What we learned from Saturday's preseason games - Marc Sessler, NFL.com
Some quick observations about the Cowboys.
6. In La La Land, the Cowboys kept Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick and Jaylon Smith coddled in bubble wrap, drenching Saturday's Cowboys-Rams tilt in an aura of desperate meaningless. In their absence, first-round pass rusher Taco Charlton stole the show with a productive three-tackle night capped by a tackle for loss, a quarterback hit and a deep-backfield sack of Rams backup Sean Mannion.
7. Darren McFadden (six carries for 28 yards) ran well in place of Elliott, but color me concerned about the prospects of Kellen Moore as the stopgap behind Prescott. The Cowboys reserve passer threw for just 4.1 yards per attempt before Cooper Rush took over.
Taco Charlton makes a good impression his second time around - Todd Archer, ESPN
Taco Charlton had a productive night.
In the first quarter of the Cowboys' 13-10 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, Charlton recorded a sack, had three tackles, a tackle for loss and a quarterback hurry.
That will get folks thinking good things.
Sullivan: From Taco to Irving, Several Encouraging Signs From Defense - Jeff Sullivan, Dallas Cowboys
Sully liked what he saw from the defense last night:
The defense was impressive. Yes, it was the Rams, not exactly an offensive force. Still, after 10 days of all doom and gloom about first-round pick Taco Charlton, the kid was easily the best player on the field, for either team, in the first quarter. Heck, he had more tackles (3) than Kellen Moore had passing yards (2) those first 15 minutes.
David Irving played well [...] Irving was explosive with that first step and more or less unblockable, which is how many of the practices have been the last few weeks. Shame he’s suspended for the first four games, hopefully he carried over the momentum of this preseason into October.
NFL preseason scores, schedule, updates, news: Mcfadden takes over for Zeke - Sean Wagner-McCough, CBSSports.com
Looks like McFadden has the No. 2 job in Dallas - for now.
It was McFadden -- not Alfred Morris -- who took all of his snaps with the first-team offense.
In 19 snaps, McFadden carried the ball six times for 28 yards. Morris, on the hand, carried the ball five times for 11 yards. This doesn't mean McFadden won the starting job already, but it definitely bodes well for his chances to start when the season begins.
McFadden is the obvious choice. In 2015, when Zeke was still in college, McFadden rushed for 1,089 yards behind the Cowboys' offensive line. Still, expect Morris to get his fair share of carries too. With Washington from 2012-14, Morris averaged 1,321 yards per season.
Rico Gathers Grabs Another Jump-Ball TD: “It’s My Ball; It’s Like A Rebound” - Rob Phillips, Dallas Cowboys
Rico Gathers seems to be getting the hang of this football thing again, Phillips writes.
Gathers had a team-high four catches in Saturday’s 13-10 loss to the L.A. Rams, including a 25-yard touchdown – his second of the preseason – that tied the score late in the third quarter.
It was an encouraging encore to Gathers’ eye-opening preseason opener nine days earlier against the Arizona Cardinals. He had three catches for 59 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown from Kellen Moore, in nearly 60 snaps – by far the most work he’s gotten in a game since the Cowboys drafted him in the seventh round in 2016.
Dallas Cowboys: Kellen Moore struggles vs. Rams - Drew Davison, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Kellen Moore struggled on Saturday night vs. the Rams in the Cowboys’ second preseason game, throwing more incompletions (9) than completions (8).
The Cowboys went three-and-out their first three series with Moore completing just 2-of-6 passes for two yards. The offense didn’t get a first down until the second quarter on what became a field goal drive.
“We weren’t efficient enough, but we did manage to do some good things,” Moore said. “We still have a lot to work on.”
Moore, who missed all of last season after breaking his ankle in training camp, had a better showing in the Hall of Fame game. In that game, Moore went 12-of-17 passing for 182 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He had a 100.6 passer rating in that game.
Cooper Rush Shines On Lackluster Night For Cowboys' Quarterbacks - David Helman, Dallas Cowboys
Like most people watching the game, Helman was impressed with Cooper Rush.
After watching Moore and the first-team offense sputter to 69 first-half passing yards, it felt like a revelation to watch the undrafted rookie take the field in the third quarter.
All told, Rush completed 9-of-11 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown. It might not be a harbinger of things to come, as was the case with Prescott last summer. But it certainly was fun to watch.
Do the Cowboys have their next Tony Romo in Cooper Rush? - Rick Gosselin, SportsDay
The DMN republished this article, written by Gosselin in May, after Cooper's performance last night. Well worth checking out.
Will Rush be the next Tony Romo? Who knows, but his quarterbacking profile says he's worth a look, and his talent may be worth the wait.
No, not the Tony Romo who went to four Pro Bowls and won an NFL passing title in 2014. That was the finished-product Tony Romo. The Cowboys are hoping they've already found that guy in Dak Prescott.
It's time for the Cowboys to find another unfinished Tony Romo -- the undrafted college free agent signed in 2003 who spent three years in a quarterbacking incubator watching and learning how the position should be played.
10 quick observations from the Cowboys preseason game against the Rams - Danny Phantom, Blogging The Boys
Phantom gives us ten thoughts on the Cowboys game against the Los Angeles Rams, Here are two that weren't impressive.
Kellen Moore shouldn’t be the #2 quarterback
As soon as the game started, it just felt like it he was going to struggle. I have no confidence in him whatsoever. He was throwing short too much and gave the offense no chance to move the chains.
