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Cowboys @ Rams recap: Dallas gets its first preseason win in a while, 14-10

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We have Cowboys touchdowns to report!

Dallas Cowboys v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

With touchdown drives by both their starter and the apparent leader in the race to be the primary backup passer, the Dallas Cowboys got their first preseason win of 2019 by a score of 14-10 over the Los Angeles Rams in Hawaii. The win doesn’t matter, and it was for the most part a typically sloppy performance by both teams, but it still was nice to see it end up that way. And very importantly, there was only one known injury for Dallas, to linebacker Chris Covington’s shoulder on the opening kickoff. The severity is unknown.

The Rams elected to play essentially none of their starters at any time in the game, while Dallas used their available first teamers to open the proceedings. As you might expect, the Cowboys were noticeably better during the first quarter as a result - but the starters and key backups who did see action for them all looked quite good, which is never a bad thing.

The starting offense played the first series after the defense forced a punt, and it was all that was needed from them. Pinned on their own 3 yard line after a great Johnny Hekker punt, Dak Prescott and company engineered a 12 play drive to score the Cowboys’ first touchdown of the preseason. Along the way, they overcame a second and 22 after Prescott was sacked, putting the ball at the 3 again. Prescott was a perfect five for five passing on the drive, but the star was rookie running back Tony Pollard, who gained 42 yards on five carries, including the drive-capping 14 yard score right up the middle. He is turning out to be much more than just a back who can get outside and be involved in the passing game. His touchdown run showed power to go between the tackles. He also added a nine yard reception.

There were a couple of Prescott passes to note. The first was a 31 yard strike to Michael Gallup on third and seven. It was one more sign that the deep ball is going to be a much bigger part of the offense this season. And on third and six just before the touchdown run, Prescott found Jason Witten for the conversion, something we expect to see a lot this year.

There was another play that seems small, but could presage something. On a third and one, the call was a handoff to fullback Jamize Olawale, who converted easily. He would also have his number called on a pass play with the twos. When the Cowboys traded for him in 2018 (his second time with the team), there was an anticipation that he would play a much bigger role than fullbacks had in recent years. That never materialized last season, but now it looks like Kellen Moore has a different idea for him.

The starting defense looked good on the first two possessions, and were playing against Blake Bortles, who is a bit more capable than your average backup QB. But a muffed punt by Reggie Davis gave the ball back to LA on the Cowboys 37, and Bortles quickly got them into the end zone to tie the game up.

That was it for the Dallas starters, and the score of these games is irrelevant, anyway. Seeing the offense click was good, and offers some reassurance, but individual performances are much more informative. And while there were a lot that can be mentioned, the biggest of the game was the competition between Mike White and Cooper Rush to be the backup to Prescott.

After having Rush come in behind Prescott last game, the staff flipped the order to give them a chance to have a more accurate gauge of where each stand. And the results were pretty stark. White, despite working with players around him who are higher on the depth chart than he had last week, was again ineffective. He could not move the team, even after the Rams returned the favor of muffing a punt right back to Dallas. Once again he seemed to hold the ball too long, and his night would end in the worst way possible, with a badly thrown interception to conclude the opening drive of the second half. He would end the night with a dismal stat line of seven for 13 for only 30 yards and that INT, which worked out to a really ugly passer rating of 27.4.

Rush came in after that (and after the Cowboys got the ball right back with an interception on the play following White’s) and immediately looked far better. It started to look like he was going to have a frustrating night, as holding penalties wiped out a couple of good passes that should have moved the sticks on his first series. Then, on his subsequent series, the flags started going the other way as Rams infractions helped the Cowboys. But Rush was also throwing the ball well and added a run for a first down (with a personal foul tacked on the end). And he capped it all off with an eight yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith in the back right corner of the end zone. Not only was it a really good play on both ends, but it came out of an empty set on second down inside the ten yard line. That is not something you would often see last year. Yes, one more time to bring up that this is no longer Scott Linehan’s offense. Because that, as they say, is a good thing. Overall, Rush looks very comfortable and may well have locked up the QB2 role already.

There were some other individual performances to look at, both good and bad. The defensive line was notably strong. Dorance Armstrong, Kerry Hyder, and Maliek Collins all looked good. Trysten Hill began to show up some, and the guy everyone is looking at, Taco Charlton, had a PBU that was almost a pick and generally looked active and near the ball on most plays. (Antwaun Woods also contributed a batted pass in his short time on the field.) The running backs, outside of Pollard, were not impressive, with only Jordan Chunn doing much at all. Part of that may have been poor blocking up front, but no one else was able to do much. On that subject, Mitch Hyatt had a rough game, getting flagged multiple times for holding, including one that wiped out what would have been a second scramble by Rush for a first down.

Jon’Vea Johnson again was not what we had hoped for in game action, with only one pass caught out of five targets at one point, including a couple of clear drops. One name that showed up unexpectedly on the stat sheet was TE Marcus Lucas, who was playing a lot because both Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz were held out of action. He was the one receiver White was able to hit reliably, and caught the first four balls that were targeted at him. His fellow TE Codey McElroy also showed up with some catches. Although neither are likely to have a shot at making the team, the depth there looked be surprisingly good for the night.

Jourdan Lewis was once again a standout in the secondary. His spot on the roster looks secure. And Donovan Olumba keeps showing up as well to keep his name in the mix for the 53 man roster - including being involved in two pass interference challenges by Sean McVay, one of which did result in a penalty being called. (Jason Garrett also made a PI challenge, which he lost.)

Brett Maher missed his only field goal attempt of the game, but it was a 52 yarder under very windy conditions. Still, it was not encouraging.

The Cowboys regressed a bit after a comparatively good job avoiding penalties in their first preseason game, but were hit with eleven. That was not as bad as LA, however, who had 18, including a lot of presnap infractions.

Overall, the most important mission of preseason, evaluating your roster while not having a bunch of injuries, was accomplished. And preseason or not, a win just feels kinda nice.