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Under-the-radar performances you might have missed in the Cowboys vs. 49ers game

It’s not all about stats or scoring, there is other work to be done in a football game

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The first Dallas Cowboys preseason game of 2018 is in the books. The ’Boys blew a late lead, losing 24-21 to the San Francisco 49ers, but no matter. When the important players were on the field, the Cowboys dominated the proceedings. This was a very successful first outing for the Cowboys.

As such, there must have been some players that stood out. Indeed there were, so let’s discuss a few. We’re not going with the obvious guys who showed up on the stat sheet. Dak Prescott was impressive, Michael Gallup got a TD catch, Joe Thomas was everywhere on defense, Bo Scarbrough looked pretty good. These guys, plus a few others, made their mark with stats and scoring performances, but there were others who were productive, but didn’t stuff that stat sheet. Here are three.

Taco Charlton

The Cowboys first-round pick from a year ago continues to show the improvement we saw at the end of last year. Charlton got plenty of snaps at left end after DeMarcus Lawrence departed and made the most of his opportunities. Two things stood out. One was his technique and ability to use his natural athletic gifts to win the battle. Last year there was too much of “try the spin move, and if that doesn’t work then just get blocked”. In this preseason game, he used quickness and power to set up his pass rush and controlled his body to create pressure. He looked much more natural. Two, he wasn’t over-aggressive. He stayed home on two bootleg passes and pressured the quarterback into incompletions. Instead of just rushing headlong to where the ball was and being abused on fakes, he recognized his responsibilities on the play and reacted accordingly.

Here is what Pro Football Focus had to say about his game:

On 10 pass rush snaps, Taco Charlton had one hit, and 2 hurries for a total of 3 total pressures. He had a pass rushing productivity rating of 22.5, the highest among all 4-3 defensive ends with at least 10 pass rushes on Thursday.

He also added a tipped pass, and not on the play he was offsides.

Byron Jones

You might be saying - what, I didn’t hear his name called all night? Exactly. Early on the 49ers decided to pick on Chidobe Awuzie. Jones was the silent player on the other side and that’s just what you want from a cornerback. Awuzie gave up some plays, and Anthony Brown had a bad night, but Jones was very solid for the time he was in the game. We turn to PFF again:

Byron Jones saw three passes thrown his way and did not allow a single reception on his 12 coverage snaps.

Connor Williams (sort of)

Okay, the thing we all probably remember the most about Williams’ game is him getting toasted on the first series and allowing a sack on Dak Prescott. Yes, that was bad as Williams got overaggressive with his lean and got taken advantage of. He’s a rookie and that will happen. The good news is that he recovered. I will caveat this by saying I haven’t been able to review the tape yet to see how his blocking was the rest of the way, but he didn’t give up another sack and there didn’t seem to be an inordinate amount of pressure on the Cowboys quarterbacks.

PFF says:

Connor Williams played 33 snaps at left guard. On his 19 passing plays he allowed one total pressure, a sack on the Cowboys’ first drive of the game.

That’s pretty good pass protection, but we’ll have to look at the film to see about his run blocking, so we are grading this on a rookie curve so far. But for his first time out, he looked solid.

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