The Dallas Cowboys are officially halfway through preseason. Through two preseason games there has been a ton of tape to sift through, some of which has been good and some has certainly been bad. As the Cowboys begin practice back in Texas on Monday, the assessments of the players are beginning to take shape.
Friday night versus the Arizona Cardinals offered us a lot to digest. Veterans established themselves on the roster, while some rookies continued to impress, as well as some taking their lumps. We also saw a few unfortunate injuries that look to impact the early part of the Cowboys season.
There was much to discuss following preseason game number two, and here is what we learned.
Keanu Neal is going to be an impact player for the Cowboys.
Keanu Neal has seen limited action in two games thus far, but his presence has been felt. Neal looks fluid, explosive, and comfortable in his new position as a linebacker. The Cowboys defense has sorely been missing playmakers on the defense and Neal looks to be one of the few additions that could help change that narrative moving forward.
#Cowboys LB Keanu Neal has played 19 snaps in the preseason, but he has a @PFF grade of 97.9.— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) August 15, 2021
He has recorded three stops, a forced fumble, and has not missed a tackle yet.
Micah Parsons and Neal got the start Friday night and if that is a pairing that opens up the game for them week one, you know the Cowboys are deploying an athletic pairing that is going to fly sideline-to-sideline looking to cause turnovers and wreak havoc.
It is a welcoming sight to see a Cowboys free agent addition looking to be an impact player for the team. If he remains healthy, Neal is going to see a big role on this Cowboys defense and could have a massive impact on the success of the unit.
Connor Williams as a center is going to take some time.
Connor Williams has come a long way since his rookie year. The fourth-year offensive lineman has seen himself grow into the left guard position and has been a ascending player and formidable member of the Cowboys line as of late. However, Connor Williams the center has some work to do. Williams has shown through out camp and in the Arizona game that he struggles with the snaps. The QB center exchange needs to be seamless and that has not been the case thus far. Granted this is the time to work these things out and there is still plenty of time to work out the kinks going forward, however what has been seen thus far has left many uneasy.
Cowboys LG Connor Williams said he learned fairly close to kickoff he'd start at center. "It was just an emphasis on giving me backup center reps. Getting in those center reps in live situations. It's obviously different than practice." Never played C before this year. A process.— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) August 14, 2021
Understandably the Cowboys are using the preseason as a chance to evaluate all scenarios. If they are looking to deploy the best five offensive linemen and that has Williams at center, it makes sense to figure that out now. On the other hand it can’t hurt if they are just looking to see if Williams has the capability to do so if needed in a pinch. The move is a smart one by the team, but the product as it stands has left more questions than answers.
Dorance Armstrong looks to be included in the defensive end conversation.
It’s a bit much to call a preseason performance a coming out party, however Dorance Armstrong made a pretty strong statement Friday night to not forget about him when you discuss the teams pass rushers. Armstrong was all over the field and made his presence felt. The feeling through camp has been that he has been solid in practices and that shined through against the Cardinals.
What you're seeing from Dorance Armstrong tonight, we've seen pretty consistently in practice too.— Rob Phillips (@robphillips3) August 14, 2021
Armstrong coming into his own this year is exactly what the Cowboys need. Adding him to the combination of Demarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory will be important as the Cowboys will be looking to find a pass rush from more than just that pairing, and will need it if they want to be successful going forward.
The injury bug bit pretty hard Friday night.
The often discussed downside of the preseason is the injuries that inevitably come with it. The Cowboys found themselves dealing with a number of issues on the injury front coming out of the game. Neville Gallimore looks to be out for at least six weeks with a dislocated elbow. Meanwhile Sean McKeon, who looked to have a firm hold on the TE3 position, suffered a high ankle sprain that will see him missing a good amount of time that will leak into the regular season.
Cowboys injuries so far tonight: DT Neville Gallimore (elbow), TE Sean McKeon (ankle), OT Ty Nsekhe (knee), LB Anthony Hines (shoulder), WR Malik Turner (foot).— Todd Archer (@toddarcher) August 14, 2021
It’s tough to avoid, and even harder to stomach. Injuries to any player is a tough deal, but it stings a bit more when you see breakout players such as Gallimore go down when they look primed to make an impact early and often. The Cowboys training staff is world renowned for their quality and care, and they will have their hands full as they deal with the new list of guys to help in addition to Dak Prescott and the other guys on the mend.
The Cowboys next preseason game is August 21st versus the Houston Texans. This game is the dress rehearsal for many key players, including the possibility of seeing Dak Prescott in game action for the first time since the infamous injury, and it wil be another key opportunity to learn more about this seasons team.