The Dallas Cowboys first preseason game of the year is over. They gave us a lot to digest as we finally got to see some live action football. So how did the team do? Here is a rundown of how most of the players performed on Thursday. There won’t be any mention of any of the real down-roster players unless they made a big play in the game. This is directed more towards the players who will make the team and some of the roster bubble guys. Here are the players that stood out.
Dak Prescott only threw three passes, but he completed them all. He only threw one pass to a wide receiver, but it was for a touchdown. While there still remains a lot to see when it comes to the chemistry he has with his new receiving group, it was still a good showing by the Cowboys starting quarterback.
Cooper Rush played well overall, but I know he wishes he would have another shot to throw that deep pass to Michael Gallup. The rookie receiver had his man beat, but the pass was just way under-thrown. Rush also air-mailed a goal line pass to Gallup as well, not giving his receiver a shot to come down with the pass.
Rookie Mike White looked stiff at times and was late on a few of his throws. He didn’t have the protection or the targets as the QBs before him, but he didn’t do much to make fans excited. While it’s been debated whether he could challenge Rush for the backup quarterback spot, the real question is - does he even make the team. There are no gimmies and if he doesn’t show improvement, he could be headed to the practice squad.
Rod Smith continues to show why he’s loved so much in Dallas. He showed great patience, good vision, and displayed burst to make a nice run on the second play of the game. His footwork was especially impressive as he uses a stutter-step to give him time to see the running lane, shift direction, and then go! His run effectiveness dropped going from the starting OL to the backups as Smith doesn’t show a lot of ability to create things on his own. But he’s very good at finding the lanes and appears firmly planted as the team’s no. 2 RB.
If the defender doesn’t square up on Bo Scarbrough, he’s probably not going to bring him down. The rookie running back made a defender pay for trying to arm tackle him and Bo scampered off for 28 yards. Scarbrough also looked pretty good as a receiver.
Darius Jackson only had a few touches, but you could see him kick it into a second gear a couple times. It’s going to be fun to watch him if he can get himself into space.
There was nothing special about Michael Gallup’s touchdown catch, but you have to tip your cap to his sudden burst to just blow past the corner. Gallup appeared to be covered, but he turned his head early, causing the defender to do the same, but as soon as he did - Gallup switched it into another gear to go after the ball. The corner just got duped.
It’s hard to see how Lance Lenoir is not on this football team when final cuts are done. He’s the epitome of what can happen if you go about your job the right way. He worked hard in the offseason and his attention to detail in every step he takes is paying off. He made a great toe-tapping, “Smooth Criminal” touchdown catch after making a cut that left his defender behind. Lenoir also had a nifty one-hand grab on a bubble screen. It didn’t amount to much, but it shows you how good his hand are. He’s doing everything right, except maybe returning punts. He bobbled a return early on and he just makes me nervous.
Allen Hurns only had a couple targets to evaluate, but he looked good. On his only catch, he had a nice cut and the ball arrived as soon as he turned to look. It was a bang-bang play and it was comforting to see him hold on to the ball after watching so many of these types of passes carom off the receiver last year. Hurns would have caught another one had he not been held on the play. He’s a good route runner and will get open in this offense.
Tavon Austin had a couple nice catches after making sharp cuts and coming back for the ball. He wasn’t up to any funny business on that night and looked like a solid receiver for the offense.
While he was left completely unguarded due to a 49ers blitz, Blake Jarwin made a nice run down the sideline after catching the pass from Rush. He was really close to scoring a touchdown on that play and you can get an idea of what he can do after the catch.
One two-straight plays, Dalton Schultz would get pushed into the backfield right into Scarbrough’s path. The first time Bo got stopped, but the second time he was able to get in on a second effort after he collided with Schultz while he was trying to leap over the pile. Schultz is going to need to do a better job holding his ground. He did a nice job securing his block on the play where Rod Smith sprung loose so he’s already demonstrating how he can be helpful in the running game.
