The first two preseason games for the Dallas Cowboys have certainly had their share of excitement, mostly in the person of Dak Prescott. But the upcoming game against the Seattle Seahawks is expected to see the debut of first round pick Ezekiel Elliott and the first action for All-Pro Tyron Smith. That means we will finally see the running game at full strength. Get your popcorn ready, because the rest of the league is going to have to pick their poison.
The Cowboys' versatility makes them very hard to game plan for (you have to prepare for a lot of different looks), and even harder to predict (their different looks play off of opponents' in-game adjustments). By adding a talent like Elliott to the backfield, the pieces are in place in 2016 for a big jump back to being an elite rushing attack. Having Tony Romo and a real passing game in place will only make the Cowboys run game that much more dangerous. And even if the oft-injured Romo gets hurt again this year, Dallas can always look to its athletic backup and preseason darling, Dak Prescott, to add another element to the run game with designed quarterback runs and the read option.
While the arrival of Elliott is exciting, don't forget that the running game has been doing quite well in his absence, thanks largely to Alfred Morris.
Ezekiel Elliott said recently running behind the Cowboys' offensive line is the "easiest job in America." While that may be true — in a football sense, at least — Morris showed on Friday it also takes a little bit of vision for a running back to take advantage of those holes up front.
Morris' most noteworthy play against the Dolphins was his first quarter touchdown scamper. After starting his run up the middle, he quickly shifted to the left side. The veteran then burst through the hole for six.
As always, Jeff Sullivan has a ton of good stuff. And he brings up a very key point you may have overlooked.
Not a believer in jinxes and the such, so I'm just going to say it: Been the healthiest three-week stretch of camp and preseason in a long, long time. Just one more preseason game, too, as that fourth contest will feature almost none of the starters and second-stringers. Someday we will live in a beautiful world where there are just two preseason games. This needs to become a reality.
Despite what Sullivan said (and there have been very few serious injuries outside of Kellen Moore), there are several players who are currently missing practice. With the Cowboys now holding practices at the Star, the rules are back to the way they are during the regular season for the media, and injury updates are one of the few meaningful things that we can expect for a while.
Most notable of Monday's absences was Tyrone Crawford, who left Sunday's practice after taking a blow to the head.
"He was not able to practice. He was checked for a concussion during practice, and we'll take his situation day-by-day," Garrett said.
Crawford headlined a list that also included Rod Smith, Ronald Leary, Shaneil Jenkins, Charles Tapper, David Irving, James Morris, Andrew Gachkar, Mark Nzeocha and Jeremiah McKinnon.
A lot of these are things that would not keep a player off the field for a regular season game, but we will have to keep an eye on them in case a small problem turns into a big one.
One player who is not on the list is Tyron Smith. As mentioned above, the third preseason game is expected to mark his first action of the year after he was held out of the first two with a pinched nerve or stinger, a recurring problem he has dealt with for years.
Smith said he has full range of motion and wants to play against the Seahawks.
"It's the most frustrating thing ever," Smith said. "I don't like sitting out."
The team has to hope that Shaneil Jenkins will be back soon, because the free agent pickup has already made a splash for a defensive line that needs it.
Signed less than a week before the first preseason game, Jenkins has wasted no time in forcing the team to see him as more than a training camp body. Two games into the preseason, Jenkins already has registered two sacks, a forced fumble and two tackles for a loss.
In 2015, the Cowboys defense as a whole registered less than one sack per game, and only six total forced fumbles.
Since he is suspended for the first four games of the season, a lot of people have wondered why DeMarcus Lawrence is getting so much practice and playing time. He says it is so he can be the most help when he returns.
"I get to talk to my teammates, let them know what they need to do and whatever I can do to help," Lawrence said. "Then I get to understand what they need me to do when I get back, so it'll be huge."
We all know how reliable placekicker Dan Bailey is. And despite all the stereotypes about kickers, he takes his time in the weight room seriously, and is also open to trying other things to stay in top shape.
Despite his 600 career points, which are third in team history, he is not resting on his laurels. He's now practicing yoga as part of his workout routine and recently added racquetball to his physical fitness résumé.
The MVP of training camp at Oxnard may have been Morris Claiborne, who is looking to turn his so-far disappointing career around. He has continued to shine in the preseason games, but he is still hungry.
"I know the things I've been through on the football field and off," Claiborne said. "I've had a lot of ups and downs - more downs than ups - but it's not going to stop me. I've got kids to feed. I know they're watching me and I'm trying to be an example. I'm just working every day to get better."
Keith Smith is in a battle with Rod Smith to become the fullback for the Cowboys. With Rod missing time due to his injury, Keith is trying to make the most of his opportunity - no matter what the team asks him to do.
Just last year, he was a linebacker trying to make the team as a special teams player. The Cowboys signed him this summer with the hopes of turning him into a fullback. But head coach Jason Garrett couldn't stop raving about Smith this week after his performance Friday night - as a running back.
Well, we've proven that there is other Cowboys news besides Dak Prescott. So let's get to our daily dose. The rookie came up with a very concise rebuttal to the argument that he is only facing basic defenses in preseason.
"I don't care if it's vanilla or rocky road," he repeated. "If it's what they're giving me then I gotta take it."
There has been a lot of discussion in social media about whether the Dallas fanbase is overreacting to Prescott's fast start. That really doesn't matter, because the people who make the decisions have a much more measured take, as explained by executive VP Stephen Jones.
"That's hard to say," said Jones. "It's preseason. It speaks for itself. So far he's done a really nice job leading the team. I think he is being productive. His production speaks for itself. It's still preseason. We will have to continue to evaluate his progress."
Everyone knows about Prescott, and Tony Romo had a solid first game last Friday. Most people are probably disappointed with how third string QB Jameill Showers has done so far, but there may be more going on there than you realize.
Despite terrible numbers, 9-of-20 for 114 yards in two games (1-of-4 for 15 yards against Miami), Showers has actually looked good in his limited opportunities behind center. He just hasn't had any help from his offensive line or wide receivers.
Furthermore, it appears as though the Cowboys don't want to let Showers display too much of his talent during the preseason. Despite playing for almost a quarter and a half, he only threw four passes. It looks like the Cowboys may try to sneak Showers onto the practice squad for one more season and let him develop before letting him compete against next year.