That’s a smart football player. Instead of trying for the huge play and possibly turning the ball over, he got what he could and set up a score. We all can’t wait to see how he performs in the next game.
Cedric Thornton - If you look in the stats, you’ll see one tackle. That really doesn’t qualify as a "winner" in most cases. But, if you watch his film, you’ll be blown away by how fast he can get off the snap. Our own Jim Scott gave you a taste in his article, which I’ll reproduce here.
This didn’t happen just once, but multiple times. He has the potential to be a very disruptive player in this defense.
Shaneil Jenkins - Jim Scott mentioned Jenkins in his article, too, and I agree. For a guy who just recently signed with the team, he actually made an impact. He had one sack and hit the quarterback twice. Bryan Broaddus noted:
The Cowboys might have caught a break with Shaneil Jenkins. I spoke with people at the Broncos, and they told me that he looked good in OTAs and minicamps. But when the pads came on, he wasn't the same player -- some days that happens. What is interesting is that this staff is playing him inside instead of out, but it appears that they have found the right spot. He was a powerful player on college tape and that has carried over to the pro side. His sack of Jared Goff was an explosive move and finish off a twist stunt to drive the Rams out of field goal range before the half.
Mark Nzeocha - He’s been talked about at camp over the last few weeks, and now he’s shown up in a game film. Yes, he had an interception, his most memorable play. But he also was involved in five tackles and never looked overwhelmed or lost. He showed good reaction skills and didn’t look like a guy who had been missing games for over a year.
Lucky Whitehead - 101-yard TD, to start the game. Winner.
Dez Bryant - How good must it have felt to Dez Bryant to be back on the field, healthy, and doing his thing. The back-shoulder catch for 18 yards was a very nice play, and the touchdown reception was pure Dez. Seeing #88 in prime form was a very welcome sight.
Chaz Green - The Cowboys are searching for a reserve swing tackle, and they are hoping Green can be it. In his first effort at nailing down that spot since Charles Brown retired, he didn’t look up to the task. Multiple penalties, questionable technique, putting QBs in danger, it just wasn’t a good showing for the second-year player. Maybe next game we’ll see an improved version.
Andy Jones - He has been the talk of training camp, the UDFA everyone thought had a chance at making the roster. If that is to be the case, he better come out with a powerful game this week, because his effort against the Rams left much to be desired. He caught one pass for nine yards, but dropped two others. If you are scrambling to make the roster, dropping passes isn’t going to get it done.
Jameill Showers - There is no doubt he got the short-end of the stick in his duel with Dak Prescott. He played with the reserves and ended up facing a lot of pressure, and he didn’t get to throw to Dez. So sure, he shouldn’t necessarily be judged against what Dak did. Still, this is the NFL and you are expected to produce no matter the situation, and the Cowboys didn’t score in the second half (although they did pass up an easy field goal). He only completed 50% of his passes. Maybe this week he gets some time with a better surrounding cast.
Geoff Swaim - The bootleg to the tight end is a standard play in the NFL and is generally a high-percentage play, unless you are throwing it to Swaim. We know he’s primarily a blocking tight end, but those drops were plays an offensive guard could have made. You have to be better than that.
Cowboys Defensive Reserves - The Cowboys defense was basically shredded in the second half. A lot of third- and fourth-string players weren’t getting it done. And even when they looked like they were going to get off the field, they would commit a penalty on third down. The Cowboys showed some poor tackling throughout the game and the reserves were just as guilty.