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Five things we need to see when the Cowboys visit the Cardinals

The score doesn’t matter, but a lot of other things most certainly do for the Cowboys.

Arizona Cardinals v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

After the long, dry spell of no football, we have had a lot of Dallas Cowboys stuff happen in just a few days. The Hall of Fame game, the scrimmage with the Los Angeles Rams, the premiere of Hard Knocks, and the final practice in Oxnard. As you can see if you follow the links, we have been covering things wall to wall here at BTB, and that is not about to stop. The next big event is the preseason game at the Arizona Cardinals on Friday. (The game will be on the NFL Network for those not in the local market where it will be covered by CBS 11.)

There have been a lot of steps taken by the 2021 edition of the team, but many more are at best incomplete, and at worst sadly lacking.

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On the latest Ryled Up podcast, Roy White and I dove into some of the things that we want to have happen, among other things. To find out what we had to say, you can listen above. Please consider subscribing as well wherever you get your podcasts.

Here are some of the points made.

We need a touchdown

The score doesn’t matter in preseason. Scoring does. In the Hall of Fame game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, we saw a too familiar story, as the Cowboys got close on several drives but had to settle for field goal attempts, only one successful with Hunter Niswander still filling in for on-the-mend Greg Zuerlein. This issue has plagued the team for some time, especially in the Jason Garrett era. Dallas needs to punch a drive or two into the end zone in this game to get over this. Mental blocks may or may not be a thing for NFL teams, but let’s not risk it.

With Dak Prescott still coming back from his shoulder strain and not being considered for Friday’s game, the best case scenario would be for the presumptive QB2, Garrett Gilbert, to lead a TD drive. That would be against the better competition of the night, and would help instill a bit of confidence in Gilbert. Of course, no one will complain if Cooper Rush and Ben DiNucci also get the team into the end zone. Even when the scrubs are on the field, it is a lift to all when six goes on the scoreboard.

Let’s get a pick for the defense

After the fiasco of last year, one of the most encouraging things about practices, including the Rams scrimmage, has been the number of players snagging interceptions. Live game action, even in preseason, is different. It is a much better indication of what the players are capable of.

Some names to watch are Micah Parsons, Trevon Diggs, Maurice Canady, and Nahshon Wright. All have had strong camps and shown a nose for the ball. But they are not alone. We won’t be picky about picks. Just get the ball from the Cards and give the offense a better chance to get off that touchdown schneid. Or even run it all the way back. Points is points.

Let’s see some benefit from the extra preseason game

The Cowboys and Steelers got a head start from the HOF game, and logically Dallas should be ahead of Arizona when they take the field. They also had an early start in camp to prepare for last Thursday’s matchup. They should be crisper and just more ready to compete.

If they aren’t, that is a concern. After 2020, there are lingering worries about Mike McCarthy and his staff. Coming out and playing noticeably better would help dampen those. But if the Cardinals look as well or even better prepared, then the slings and arrows will fly. It would be deservedly so.

We need to figure out who the real Nooch is

There will be a couple more chances to evaluate Ben DiNucci, but the trend is important. Will he take a step forward, or still look a bit lost out there? Can he be a viable emergency QB3, or is he nothing more than a versatile scout team QB?

While we hope no one besides Prescott takes a meaningful snap in the regular season or the playoffs, you have to prepare for the worst case. And hopefully there will be a totally meaningless game or two in January when the backups can get some good on-field experience. DiNucci needs to take some strides and earn a spot, preferably on the practice squad. But if he doesn’t, the staff really needs to consider if they should keep Cooper Rush around or go outside to find a QB for the practice squad. They shouldn’t use even a PS spot to keep a player around that has no observable value on the game day roster.

Let’s see this thing continue from the first preseason game

Preseason games are mostly about evaluating the talent to see who makes the 53-man roster. Coaches tend to keep things vanilla so they can spring things when the games count. Additionally, things like snap counts can sometimes tip us as to who they have plans for. It was interesting to see who got the most reps on defense against the Steelers.

DT Osa Odighizuwa 85%

DE Ron’Dell Carter 80%

NT Quinton Bohanna 76%

Carter is contending for a depth position, and this may show us that he is getting some serious consideration. Odighizuwa is going to make the team, and here we have a measure of how they are trying to get him up to speed.

But that Bohanna number is just exciting. Having a legitimate nose tackle on the defense is something the Cowboys need. And he was not just out there clogging things up in the middle, either. He notched three tackles, which is good production from that position.

Furthermore, it was somewhat overlooked in the loss to the Steelers that they were held to only 76 yards on 30 attempts, or 2.5 yards a carry. That is highly encouraging after the way Dallas was repeatedly gashed last season. With the amount of work they got, Odighizuwa and Bohanna have to have been major contributors to that. That is very pleasing.


Don’t forget we have a full slate of podcasts each week.

  • Daily briefings in the morning on The Ocho
  • Monday: Jersey Boyz with Dave Sturchio, Bret Ernst, and Keith Ernst
  • Tuesday: The 75O with Tony Casillas and RJ Ochoa
  • Wednesday: NFC East Mixtape with RJ Ochoa and Brandon Lee Gowton
  • Wednesday: Talkin’ The Draft with Connor Livesay, Dalton Miller, and Cole Patterson
  • Thursday: Ryled Up with Roy White and Tom Ryle
  • Friday: Girls Talkin’ Boys with Kelsey Charles and Meg Murray
  • Saturday: Cowboys Hoy with Mauricio Rodriguez