Now, that the official training camp is over and we’re halfway through the preseason, this is as good a time as any to take the pulse of Cowboys fans. It’s been a long offseason and the Cowboys had their fair share of roster questions as well as other items on the list. What are some things that are concerning heading into the season? Also, what are some things to be confident about with the Cowboys?
Confident: Run game seems able to shine without Elliott
Everything still must play out for Ezekiel Elliott but until then we must assume he’s going to be suspended to start the season. Without Elliott, the Cowboys’ run-first style may not be as dynamic but it’s hard to believe it won’t be productive. It’s just the preseason but the Cowboys have only had trouble rushing the ball in a 13-10 loss to the Rams. In games against the Cardinals and Colts, they rushed 69 times for 280 yards and 4.1 yards per carry. Their Top-3 guys have accumulated the following:
Darren McFadden- 18 carries, 81 rushing yards, 4.5 yards per carry
Alfred Morris- 21 carries, 102 rushing yards, 4.9 yards per carry
Rod Smith- 26 carried, 119 rushing yards, 4.6 yards per carry
The Cowboys are the only team with three running backs to have rushed for 1,000-yard seasons in the NFL. Morris has done it three times, McFadden has done it twice, and Elliott is the reigning rushing title holder. When it comes to Rod Smith, the Cowboys seemed to have possibly strengthened an already strong stable. If the Cowboys are to take the RBBC approach, they have to feel confident that these guys combined with their offensive line can get the job done. The only thing we need to see the runners do is put the ball in the end zone; Elliott did that 15 times in 2016.
Concerned: Banged up secondary draws tough task week one
It’s concerning that the Cowboys’ top two draft picks at cornerback haven’t done much since tweaking ankles and hamstrings. In Chidobe Awuzie’s case, we saw a little bit of him in the first preseason game before he started dealing with an ankle that turned into a hamstring. Jourdan Lewis injured his hamstring in his second practice, almost a month ago. Now, these two may not have been figured to start the first game but the team was hoping they would contribute.
Orlando Scandrick has looked every bit of his former self and was picked as a guy who is primed for a big performance. Nolan Carroll has had his ups and downs in practice but will certainly get the nod in week one. This problem lies with needing at least four good corners in this league and seeing guys dealing with tricky things like hamstrings. Anthony Brown is the third-best cornerback but he’s dinged up, too.
Guys like Duke Thomas and Marquez White have been locked in a competition for the last cornerback spot on the initial 53-man roster. It’s just looking a little thin right now in the secondary and the hope is that guys will get back to practice soon. The Cowboys’ need the skill sets of Awuzie and Lewis as quick as they can get them.
Confident: Dak Prescott’s rapport with receivers
Dak had an incredible rookie campaign with over 3,600 passing yards but folks still question his abilities as a passer. For those that were wondering if Dak would be able to flourish without Elliott’s presence in the running game, they at least got a piece of that answer against the Colts. Dak started his first drive at his own five but with the help of the usual suspects, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and Cole Beasley, they scored within three and half minutes. Dak’s best quality is the fact that he knows how to attack a defense in many ways. He also has the killer instinct to keep attacking the problem areas.
Now, the Colts are one of the NFL’s worst rosters but Vontae Davis is a pretty good cornerback and he was manhandled by Bryant. Watching the offense have their way with a defense like Prescott did last week is promising. Contrary to opinions like that of Eagles’ HC Doug Pederson, Dak won plenty of games last year with his arm. Prescott has plenty of receiving options that are extremely difficult to cover. He showed this much by being perfect against a struggling Colts’ team. His rapport with his receivers was on full display and he’ll get another shot against a better Raiders’ team.
Concerned: Players not seizing opportunities
There will be some unsettled roster spots going into the season and that’s not necessarily unexpected. However, you would have liked to see some guys make the most of their opportunities. In some cases, you have seen that with performances by Duke Thomas, Damontre’ Moore, Brice Butler, Anthony Hitchens, and Rod Smith. Yet, at positions you really were anticipating the competition such as left guard and cornerback, there was more to be desired due to injuries.
After how well he played with the one against Indianapolis, Jonathan Cooper may have finally done enough at left guard. With that said, Chaz Green didn’t exactly lose much ground when he got hurt early in camp. It’s been suggested that Cooper will be the starting guard because the coaches value Green’s abilities to serve as the swing tackle and guard. That basically translates to they feel better about Cooper’s durability than Green’s. Also, they would like to have Green in case Tyron Smith misses a game with back tightness. It may become clearer who will play where but there is still lingering doubt how it’ll all work.
We’ve already touched on the secondary but it’s not just Awuzie and Lewis. Xavier Woods looked unstoppable against the Rams then missed last week with a hamstring injury. Ryan Switzer has yet to play in the preseason. There is a bit more confidence in his abilities due to what he has shown in practice. Still, without seeing Switzer, we’ve seen enough of Lance Lenoir making the returns. It may be harder to evaluate for Rich Bisaccia when he hasn’t seen his top draft weapon see live action.
We want to know what concerns you may still have as well as what has given you a fresh dose of confidence going into the season.