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Tale of the tape: Cowboys depth proves to be suspect in 27-3 beatdown

Let’s take a look at the tape and see what the Cowboys did well, and what they need to improve on.

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Dallas Cowboys Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The first viewing of the Cowboys loss to the Cardinals was pretty rough to watch to say the least. The second viewing of the tape wasn’t much better, but there were more highlights than what you may expect. Let’s take a look.

Cowboys have real issues at backup quarterback

Cooper Rush got the start at quarterback for the Cowboys against the Cardinals. He was awful, and that’s putting it nicely. Rush showed zero pocket presence, had trouble seeing the field, and lacked velocity and ball placement in all three levels of the field. Rush finished the night 11/17, 93 yards, two ints, and a passer rating of 42.4. Mike White played the entire second half, and played his best football wearing the star. White still struggled with his pocket presence, but looked very good throwing the football. White finished 17/22, 157 yards, one int, and a passer rating of 77.3. White was able to move the ball downfield a bit better than Rush, and seemed to have more zip on his ball.

Rod Smith and backup running backs couldn’t get it going

The Cowboys backup running backs have looked pretty solid this preseason, that was not the case on Sunday night. Rod Smith, Bo Scarbrough, Darius Jackson, and Jordan Chunn combined for 51 yards on 20 carries. There weren’t a ton of running lanes available, but every back seemed to struggle with their vision and pass blocking. Darius Jackson did show up in the receiving game catching four balls for 28 yards, but for the most part, it was a rough night at the office for the Cowboys backup running backs.

Cowboys wide receivers were kept quiet all night

Similar to the running backs, the Cowboys receivers had a quiet night against the Cardinals defensive backs. In fact, Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams were the only two receivers who are expected to make the roster to catch a pass. Dres Anderson, made two really nice grabs and he showed up on some running plays blocking down field. Anderson odds of making the roster are pretty much at zero, but he put some good tape out there for other teams in limited opportunities.

Rico shows up with extended playing time

None of the tight ends set the world on fire, but Rico Gathers was again able to show up as a receiver in the second half. Gathers finished the night with five catches for 30 yards. Gathers had a couple of really nice grabs and was able to gain yards after the catch. It’s a long shot for Gathers to make the final 53-man roster, but he’s certainly making it a tough decision for the Cowboys front office. Blake Jarwin showed up, but in the wrong way. Jarwin had a fumble just before the half attempting to pick up a first down. Dalton Schultz and Geoff Swaim each caught one pass, and were relatively quiet throughout the game.

Offensive line not great, but improved from last week

If you watched the game last night, you could probably tell Scott Linehan called plays knowing his offensive line was not going to hold up in the passing game. Most of the passing game was set up to get the ball out quick using either screens, slants, or hitches. For the most part the offensive line did their jobs until the fourth quarter. The interior offensive line again did a nice job when pulling and blocking in space. Joe Looney, Connor Williams, and even Kadeem Edwards played pretty well last night. The offensive line issues started in the fourth quarter when the Dallas offense started to attempt to push the ball downfield. Cameron Fleming played better this week than he did last week, but there are still concerns about him holding up against speed rushers. Chaz Green again was a big liability on the field, and has played himself out of a job in Dallas.

Defensive line again punished opposing offensive lines

DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory are going to be a problem this year if they can stay on the field. Lawrence was very good last night affecting the quarterback and playing the run. Gregory was able to get his first sack of the preseason, as well as another QB hit. Gregory also performed well against the run, and gives great effort when chasing down run plays or receivers down the field. Antwaun Woods had another good night being disruptive against the run. Daniel Ross has quietly played will in the second half in almost every preseason game. Due to all the bodies at defensive tackle, it may be hard for him to win a roster spot, but he’s been impressive in these preseason games. Dorance Armstrong has yet to disappoint me in a preseason game, but I wish he’d flash a little more in these games. Armstrong has had a strong training camp, but has yet to make a huge difference as a defensive end in the preseason game action.

Without Sean Lee, Cowboys first- and second-team linebackers perform well

In recent years, when Sean Lee is on the sideline, the Cowboys linebackers have been horrible. That has not been the case this preseason. Jaylon Smith, Joe Thomas, Justin March-Lillard have all performed well this preseason and they again looked solid against the Cardinals. Leighton Vander Esch did not play due to injury which is something you don’t want to see, but Joe Thomas has looked like a free agency steal this offseason with yet another great performance. Thomas has looked good against the run and in coverage this offseason, and showed that again Sunday night. Damien Wilson has also played very well in preseason, and showed up again against the run on Sunday night. Wilson has made at least one “don’t forget about me” play in each preseason game, and is making a case to keep his starting SAM linebacker job, that many already gave to Leighton Vander Esch.

Kavon Frazier flashes, but exits with shoulder injury

The Cowboys first-team secondary has played excellent football this preseason against Jimmy Garoppolo, Andy Dalton, and Sam Bradford. Chidobe Awuzie and Byron Jones look like two Pro Bowl caliber cornerbacks, and Jeff Heath continues to play quality football in the back end. Kavon Frazier played very well in the first quarter, before injuring his shoulder while making a great play in coverage. Frazier made plays against the run in the box, but also impressed in coverage as well. The Cowboys may rely on Kavon Frazier a lot in 2018, and so far when he’s been on the field he has yet to let them down. The depth at safety is very concerning, and Marqueston Huff’s play shouldn’t make you feel much better. Tyree Robinson and Kam Kelly didn’t show up much, but they seem to be much better options than Huff for the last safety spot on the roster.

Check back next week as we breakdown the film from the Cowboys final preseason game against the Houston Texans.