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Cowboys News: Cowboys starters look “outstanding”, even without Ezekiel Elliott

Latest Cowboys headlines: Cowboys’ offensive starters shine in brief preseason debut; Jaylon Smith has spirited debut; more.

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Indianapolis Colts v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Jaylon Smith makes significant debut in Cowboys' win; Dak Prescott solid - Todd Archer, ESPN
Archer was impressed with the starters.

When it was starters vs. starters, the Cowboys looked...:

Would outstanding be too strong? Yes, RB Darren McFadden fumbled on the second drive, but the Cowboys faced third down just once on the first two drives and WR Cole Beasley converted that. McFadden ran for 59 yards on nine carries. TE Jason Witten had two first-down catches. The defense had two three-and-outs and did not allow a first down in the first quarter. That has to give the Cowboys confidence going into their next preseason game against the Oakland Raiders, when the starters could play into the third quarter.

Dallas Cowboys Dak Prescott, Dez Bryant shine in preseason debuts - Nate Davis, USA Today
More praise for the starters.

In their first appearances of the preseason, Dak Prescott and Dez Bryant hardly seemed to miss Dallas Cowboys teammate Ezekiel Elliott.

Darren McFadden, who is expected to start during Elliott's six-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy, carved up the Colts for 59 yards on nine carries but lost a fumble after the Cowboys drove deep into Indianapolis territory on their second possession.

Dak impresses for 'Boys; Jaylon has spirited debut - Staff, looks at the key highlights from Saturday's game.

Dallas' first drive with Prescott this preseason was almost a showcase -- a see, he's not just a one-year wonder series of plays that displayed everything analysts said Prescott needed to work on. A timing slant to Bryant, an intermediate route to Jason Witten and a back shoulder fade to Bryant for the touchdown. The back shoulder fade is the epitome of quarterback-receiver synchronicity and, while it was against a punchless Colts defense, it still kicked off Prescott's 2017 in a favorable way.

Smith logged one tackle on his first two series, but his debut wasn't about statistics. His linebackers coach will probably note that Smith looked like a frantic high school freshman, thrust into varsity action unexpectedly. The real takeaway? This was a beautiful moment. Some thought Smith was never going to play football again. Ever.

The payoff on Saturday was watching Smith erupt after making his first NFL tackle -- a third-down stop of Jack Doyle. Before that, watching Smith just bob his head, soak in the atmosphere before every play was pure joy.

Prescott, Cowboys’ Offensive Starters Shine In Brief Preseason Debut - David Helman, Dallas Cowboys
It was just a preseason game, but ...

Obviously, preseason football isn’t always a great indicator of things to come. There’s not a lot of game planning happening for an exhibition game, and not everyone’s starters are playing.

But considering the lofty expectations facing this offense – and facing Prescott in particular – it had to be encouraging to see the Cowboys hit the ground running.

“The first drive was outstanding,” said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. “A good mix of run and pass, made some plays in the passing game and the throw to Dez was outstanding.”

“The second drive was equally good,” Garrett said. “We didn’t cash in on it, though. The turnover down in close obviously hurt us.”

It might have been just a preseason game, but it was certainly a promising start.

Life without Zeke - Jon Machota, SportsDay
Machota offers five post-game observations, one of which is about life without Elliott.

Ezekiel Elliott didn't play, but the first-team offense looked a lot like last year's group on the first two series. Dak Prescott moved the ball well through the air. Darren McFadden and the run game had success on the ground. McFadden's redzone fumble was costly and something that can't happen on Sundays, but he did run well behind the starting o-line, finishing with 59 yards on nine carries. Prescott and Bryant hooked up on two pass plays, which included a 32-yard TD on a back-shoulder throw. Bryant is clearly healthy and looking like his old self.

Cowboys' win vs. Colts showed us what they really look like without Zeke - Tim Cowlishaw, SportsDay
What will he Cowboys look like without Ezekiel Elliott?

The Cowboys' early returns Saturday night in the first home preseason test were really, really good. Dallas could have used Elliott but chose not to (you never know when an injunction might allow him to play 16 games). In a 24-19 victory over the Indianapolis Colts, it took awhile for the 2016 leading rusher to be missed.

In fact, the first-unit offense minus Zeke had gained 163 yards on 17 plays and was about to march in for its second touchdown and a 14-0 lead when Darren McFadden fumbled at the Colts' 12-yard line. A play like that changes everything when examining such small samples, so the bottom line Saturday night was that the Cowboys' first offense looked great in averaging more than nine yards per play but collected only 31/2 points per possession.

