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Under further review: Five outstanding plays from the Cowboys preseason debut

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Just one last look at a few plays the Cowboys made against 49ers.

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

The Dallas Cowboys may have lost their preseason game in the end but there were tons of positives to take away. With one last look back at the game, here are five plays that really stood out as positive for the Cowboys.

5. D-Line resets 49ers line of scrimmage for them

Here’s another look at the push these big guys got as they read this play from the start:

Analysis: What the Cowboys defensive line did here was downright dirty. Tyrone Crawford explodes through the right side with an assist from defensive tackles Datone Jones and Antwaun Woods. With legitimate concerns about the depth at defensive tackle, it was nice to see two guys battling for playing time handle their own against a first-team offensive line.

Woods is in a battle with Brian Price at the 1-tech position and both guys had nice debuts. Datone Jones has some real lower-body explosion and he seems to always show up when he’s in the game. Being able to stop the run is an art form and the Cowboys struggled with it from time to time last season. They may not have many healthy options at defensive tackle right now but the guys who are participating are proving they have a right to be there.

4. Jaylon Smith with the pass deflection on the bull rush

Analysis: If you’re going to blitz, you better get home. Jaylon Smith has shown huge strides in gaining back the explosion he once had. The Cowboys like the idea of Jaylon Smith as a pass rusher because he’s got the mentality of a one-man wrecking crew. Last season, Smith could rush but now that he’s much more comfortable in what he’s doing, he’s got a chance to be absolutely dynamic. On this play, he not only surprises the blocker with his power but he keeps focus on the ball to bat it down.

Jaylon Smith made a handful of plays in this preseason game, including blowing up the backfield which was a struggle for him last season. The Cowboys steady patience with him may pay huge dividends in the 2018 season.

3. LB Joe Thomas with the tip-drill interception

Analysis: First you have to credit Kavon Frazier for the amazing athleticism to get this ball tipped in the air. Joe Thomas showed great awareness that we don’t always see outside of guys named Jeff Heath. Thomas is on his way to becoming Will McClay’s latest steal of a find. What plagued the Cowboys last season at linebacker was how Sean Lee’s injuries held the defense hostage.

Heads up plays like this show that the Cowboys were right to invest a good portion of their resources to fixing the position. Thomas was one of this game’s best players because he showed instincts and athleticism throughout the game. The linebackers, in general, really took this game over.

2. Lance Lenoir’s toe-tapping touchdown catch

Analysis: Lance Lenoir made some plays last preseason but they were overshadowed by the times in where he struggled to resemble an NFL receiver. He’s put in such hard work this offseason, to the point in which Dak Prescott has referred to him as “his guy”. On this play, Lenoir does a great job of fighting through the coverage to spring himself open late. Cooper Rush also deserves credit for the ball placement but Lance Lenoir’s sweet feet made this all possible.

These are the types of plays that win you football games in the NFL. Throwing windows never stay open long and Lenoir’s ability to stay in this play will make him a reliable target in short order. At this point, it’s really difficult to find a reason why he shouldn’t make this team.

1. Dak Prescott’s touchdown dime to Michael Gallup

Analysis: This is the most publicized play of the game and for good reason. When you watch Dak Prescott and Michael Gallup work in practice, there is a definite feel of trust building. Gallup creates his own separation downfield, working past Jimmie Ward to create a perfect throwing window. Even with safety help late, Prescott’s timing and perfect placement made it impossible to stop.

A lot of overreaction has been prevalent regarding Prescott’s deep ball accuracy, which has been spotty in a few practices. However, do we need a reminder of the great words once spoken by Allen Iverson regarding practice? Dak has made some questionable throws, no doubt about it, but he’s also had his fair share of “wow” moments too.

Prescott ranks dead last in his first two seasons for deep balls attempted yet third in the NFL in deep ball accuracy at 46.5% in at least 600 attempts. Perhaps, this growing connection with Michael Gallup could be the shot in the arm this passing game has needed.