Connor Williams played well on half the plays and then whiffed on the other half. To his credit, he kept mixing up the different ways he was messing up. Sometimes it was with his hands, other times it was his footwork, and then other times it was just being at a loss for what to do with himself when he got into the second level. The good news is that all these things are mental and will improve with more experience.
Chaz Green was getting pushed around on several plays. He doesn’t have any balance and can’t seem to do anything with his hands unless it’s holding the defender.
Cameron Fleming looked really close to getting beat many times, but did just enough to give his quarterback enough time. He was very solid at left tackle and looks like the clear swing-tackle position holder.
Joe Looney was hot and cold. For the most part, he held his blocks, but other times he would give way a little. He also had one bad snap that Rush was luckily able to hang on to. Looney plays consistent enough to earn a spot on the roster.
Marcus Martin couldn’t get much push on his blocks. While there are times he secures his blocks just fine, Martin looked off balance on several plays. Watching every snap in slow-mo did show him getting off the snap quicker than the others so that is one thing that helped him.
Kadeem Edwards has gone from getting time with the first team to being the last second-stringer to come on the field. With the rookie Williams getting extra snaps, Edwards didn’t play until later in the game and then mixed in with the third-string squad. This could be a good indicator of where they see him in the pecking order. Based on his performance, Edwards looked very similar to Martin. There was nothing impressive about how he played, but he wasn’t terrible.
DeMarcus Lawrence looked like the Tank we are used to seeing. He didn’t play much, but he was disruptive and was always around the ball.
If you don’t do a good job blocking Tyrone Crawford and you run his direction, he will get you for a loss. That’s just too easy.
It felt like Taco Charlton was chasing the quarterback all night. While it never resulted in a sack, he’s constantly getting pressure and making the QB throw on the run. Taco also almost had a big tackle for a loss on a running play, but just couldn’t hang on. There were a lot of “almost” plays for the second-year edge rusher, but his presence was definitely felt. It’s certainly way too early to get excited, but the way he was constantly disruptive, snap after snap, could make things real interesting when it comes to playing time at the RDE position.
Rookie Dorance Armstrong did a great job generating pressure as well. He also had a lot of “almost” plays on the night. The kid looks amazing considering his limited pro level reps. He was excellent around the edge and he even showed up against the run. Both ends did a good job keeping the pressure on the 49ers quarterback.
It’s a mystery as to how, but Charles Tapper came away with a fumble recovery late in the third quarter. Tapper did a good job creating pressure in the second half. He had a solid game, but honestly I was expecting a little more from him considering he was facing off against opponents low on the depth chart.
Kony Ealy was essentially invisible. He did very little to generate pressure and just wasn’t making plays. He looked slow and ineffective. With a deep defensive end unit and Randy Gregory returning to the live football action soon, it’s really going to be tough to find a place for him on this team.
The love for Antwaun Woods continues as he was constantly getting penetration into the backfield. Not only was he getting push, but he was doing so while being double-teamed quite a bit. Woods has been a pleasant surprise along the interior defensive line and it was nice to see him show up in the game.
Jihad Ward had a nice deflected pass after working himself out of a double-team and staying with 49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard. A few plays later, Ward would jump offsides. It would be the second-straight play the Cowboys jumped early as Taco did it the play before.
Datone Jones did a nice job getting penetration. He would’ve had a great tackle for a loss had the 49ers not ran a bootleg as Jones came crashing through the middle to tackle the running back.
Brian Price played okay. As he typically does, he’s not going to wow anyone with any quarterback pressures or tackles for a loss. He’s just one of those guys who does the dirty work in the middle. He did show nice hustle a couple times as he was running down the field chasing the ball carrier. Price’s job seemed safe a month ago, but the emergence of Woods throws a wrench into things. Price is a bubble guy now and that bubble could be popped once Malike Collins gets healthy or David Irving returns from his suspension.
