The Dallas Cowboys finished the second preseason game of the year with a 14-10 win over the Los Angeles Rams. While the Rams didn’t play their starters, it was still nice to see some good individual performances by players. For the second straight game, the first-team offense marched down the field on their only drive, only this time they came away with their first touchdown of the preseason. There was a lot good things to cheer about, and here are 10 thoughts on the Cowboys victory in Hawaii.
1. The Pollard drive
With no Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys again turned to their rookie draft pick Tony Pollard to run with the first team. While last week’s game didn’t offer us much of a look, fans were treated to a bigger taste on Saturday.
It didn’t start out so great when Pollard whiffed on a blitz pick up that resulted in a sack that backed the offense inside the five-yard line. But the Memphis rookie answered back in a big way. The Cowboys offense marched down the entire length of the field, and they went to Pollard early and often. The rookie had five carries for 42 yards and added a reception for eight yards. Of the 97-yard scoring drive, Pollard counted for 50 of them, including a nice touchdown run where he maintained his balance to find the end zone.
Welcome to the @NFL @tp_5!— Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) August 18, 2019
Rookie earns the TD | #DALvsLAR pic.twitter.com/LNh4c5Fyfq
2. Dak and Gallup continue to build chemistry
It was great to see Dak Prescott go 5-for-5 on his only drive of the game. He’s now a perfect 9-for-9 in preseason. It was also great to see him go to “old reliable” Jason Witten on a third-down play to keep the drive going. But probably the most enjoyable thing about that drive when it comes to Prescott is that he continues to look to Michael Gallup this preseason.
With no Amari Cooper available, Gallup is the team’s current no. 1 wide receiver. He and Dak continue to have a good rapport, both in camp and in game action. Prescott did underthrow the pass and had he put it out in front of Gallup more, it might have resulted in a bigger play, but credit the second-year receiver for making a nice adjustment to the throw and coming down with the pass.
Gallup is showing all the signs of a potential breakout season this year.
3. Hot Boyz remain hot
DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, and Robert Quinn weren’t playing, but that didn’t mean the Cowboys didn’t have some beasts on the defensive line. Other starters/rotational players made sure they showed up. On the first play from scrimmage, Antwaun Woods knocked down a pass. Maliek Collins latched on the jersey of the running back for a loss. And Dorance Armstrong continued to play well as he was generating pressure on Blake Bortles as well as collapsing inside against the run.
4. Oopsie doopsie, I muffed it up again
What is it about the preseason that brings out the worst in Cowboys punt returners? Last year, it was Lance Lenoir who struggled handling punts. On Saturday, Reggie Davis muffed a punt that gave the Rams the ball in Cowboys territory. Or maybe they’re just cursed when the team plays against the Rams as we all remember Ryan Switzer’s fumble in 2017 that changed the momentum of the game.
Fortunately for Dallas, the Rams gave it back to the Cowboys with a muffed punt of their own. Special teams ace C.J. Goodwin was right there to jump on it to give the Cowboys a takeaway. Goodwin had a nice game not only with that fumble recovery, but he made a great play in the backfield on a running play as well as directing traffic on a put that pinned the Rams offense inside their own five-yard line.
CJ Goodwin shows off why he's a special special-teamer: Cowboys hustler stays locked in on Rams PR .. just in case ... and recovers muff. Sharp.— mike fisher ✭ (@fishsports) August 18, 2019
The coaching staff decided to give second-year quarterback Mike White time with the second team. Would surrounding him with better players make a difference? Apparently not.
For unknown reasons, White just can’t get rid of the ball in a timely manner. Even with better protection, White just refuses to release the ball. It’s unclear if he’s just not seeing the field well or what’s causing him to hold the ball. On the one play he did release it on time, he had a great opportunity to show off his arm, but he underthrew Jon’Vea Johnson and the ball was intercepted.
White finished the game 7-for-13 for just 30 yards and a pick. His chances to make the team just went from bad to worse.
6. Justin-time to make some plays
Last week, the defense had a stroke of misfortune when undrafted free agent linebacker Luke Gifford went down with a high ankle sprain. Gifford was having a great camp and flashed some great plays against the 49ers before going down to injury. His absence opened the door for another UDFA linebacker Justin Phillips to see extra snaps. And on Saturday, the rookie sure made them count.
He started out with a incredible interception as he had his back turned and smothered the Rams tight end. Phillips just wanted it more and was able to haul in the pass.
Stole it right out of his hands @Phillips_Era19 pic.twitter.com/vv5CGagc80— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) August 18, 2019
Then, Phillips was all over the field against the run. He had four tackles, including a nice tackle for a loss near the goal line where he shot the gap.
7. The backup QB battle is officially over
As poorly as White has been playing, the incumbent backup QB Cooper Rush has been playing equally well. The moment Rush entered the game, a calmness came over the offense. Rush just looked so much more comfortable as he went through his progressions a lot faster and helped the offense move the ball.
Rush finished the game 10-for-16 for 83 yards and a touchdown. He also added a couple nice runs, although one was called back on a penalty. It wasn’t glamorous, but Rush was efficient, and he demonstrated the ability to give the offense a chance if his number is ever called.
8. The Ball’n Buckeye
Last week, the former second-round pick caught our eye with a solid performance against the 49ers. It made us ponder whether he had a shot to make his way onto the Cowboys 53-man roster. For Smith to have a shot, it would mean he’d have to continue to stack these types of preseason performances together. As it turned out, that’s exactly what he’s doing.
Smith ran good routes, caught everything thrown to him, and leaped up to grab the ball in the corner of the end zone.
TouchDown Cowboys !!! Cooper Rush to Devin Smith pic.twitter.com/qceeSitASX— GSH (@gman416) August 18, 2019
Smith is making some real noise and could make things interesting in the wide receiver battle. The team could go long at receiver, but with Cedrick Wilson playing well, is there room for Smith? While Noah Brown is loved for his blocking and special teams value, nothing is set in stone. Smith has the draft pedigree of a star player and if those knees hold up, he could be a very nice addition to the Cowboys receiving group.
9. Aloha Olumba
The Cowboys are sitting in great shape at cornerback with a strong core of four players - Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis. But after those guys, things are a little murky. C.J. Goodwin is a player the coaching staff loves and adds special teams value.
One guy making a push for a corner job is Donovan Olumba. After spending last year on the practice squad, Olumba is having a nice camp, but that hasn’t necessarily translated on the field in preseason games. But on Saturday, he was making plays. He had a nice pass break up when he got his head turned around just in time, and he sniffed out a bubble screen that resulted in a big loss.
Donovan Olumba is having himself a very nice game. pic.twitter.com/CIvZEyq1LL— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) August 18, 2019
Olumba did get called for pass interference after a replay challenge showed he had made contact before the ball arrived. Overall, it was still a good showing for the Cowboys young corner.
10. Jon’Vea Dropson
The air has officially been let out of the excitement that once was the explosive playmaking ability of Jon’Vea Johnson. Because in order to make a big play, the receiver has to technically catch the ball, and JVJ just isn’t having any of that.
The undrafted free agent receiver from Toledo had another game where he repeatedly dropped the ball. It’s clear that the young receiver isn’t developed enough to handle an NFL job right now, but one has to wonder if he’s even going to earn a spot on the practice squad at this rate. Maybe his case of the drops ends up being a blessing deterring other teams from poaching him. With a year of development and a whole lot of brick carrying from receivers coach Sanjay Lal, maybe JVJ can still turn into that playmaker we were hoping for.
What stood out in the game to you?