'It’s just the beginning.' After 596 days off, Jaylon Smith relishes playing against Colts - Andy Friedlander, USA Today
Jaylon Smith is finally back from injury.

Smith’s appearance was a brief one. The coaches placed a 10-12-snap “pitch count” on him, and he wound up playing 12 plays on three Colts’ possessions in the first and early second quarter. He was involved in one play, recording his first pro tackle by stopping tight end Jack Doyle for 3 yards on a third-and-9 play late in the first quarter. He celebrated with furious fist pump.

“A moment I’ve waited for for a long time,” he said. “And it’s just the beginning. There are many more to come.”

Smith did miss an opportunity to make a bigger splash on the next series when he ran right past Frank Gore in the backfield, allowing the Colts running back to pick up 3 yards. More important, though, Smith looked smooth and fast, showing no effects from the injury.

“I had expectations that he would get here because he’s so driven,” Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. “The way he was moving around out there I was thinking maybe we could get 10 more plays out of him.”

Afterward, Smith was asked if he felt he was at 100 percent on the field. He answered with a wide smile.

“I felt,” he said, “like Jaylon Smith.”

Refocused: Dallas Cowboys 24, Indianapolis Colts 19 - Pro Football Focus
Taking a closer look at some exclusive PFF takeaways from the Cowboys win over the Colts, 24-19, where Jonathan Cooper stood out in PFF's "grading" system.

G Jonathan Cooper, 85.7 overall grade

While the entire Cowboys’ offensive line was in midseason form both in pass protection (no hurries allowed, only hurry against Prescott came against tight end James Hanna) and in the run game, Cooper excelled while playing a game-high 56 snaps. He’s one of the biggest question marks up front for Dallas and he didn’t give up a pressure while making a number of key blocks in the run game, showing great balance and positioning to open up holes. He finished the game with an 89.1 grade in pass protection.

Cooper Rush Continues To Seize His Opportunity With Another Big Outing - David Helman, Dallas Cowboys
Helman writes that Cooper is "the story of the summer."

This latest performance gives the rookie quarterback a sterling record through the preseason. In three games, he has combined to complete 26-of-38 passes for 283 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions.

“What he’s been able to do every time he’s come in is help our team move the ball and score points,” Garrett said.

“I’ve been one of Cooper’s biggest fans since the moment he got here,” Dak Prescott said. “You can ask Orlando Scandrick – he told Cooper I was handing out applications for his fan club.”

Prescott might have been the first one on the bandwagon, but it has filled up quickly during the month of August. Dating back to his strong outing against the Los Angeles Rams last weekend, fans began to wonder if Rush was the better option at backup quarterback than Kellen Moore.

Rush’s continued success on Saturday, coupled with another forgettable outing from Moore, prompted that question to be asked out loud.

Stephen Jones 'real pleased' with Cooper Rush, but is he ready to consider him for backup QB job? - Brandon George, SportsDay
Cooper is making a strong case for himself.

Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said he's eager to see even more of quarterback Cooper Rush after a stellar start to the preseason, but he isn't prepared to hand him the backup quarterback job.

Rush has outperformed Cowboys backup quarterback Kellen Moore through three preseason games. On Saturday night against the Colts, Rush was near perfect.

But is Jones ready to consider Rush for the backup quarterback job?

"That would be unfair to say at this point," Jones said. "Let's just see how it plays out. The one thing I would say is every time he gets an opportunity he takes advantage of it in spades. I'm real pleased with him."

Cowboys' Jason Witten sees some of a young Tony Romo in Cooper Rush - Jon Machota, SportsDay
The Senator with a strong endorsement for the rookie.

Rush has been so good that Jason Witten agreed when asked if the youngster's play reminds him of Tony Romo coming into the league as an undrafted rookie free agent.

"Certainly," Witten said. "The guy just has that play-making ability. He's a quiet, smart kid. He's played a lot of football in his career, being a four-year starter. Just think how far he's come from OTAs to now. There's just something about a quarterback who can come in and make plays, much like we experienced when I was young with Tony.

"You get opportunities and you see a guy take advantage of it, that's what you want. I'm proud of him. He deserves a lot of credit for it."

Cowboys still backing Kellen Moore but his poor play ‘to be talked about’ - Clarence Hill, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Cowboys brass are still publicly backing second-team quarterback Kellen Moore but continued struggles will be ‘talked about’ in personnel meetings this week, Hill writes.