Richard Ash would also get in on the deflected pass party and his tip would result in a Duke Thomas interception. Ash would also jump offsides.
Jaylon Smith moved extremely well and made his presence felt in a lot of ways. He was rushing the quarterback, tackling behind the line of scrimmage, and going toe-to-toe defending the tight end 30 yards down the field. It was just a great all around performance.
Joe Thomas made several plays as well. He came away with a nice interception off a deflection, but he was also very active at the line of scrimmage taking down the ball carrier. While Jaylon was the aggressor, Thomas showed a lot of patience and reacted well to the play, always putting himself in the right spot to make the tackle.
Damien Wilson looked fast on a handful of plays. He’s doing a lot better not getting washed out of plays.
While this play will not show up anywhere in the stat sheet due to being nullified by an Anthony Brown holding penalty, Leighton Vander Esch almost had a nice interception by the sideline. This just goes to show he can cover a lot of range. He had a little trouble shedding blocks against the run and got taken out of plays. He gets too caught up with engaging blocks versus avoiding them.
Justin March-Lillard was solid in backup duty. He was more controlled than Vander Esch in his ability to get to the ball carrier, but he doesn’t show any athletic burst. He was able to rush the quarterback on a blitz and got his hand on the ball to deflect the pass. It caused the ball to fall short and force the 49ers to punt. JML is good enough to be a last resort depth guy at linebacker, but he’s very Kyle Wilber-ish in that he can be very ordinary at times. It’s too bad rookie Chris Covington is dealing with bronchitis as it would be interesting to see if he could challenge March-Lillard for that last linebacker spot.
Quarterback-turned-linebacker, Joe Lanning, struggled on defense. He had a couple plays in the fourth quarter where it looked like he had a clear shot at the ball carrier, but just wasn’t strong enough to tackle him. Both instances resulted in big gains for the 49ers.
The concept of jamming the receiver seems like some kind of new magic trick for Byron Jones. He did a great job slowing up the receiver just enough to offset his timing. Jimmy Garappolo only went after Jones once, but Marquise Goodwin was covered and the throw was too high.
Chidobe Awuzie was really good in coverage initially, but any time the quarterback had a glimpse of extra time, his receiver would get just enough separation to be open. Twice Awuzie got beat on good chunk passing plays. He needs to tighten up that space.
Anthony Brown got flagged a couple times, although one of those penalties was questionable. While the third-year corner is having a great camp, it didn’t carry over into this first game. Brown wasn’t dreadful, but he’s still a little grabby and doesn’t always get his body turned around quick enough.
Jourdan Lewis may not be getting the corner reps he wants, but he did a great job bringing down the 49ers kick returner late in the second quarter. Lewis is a physical player for his size and has never shied away from tackling people. He did give up a big play to rookie receiver Donte Pettis.
Duke Thomas does a great job of looking at the quarterback and going after the ball. This type of aggressiveness can get him in trouble at times, but on Thursday, it allowed him to be in the right spot for an interception.
There were a lot of corners getting abused in the second half, but Marquez White wasn’t one of them. He wasn’t really challenged in this game and the limited targets he did see, White held his coverage well. It was a small sample, but he looked pretty good.
Xavier Woods played solid, but didn’t get many chances to make plays. The same goes for Jeff Heath.
Kavon Frazier had a great game. Not only did he remind us that he is this team’s special team’s ace, but he had a nice deflection on a blitz that resulted in an interception.
Both Kam Kelly and Tyree Robinson didn’t show much either, but there weren’t making bad plays either. The 49ers offense had some clean catches deep over the middle of the field late in the game so someone was not doing their job, but it’s tough to gauge who.
Jameill Showers and Marqueston Huff played alright as well. They didn’t stand out with any busted plays, nor did they make the highlight real. A lot still remains to be seen when it comes to sorting out the bottom of the depth chart at the safety position.