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Cowboys news: Tony Pollard, first-team offense have strong showing in second preseason game

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

5 takeaways from Cowboys preseason win vs. Rams: First-team offense scores, Mike White continues to struggle - Calvin Watkins, SportsDay

Yes, it is only the preseason, but it was awesome to see the first-team offense move down the field and, most importantly, put the ball into the end zone. Watkins wrote on the five takeaways he had following preseason week two, including the first-team O scoring a TD.

The first-team offense scores a touchdown

It’s the preseason, so it’s not a big deal, but you would like to see the first-team offense score a touchdown. Not so much just get into the red zone and setup a field goal, but actually score a touchdown. The Cowboys did this Saturday night and it wasn’t easy. Things started from their own 3-yard line and quarterback Dak Prescott was sacked on the fourth play from scrimmage. But Prescott connected on a 31-yard pass to wide receiver Michael Gallup and Tony Pollard did his thing, touching the ball six times on the 12-play drive. Pollard scored on a 14-yard touchdown run ending a three-game preseason touchdown drought for the Cowboys. Positives from the drive were offensive coordinator Kellen Moore calling for deep passes, which is something fans want to see, and Pollard touching the ball so much. The Cowboys are waiting to settle contract demands with Ezekiel Elliott and if they don’t when Week 1 starts, maybe Pollard can be a viable substitute. He’s no Elliott, but Pollard might be more than suitable until the contract issues are solved.

Also, No. 2 quarterback Cooper Rush, coming in after Mike White, was able to get the second touchdown of the night when he found receiver Devin Smith on an eight-yard reception in the third quarter.

‘Zeke who?’: Tony Pollard leaves Jerry Jones smiling; plus good and bad from Cowboys’ Hawaii visit - Jon Machota, The Athletic

The Cowboys’ staff office, especially Will McClay, has been recognized of having a strong eye for talent. The 2019 fourth-round selection, Tony Pollard, is doing nothing to go against that thus far.

As Jerry Jones was about to climb onto a golf cart Saturday night and exit Aloha Stadium, the Cowboys owner and general manager was asked about rookie running back Tony Pollard.

Specifically, if Pollard was Dallas’ best negotiator in contract talks with Ezekiel Elliott.

After pausing to gather his thoughts, Jones responded: “Zeke who?”

Reporters began to laugh and Jones joined in.

“We’re having some fun,” he said.

...

While Pollard isn’t making anyone forget about the NFL’s two-time rushing champ, he continued to build on a strong training camp with an outstanding first series Saturday in Dallas’ second preseason game, a 14-10 win over the host Los Angeles Rams.

Pollard carried the ball for two yards, 15 yards, nine yards, two yards and then a 14-yard touchdown. He also added a nine-yard reception in what ended up being the only series for the fourth-round pick and the Cowboys starters.

“That’s a playmaker,” Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup said. “TP, playmaker. That’s what he’s going to do for us. I’m very excited for that young cat. He’s got a good head on his shoulders, so it should be fun.”

A lot went right during the Cowboys’ trip to Hawaii, but was it due to the amount of players that weren’t actually there? - David Moore, SportsDay

Moore writes that while the Rams were not playing all of their top defensive guys, it was encouraging to see the offense look so smooth without key components of the unit in the game.

The 97-yard touchdown drive engineered by Dak Prescott was also cause for celebration.

”I don’t know that one play stuck out to me,’’ head coach Jason Garrett said. “The drive stuck out to me.’’

The Cowboys converted on third down on three occasions on that initial drive. Prescott found Michael Gallup for 31 yards on third-and-seven. Later in the drive, on third-and-six, he hit tight end Jason Witten for 10 yards.

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It should be noted the Cowboys marched down the field against the Rams without four Pro Bowl players on the offensive side of the ball.

Left tackle Tyron Smith and right guard Zack Martin returned to Dallas rather than make the trip to Hawaii, and running back Ezekiel Elliott’s holdout continues.

Receiver Amari Cooper was on the field before the game, but didn’t play. He hasn’t practiced or played in more than two weeks since suffering a heel injury.

Film room: 3 things we learned from Cowboys’ win over Rams, including a player primed for career year - John Owning, SportsDay

Owning goes to the film room to find three things we can learn from the Cowboys’ preseason win over the Rams. Owning had some good things to say about Pollard, but he was also impressed with defensive tackle Maliek Collins.

Maliek Collins primed for career year

He didn’t get a ton of run, but while he was in the game, Maliek Collins proved that the hype surrounding his stellar camp is for real.

Collins has been dominant, at times, during camp, as he’s displayed his usual impressive quickness, explosiveness and effective spin move. On top of that, Collins appears to be playing with more power and better overall hand usage, as offensive linemen have had a difficult time latching onto Collins’ frame during camp.

Looking at the box score, Collins appeared to have a ho-hum night in Hawaii; however, further investigation reveals that Collins made his presence felt early and often during his quick stint. Most notably, Collins hit a beautiful spin move (above clip) that enabled him to get a quick pressure on the Rams’ quarterback.

Collins’ most notable play against Los Angeles was this impressive tackle for loss:

On this play, Collins is aligned with an outside shade over the left guard. With the Rams trying to run a zone concept to Collins’ side of the formation, the Nebraska product slid inside the left guard’s reach block attempt, using a powerful and efficient club-swim move to get free and penetrate into the backfield.

To finish the play, Collins displayed incredible grip strength, as he was able to latch onto Henderson’s jersey with one hand and drag the running back to the ground.