Backup quarterback Kellen Moore’s continued poor play in the preseason is starting to become an area of concern.

Considering the largely unproven Moore has been given the backup job behind starter Dak Prescott it is a cause for concern _ enough for a source to say that he will be the subject of conversation at personnel meetings this week.

What that means is largely unknown as it’s unlikely the Cowboys will go into the season undrafted rookie Cooper Rush as the back up, no matter how impressive he has been.

Jerry Jones "making plans" in war over Ezekiel Elliott against NFL - Drew Davison, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
This sounds ominous.

“I don’t have anything to say about anything with the commissioner or with anything to do with Zeke at this particular time,” Jones said. “Still making my plans.”

Dallas Cowboys' Jerry Jones quiet about Ezekiel Elliott's suspension - Todd Archer, ESPN
Jones aims to "just see kind of how this thing turns out" with the six-game ban levied on RB Ezekiel Elliott before deciding what to do.

While sources have said Jones was upset with the ruling, he has been quiet.

"Because I have said I just want to get my thoughts together, see some more cards played and just see kind of how this thing turns out," Jones said Saturday after the Cowboys beat the Indianapolis Colts in a preseason game. "I know that they've got a real important date set and want that to have every opportunity it can to have things in its best light. But we certainly are in support of Zeke."

Jerry Jones: Cowboys certainly support Ezekiel Elliott -
While Jerry Jones declined to specifically comment on Ezekiel Elliott's suspension, he did say Elliott has the team's support.

"Of course I'm hopeful we'll have Zeke back in there pretty quick too, as far as looking at it like you might an injury or something like that," he said, per The Dallas Morning News. "We've got a lot of football to play under any circumstances regarding this suspension."

Elliott witnesses weren’t placed under oath – ProFootballTalk
The latest from the NFL's mess.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the league didn’t administer the oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth under penalty of perjury to Elliott at the June 26 hearing. This likely means that Tiffany Thompson wasn’t placed under oath, either, when she was questioned. (The NFL has not responded to a Friday email asking whether Thompson was interviewed under oath.)

These deficiencies suggest that arbitrator Harold Henderson should: (1) hear testimony from all key witnesses; and (2) ensure that those witnesses are under oath in resolving Elliott’s appeal. If the league intends through its in-house justice system to apply the label of domestic abuser to one of its players, how can protections like these not be implemented?

De Smith on Roger Goodell’s handling of changes to conduct policy: “He lied” - Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk
The relationship between the NFL and the NFL Players Association seems about as bad as it can get.

In an interview with Bryant Gumbel that debuts Tuesday night on HBO, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith addresses among other things the changes to the Personal Conduct Policy that happened after various high-profile off-field incidents in 2014.

Asks Gumbel, “When Roger Goodell can stand up there as he did and say, ‘We’re drafting a new NFL Personal Conduct Policy. We’re gonna do so in conjunction with the union,’ and then doesn’t consult the union, comes up with a new policy, that says what?”

Responds Smith, “That says he lied.”

Plenty of time for NFL, NFLPA to avoid labor war, but players already mulling strategy - Jarrett Bell, USA Today
The current CBA expires after the 2020 season and already the NFLPA is making noise about a work stoppage.

The players are steamed about certain elements of the 10-year CBA they signed after the 2011 lockout. So Smith, re-elected and secure, is issuing tough talk you’d expect he’ll keep spewing as the union gears up for what's probably another inevitable showdown with the league.

Still, 2021 seems like light years away. That’s why Jerry Jones, the powerful Dallas Cowboys owner and freshly minted Hall of Famer, wants to come to the table long before the existing labor pact expires. Like now.

“There are some real meaningful things for the players that they can have, that they don’t need to wait four or five years to get,” Jones told USA TODAY Sports. “And so that would mean there’s going to be incentive to come to the table.

“I feel like we’ve got some meat on the bones to talk about doing some things before the termination of this agreement.”

From The FanPosts

Our FanPost section is where Blogging The Boys members have the opportunity to write their own posts about the Cowboys. Take a little time to write a post about your thoughts regarding the Dallas Cowboys, and there's a chance it will be linked right here in our morning News roundup.

The History of the Dallas Cowboys - Chapter VIII (1996 - 2000) - Blogging The Boys
BTB-member MrMannequin continues his review of the Cowboys history, looks at a period in which the Cowboys transitioned into one of the darker periods in Cowboys history.

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