The Dallas Cowboys have made it through the “dress rehearsal” game and there’s good news - none of their major star players got hurt. We didn’t get to see the team’s young offensive phenoms, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. Oh well, we’ll see those guys soon enough and thanks to the team’s safe approach, they should be healthy when they face off against the Carolina Panthers in the season opener.
With the team resting some their offensive starters, there wasn’t much scoring to talk about, but that’s okay - there’s always the defense. Here are 10 thoughts on the Cowboys loss to the Cardinals
1. Randy Gregory wasted no time
There has been a lot of excitement about Randy Gregory playing opposite DeMarcus Lawrence on the edge and that excitement got a boost when we got to see the two in action last night. On the third play of the game for the Arizona offense, Randy Gregory was able to spin off a chip block from the running back and walk right into a sack of Sam Bradford.
We weren’t sure what to expect from Gregory after his long hiatus from football, but he’s been fast out of the gate and looks to be the team’s new starting right defensive end.
"I can't tell you how frightening this has to be for teams in the NFC East right now." -Cris Collinsworth when talking about Randy Gregory— RJ Ochoa (@rjochoa) August 27, 2018
2. Down goes Frazier
Last week, the Cowboys lost starting safety Xavier Woods to a hamstring injury. That slid Kavon Frazier into the starting role. The strong safety was off to a great start to the game when he had three quick tackles and a pass defended. Unfortunately, it was the latter than took him out of the game with a shoulder injury.
Kavon Frazier says X-rays on shoulder show no serious damage that he plans on playing in #Cowboys opener.— mike fisher ✭ (@fishsports) August 27, 2018
The Cowboys are already thin enough at the position so they can’t afford to lose another key player. I wonder if this can sway Jerry Jones to make that phone call for that certain someone?
Down goes Frazier. Jerry Jones is on the phone right now with Seattle. pic.twitter.com/W6uAZmtgbw— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) August 27, 2018
3. Oopsy doopsy, I muffed it up again
The Cowboys need some work on special teams when it comes to returning punts. On the first two punts the Cardinals had, Lance Lenoir would have trouble catching the ball. The first time wasn’t his fault as Byron Jones ran into him while trying to block his man. But then, Lenoir had no excuse as he couldn’t come down with the ball as he was running back to catch a booming punt by Andy Lee. The ball bounced around, but the time it was recovered, the ball was in the end zone and the Cardinals were on top of it.
Lenoir is still fighting for a roster spot and every play counts. His struggles as a punt returner have carried over from last year, but I’m not sure that matters much in the grand scheme of things. He’s not really part of the punt returner plans as Tavon Austin and Cole Beasley hold that job.
4. Eight giveaways
I am not sure what the record is for teams that lose the turnover battle 0-8, but I would venture to say it’s not very good. The Cowboys giving away the ball all night. They had five turnovers in the first half alone.
Not only would the special teams give up the ball twice, but the Cowboys offense couldn’t hang on to it either. Rod Smith tried to impersonate his fellow Ohio State roommate, Ezekiel Elliott, by attempting to hurdle Patrick Peterson. Unfortunately, his foot clipped the hurdle and he lost control of the ball as he came down.
Cooper Rush had a rough day as well as the team’s backup quarterback throw two costly interceptions. First, Cardinals All-Pro cornerback Peterson jumped Tavon Austin’s route for an easy pick-six. Then, Budda Baker was able to step in front of Michael Gallup in the end zone to intercept the ball.
The Cowboys would improve though as they only turned it over three times in the second half.
Mike White fumbled twice, losing the ball once. He would also sail a pass over the receivers head for an interception. And Blake Jarwin would have the ball pop out of his hand as he was being tackled. It was a terrible display of ball protection.
5. Don’t Rush to judgment on the Cowboys quarterback situation
After solid performances by backup quarterback Cooper Rush in the first two preseason games combined with an underwhelming performance from the rookie Mike White, the idea of whether or not to keep a third quarterback has been heavily debated. The Cowboys backup quarterback didn’t play well Sunday night as he was 11/17 for 93 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions in the first half.
Meanwhile, third-string quarterback Mike White played well. He started out 10/10 for 83 yards. It was his best performance so far and should be something for him to build on for next week.
It wasn’t all good for White though as he held the ball too long a couple times that resulted in the ball getting stripped from him and he floated a ball into the hands of a defender. The Cowboys will have a tough decision to make regarding their quarterbacks, but did the rookie flash enough to save himself a spot on the team?
6. The interior offensive line played well
With Travis Frederick and Zack Martin both out, the Cowboys first-team offense had to rely on backups Joe Looney and Kadeem Edwards. Combine those two with rookie Connor Williams and that’s a shaky interior defensive line on paper. But the reserves did a good job. There were plenty of times where they would pull and execute blocks in the second level.
With Frederick out indefinitely, it’s good to see Looney perform well as we have no idea just how long the team will have to rely on him at center.
7. First-team defense look good
The entire first-team defense looked good. Don’t let the 14-0 first quarter score fool you. The defensive line was getting pressure, the linebackers were stopping the run, and the secondary was making plays. You have to like what we’re seeing from the team’s new starting cornerbacks, Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie.
Jones had a nice pass break up when he timed his hit perfectly jarring the ball out of the receivers hand. And Awuzie had a nice open field tackle.
This could be a breakout season for either Jones or Awuzie as they are flashing some real strong play so far this preseason.
I'm not sure what to expect from the DAL defense this year, but I do expect CB Chidobe Awuzie to push for Pro Bowl consideration. #Cowboys got great value for him in the late 2nd round in 2017.— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) August 27, 2018
8. Cowboys depth doesn’t look good
In the first two preseason games, the Cowboys reserve units had blown leads for the starters. Without a first-team offensive unit on the field, there was no lead for the team to protect this time. In fact, the Cowboys were giving away points as the Cardinals had two touchdowns from and interception return and a muffed punt.
With no ability to move the ball, the offense had no chance to get back in it. And with no ability to make stops, the defense wouldn’t have allowed it anyways. The Cardinals scored 27 unanswered points before Dallas got a field goal late in the fourth quarter.
Dallas still needs to figure some things out when it comes to their depth on the offensive line as well as the secondary. And it appears this help will have to come from the outside because the team just can’t get the players on the roster to step up.
9. What was with that field goal at the end of the game?
The Cowboys were moving the ball down the field in the final minutes of the game. With the game out of hand, there wasn’t anything to play for except for pride. The team was calling timeouts as they were preserving time to get a score. With fans on pins and needles to see if they could scrounge out a Rico Gathers touchdown maybe, the team opted to kick a field goal on 4th and 5 with 24 seconds left.
What was the point of that? Do we really need to see Brett Maher practice his kicking when he has zero chance to make the team? Why don’t you let your rookie quarterback finish off a drive? Sure, it’s not a big deal as it’s garbage time, but what’s going to benefit the team the most.
10. Cowboys come out unscathed
With news that Frazier is going to be alright, the Cowboys will enter the regular season pretty healthy. Zack Martin should be good to go and Xavier Woods will be close to returning. The only key player that is likely to be missing is Frederick and we’re all in the dark on when he might be able to return.
It’s a balancing act between resting players and getting them ready. It wasn’t pretty for us to watch, but the team made a sacrifice to ensure certain guys wouldn’t get hurt.