Moore played the entire first half and finished 8/17 for a very unimpressive 69 yards. Strangely, things immediately got better when undrafted free agent Cooper Rush came in. The rookie just looked more poised, stepped into his throws and did something Moore couldn’t do - throw the ball down the field. In just one quarter of play, Rush would finish 9/11 for 104 yards and both his incompletions were drops that the receiver should have come down with.
Left guard still a mystery
It’s never good when you hear your number called as an offensive lineman. That’s exactly what happened to Byron Bell twice over the span of three plays. Darren McFadden had a couple running lanes early when Zack Martin and Travis Frederick were in the game, but they closed up quickly when the next group came in. Alfred Morris and Rod Smith didn’t have much room to run. The Cowboys still have a lot of work to do sorting out their LG situation.
Dallas Cowboys: 5 thoughts from Cowboys loss to Rams - Jon Machota, SportsDay
Among Machota's five points is a look at the missed turnover opportunities.
The defense made plays to force the ball loose. That was the good news for the group. The bad: they didn't record a turnover until their fifth opportunity. Midway through the second quarter, the ball came out during a Mark Nzeocha tackle. Defensive back Duke Thomas recovered, giving Dallas the ball at its own three-yard line and keeping points off the board. As Anthony Hitchens said afterward, for the Cowboys to reach their potential defensively, they have to capitalize on more of those opportunities.
"In order to win a championship, our defense needs to force turnovers," Hitchens said. "We did a good job getting the ball out, but if you force a fumble and they recover it it's technically not a turnover. Once we force them we got to have guys getting to the ball so we can scoop them."
Scout's Notebook: Xavier Woods' Big Night; Other Defensive Standouts - Bryan Broaddus, Dallas Cowboys
Broaddus offers 12 impressions from last night's game. All of them are worth your time, here are three of them that touch on players we haven't seen much about in today's News post.
The coaching staff has to be pleased with the way that Xavier Woods played. Woods received an extensive look early in the contest and held up well throughout. I had some questions about his ability to play as a down safety in the box, but he showed me that any concerns that I had were unnecessary. Woods is a highly intelligent player -- but more importantly, he showed a physical side as well with some big hits.
If you ask me which undrafted free agent has the best chance to make the squad right now, Lewis Neal would be my guy. He doesn't have the ideal height, but he makes the most of his traits in the way he plays. The Rams inside three had a difficult time handling him. Early in the game, it appeared that each time the Rams snapped the ball he was in their backfield. Neal has a nice feel for how to shoot the gap and play with that leverage to finish the play.
If Mark Nzeocha can stay healthy, he can help this defense in a couple of different spots. I like his power at middle linebacker, which could also translate into some snaps on the strong side. He is such a good athlete, but he is also so physical. He was also able to make a couple of nice tackles in space while in pass coverage, which was a positive sign as well.
Cowboys rookie safety Xavier Woods had 6 stops in 35 snaps tonight. No other defender regardless of position has 6 stops this preseason.— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) August 13, 2017
The importance of considering Ezekiel Elliott’s side of the story – Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk
Florio, who doesn't have the best standing among Cowboys fans, makes an important point.
Whatever anyone thinks of Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, the NFL’s past handling of internal investigations should at a minimum prompt a willingness to keep an open mind, to listen what Elliott has to say, and to be willing to poke holes in the facts, findings, and logic applied by the league.
That attitude likely won’t earn me any friends at 345 Park Avenue (if I have any), but it’s a clear consequence of the manner in which the league has Machiavellied its way through other investigations, at times ignoring common sense and reason to make the square peg of P.R.-driven justice fit in the round hole of reality.
It will be harder to look at both sides of this case than it is in other cases. Elliott is accused of domestic violence; any effort to push back against the claims made against him will, at some point, feel like a failure to properly support the victims of domestic violence. Perhaps that makes it even more important for Elliott to receive a fair shake.
The ultimate lesson from multiple botched investigations is this: The league does what it wants, when it wants, how it wants. It’s one of the spoils of being the dominant and most powerful sport in America. It also makes having a willingness to ask fair questions and, if need be, push back against questionable findings even more important.
NFL investigation regarding most recent Ezekiel Elliott incident is closed – Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk
That alleged incident in Dallas bar is now officially a non-event.
The league has closed the investigation arising from reports that Elliott had allegedly broken the nose of a DJ at a Dallas nightclub on the evening of July 16. League spokesman Brian McCarthy, in communicating the status of the investigation to PFT, added that “as with any matter, we would review new evidence if presented.”
Jason Garrett discusses Ezekiel Elliott suspension - NFL.com
The Cowboys are bracing for Ezekiel Elliott's six-game suspension, with Jason Garrett saying after Dallas' preseason game on Saturday that the team would "focus on what we can control."
"Obviously, Zeke Elliott's a good football player. But we feel like we've built our team the right way and we feel like we have some veteran experience, guys that have been productive in this league at the running back position in Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden," Garrett said. "[We] feel good about Rod Smith, and we're going to focus on the guys that we have available to us. Zeke will be with us practicing as we go forward and he's going to get himself ready to play when the time comes."
Garrett revealed that he spoke to his players about the "importance of focusing on what we can control," noting the franchise "suspected that something like this might happen."
"We prepared our team accordingly by building it the right way and we're going to focus on what we control with our football team," Garrett said. "That's players and coaches. We're going to coach as well as we can. We're going to play as well as we can with the guys that we have available to us."