...

When discussing the players who deserve contract extensions, Collins rarely gets brought up. Nevertheless, through his opportunities in camp and during the preseason, Collins appears to be on the precipice of a career year, which would give him a ton of leverage heading into free agency.

Scout’s Notebook: Taco Makes Plays; Star LB? - The Mothership

Bryan Broaddus also went back and looked at the film, coming away with some other takeaways from Saturday’s contest. Dak impressed in the 97-yard drive.

It was another nice start to the game for Dak Prescott. Efficient moving the squad. He made some clutch throws when he had to, starting deep in his own end of the field. He played with poise and control. He saw the field well and was able to make a nice touch pass down the sideline to Michael Gallup to open things up. Kellen Moore put him in some good positions to make plays and he took advantage of it.

The secondary continues to perform well.

This was the second game where we’ve seen this starting secondary make plays on the ball by denying these Rams receivers space. Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis and Xavier Woods all caught my eye with physical plays when the defense needed them. As a group they’ve tackled well and that has been the most impressive thing about the way they’ve played.

A huge sleeper in making the roster is Devin Smith, who has used both training camp and consecutive preseason games to make an impression.

Devin Smith still continues to find ways to make plays in these games, whereas Jon’Vea Johnson has not. Smith once again made a nice adjustment to the ball from Cooper Rush on the touchdown. Smith tracked the ball well and -- just like last week -- was able to put his hands in the perfect position to finish the play. On the other hand, Johnson continues to find his way to get separation on the routes, but his finish is not there. I believe that Johnson is thinking too much instead of just playing naturally.

Olumba’s Play A Bright Spot In Second Half - David Helman, The Mothership

Speaking of the secondary performing well, Helman wrote on Donovan Olumba’s play.

It’s a pretty classic preseason football story. Olumba signed in Dallas as an undrafted free agent last year, and he spent his rookie season on the practice squad. Here in the second training camp of his young career, he has put his name on the radar with a series of strong practices going back over the last two weeks.

“He has good instincts around the ball,” said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. “He’s got long arms. He makes a lot of plays on the ball -- PBU after PBU in practice, couple of them today in the ballgame.”

That more than anything is what stood out – Olumba kept making plays around the ball. He did manage the one PBU on a deep shot in the fourth quarter, although he said he thought he should’ve intercepted it. He broke up another pass at the tail end of the game, although a coach’s challenge deemed the play to be defensive pass interference.

“He ran into me, and I thought I tried to protect myself,” Olumba said. “But I think they saw me grab a little bit inside of his jersey. So I mean they just called it. I thought it was clean.”

Regardless, it didn’t seem as if the moment was too big for Olumba – to borrow a popular phrase from Garrett. Whether it’s a crowd of several hundred at training camp or a television audience, he said he doesn’t notice a difference.

Bad call in Cowboys-Rams highlights more problems with PI replay review - Mike Florio, PFT

Florio wrote on the bad PI penalty that was called on Olumba on Saturday night, writing that it highlights more problems with PI replay reviews.

The Rams had the ball on their own 27, third and 10. Receiver Alex Bachman ran what appeared to be a 10-yard button hook. He extended an arm into Cowboys defensive back Donovan Olumba in an apparent effort to create separation so that he could come back to the ball. The contact happened before the pass was thrown. Olumba engaged Bachman, and the pair didn’t separate until after the ball left the quarterback’s hand.

Olumba knocked the ball away as it arrived. Fourth down Rams.

Rams coach Sean McVay threw the challenge flag, smartly taking full advantage of the opportunity to activate the replay process for pass interference calls and non-calls during preseason games. (McVay explained that this was the goal to reporters after the game.) And then, after more than three minutes and forty seconds from the end of the play, referee John Hussey announced that the ruling on the field had been changed to defensive pass inteference.

It was an astoundingly bad outcome. Bachman, not Olumba, clearly and obviously initiated contact. (Indeed, the Cowboys broadcasters believed that Bachman, not Olumba, would be called for interference.) And even if there had been clear and obvious evidence that Olumba had done anything to significantly hinder Bachman, it’s definitely not clear and obvious that Olumba significant hindered Bachman after the pass was thrown.

Cowboys’ Witten: ‘Jitters were real’ in return - Todd Archer, ESPN

Saturday was Jason Witten’s first game action since December 2017. Following the game, the future Hall of Famer said the “jitters were real”.

“A year away from the game, all the work to get back here since March, getting in shape, getting your body ready, having an opportunity, I know I’ve got a lot to prove,” Witten said. “It wasn’t perfect. I thought we’re on schedule with the things I want to work on. Able to get a third-down conversion. Dak showed he had the confidence on that. Some of the other things in the passing game, running game, I felt good with. It’s always tricky when you’re coming back out here ... so the jitters were real. A lot of work to get back to here, but it felt good.”

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Witten played all 12 snaps on the Cowboys’ first drive Saturday and converted a first down with his 10-yard reception. In his final regular-season game in 2017 at Philadelphia, he caught two passes for 17 yards in a 6-0 Dallas win.

From the offseason program to the organized team activities to the June minicamp to the 15 practices in Oxnard, California, 12 of which were in full pads, Witten has impressed the front office, coaches and teammates in his return.

”He’s just one of those guys, incredibly reliable, had a great understanding of the game, very quarterback-friendly, and he comes up big in crunch time,” coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s done that throughout his career. It was good to see him out here, good to see him playing football, having fun playing football and getting a few snaps under his belt.”

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