The dress rehearsal game is over. What did you like? Here are my quick observations.
1. Hitch injured
Anthony Hitchens arguably was having the best training camp of any Cowboys player this season. As the second quarter was winding down, Hitchens hurt his knee after Raiders running back Jamize Olawale scampered off a big run. With Jaylon Smith still being eased back into action and the uncertainty of what’s going to happen with Damien Wilson, the loss of Hitchens would make things shaky for the linebacker group.
On the bright side, both Smith and Wilson played well as both of them had tackles behind the line of scrimmage. If the other guys can stay on the field, the linebacker group is still sitting in good shape, but just doesn’t allow any leeway for another injury/suspension. Keep in mind, Justin Durant should be returning soon.
2. The Zeke Drive
The Cowboys first offensive possession was essentially the Ezekiel Elliott drive. With Zeke making his preseason debut, the team looked poised to give him some early action. There were a couple instances where the Cowboys went with an empty backfield, but during the 10 snaps Zeke played, eight times the ball went his way. He had six carries for 18 yards and two catches for six yards. That’s a very inefficient three yards per touch. That’s not the explosiveness many of us were hoping for, but he was able to get his feet wet.
3. First team defense struggled
You know things are going bad when Sean Lee is missing tackles. Raiders quarterback, Derek Carr was off target early which stalled some drives, but once he started connecting - it became a real problem for the Cowboys defense. Carr would lead the offense to two first-quarter touchdowns and in both instances it looked like the Cowboys defense wasn’t sure what they were supposed to be doing. Cordarrelle Patterson caught a 17-yard touchdown without a defender close to him. I don’t know if it was Jeff Heath’s responsibility on the coverage, but he Cowboys defense was not on the same page on that one.
Then, Amari Cooper broke loose for a 48-yard touchdown. Carr pumped fake to the right side, freezing Byron Jones long enough to leave Cooper all alone down the left sideline. The Raiders have a good offense and this provided a good portrait of some of the difficulties could face this season.
4. The offensive line didn’t look good
As great as the unit looked last week, they had a rough go at it this week. For starters, both the “new guys” had terrible games. La’el Collins was blocking everything they threw at him last week, but this week he had three penalties in the second quarter alone (one was declined). And two of them were hands to the face penalties which wiped away first down pass plays. It’s a shame too, because Dak had a nice deep pass up the middle to Terrance Williams that was called back.
Chaz Green, to the surprise of no one, left the game with an injury (ankle).
And it wasn’t just the new guys that made mistakes. Uncharacteristically, All Pro guard Zack Martin got caught a couple times as well.
Zack Martin has gotten 2 penalties tonight. That's as many as he had in the ENTIRE 2016 season...— Jordan Ross (@CHQ_Jordan) August 27, 2017
5. Taco Bar for everyone
Cowboys rookie, Taco Charlton burst off the edge unabated to the quarterback. We got a glimpse of a potential sack celebration which appears to be him making Taco’s for his teammates. That’s fine and all, but that’s a long celebration. If they’re playing against Aaron Rodgers, he’ll have the next play snapped before he puts on the guacamole.
6. Backup running back’s still riding hot
Darren McFadden does such a great job using his speed to get around the edge. He only had two carries, but one of them was for 18 yards. He also made a nice grab out of the backfield that was called back from a penalty. I love when they use the pitch for McFadden, playing to his strength of bouncing around to the outside.
Alfred Morris is a nifty runner. It’s so fun to watch him shimmy and shake as he waits for his creases. He had a nice 17-yard run himself, finishing with 9 carries for 56 yards (6.2 yards per carry). But it wasn’t all good for Morris. He had a big mistake in pass protection. He was late picking up the blitz from the backside, allowing the Raiders to jar the ball loose as Cooper Rush went into his throwing motion. The result was a 65-yard touchdown for the Raiders.
I like Alfred over DMC as a runner, but if I need to protect my QB not so much.— Patrick Conn (@DraftCowboys) August 27, 2017
7. The Cooper Rush touchdown streak continues
It started off slow, but the Cooper Rush bandwagon was still able to blaze a trail towards two more touchdowns. The Cowboys rookie quarterback finished the game 12/13 for 115 yards and two touchdowns, with a 143.1 QB rating.
That puts his preseason stats at:
This preseason: Cooper Rush 38-of-51 for 398 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions.— Drew Davison (@drewdavison) August 27, 2017
By the time Kellen Moore came in the game, the backup QB position had already been decided. And as R.J. reported, Jerry Jones has already let the cat out of the bag and said that Cooper will make the 53-man roster.
8. Dak knows his go-to guys
While he didn’t look as sharp as last week, Dak Prescott still had a pretty good game. He finished 11/14 for 113 yards and one touchdown. And most importantly, he continues to protect the ball with another game with no pick. He would use his security blankets nicely as he and Jason Witten looked like they have been playing together for years. He also continues to look Cole Beasley’s way on third down.
While Dez Bryant didn’t have a catch, Prescott still knows who his targets are if he wants to move the chains.
9. Defense reserves look good
The Cowboys defense continues to shut opponents down in the second half of games. In each of the last two games, the quarterback has lost control of the ball that has led to scores for the opposing defense, but that’s pretty much all the scoring being done. Damontre Moore bent smoothly around the right tackle to get a nice strip sack on Conner Cook. Rookie Marquez White had a nice wrap up tackle on third down that stopped the receiver just short of the first down. And rookie Lewis Neal had a sack and another tackle for a loss. This speaks well of the team’s depth and will make roster cuts difficult.
10. Butler continues to show up
The box score will only show that Brice Butler had two catches for 28 yards, but that doesn’t do him justice. He had a good game with a few nice grabs. Granted, there were some plays nullified by penalties, but you have to like the way he’s improved his catch making ability. One of the knocks on him has been his hands, but if preseason is any indication, he’s remedied that. Butler could emerge as a nice weapon for the Cowboys this season.