Preseason games are never about the final score. Would the Cowboys like to be winning these games? Sure, winning in anything always feels good. In this case, though, the Cowboys are really just trying to determine who is getting better. Who is going to help them once the real games start.
On that front, here are four players who helped their own cause against the Texans in the dress rehearsal.
Perhaps no player came out of the game with a bigger boost than backup quarterback Cooper Rush. There is a real competition going on at backup quarterback with Garrett Gilbert slipping and Rush ascending. Watching Gilbert stand there paralyzed trying to decide between running the ball into wide open space, or throwing to a clearing Cowboys receiver over the middle was agonizing. He eventually did neither and was strip-sacked, creating a short field for the Texans offense.
The Cowboys brought Cooper Rush in a little earlier than we’re used to seeing him; they probably wanted to give him a little runtime with the ones. Rush started to deliver right away. He pushed the ball downfield in an attempt to hit Amari Cooper and picked up a defensive pass interference penalty. He hit Blake Jarwin down the seam and got his first score on a screen pass to Tony Pollard.
Rush ended the game hitting 10 of 12 passes for 97 yards, two touchdowns and a 139.9 rating. Maybe most importantly he didn’t turn the ball over. The Cowboys may still go out and get competition for the backup QB job once some vets get cut in the next couple of weeks, but on this night Rush made the QB2 job a true competition.
When focusing on receivers for the Cowboys, we tend to go one through four and then kind of say that Noah Brown can block and play special teams. Maybe Brown has a little more to his game. Brown led the Cowboys receivers with three catches for 35 yards with a long of 19. One of those catches came with a hefty degree of difficulty. Two of the catches came on Cooper Rush’s long touchdown drive toward the end of the first half.
It’s not likely that Brown is going to get a lot of run as a receiver in the regular season. His value will still be in his blocking and his special teams ability. But if there was any question as to who was WR5 (and there shouldn’t have been), Brown cleared that up on a productive night.
If you look in the stats book you would say this guy didn’t do anything. He was only credited with one tackle on the night and really doesn’t stand out in the stats. But he was inserted into the lineup for a hurt Neville Gallimore and played much of the first half. In that time the Cowboys run defense was solid and Odighizuwa looked like he belonged. That was really what the Cowboys wanted to see out of their third-round draft pick. He looks like he’ll be a solid rotation piece for the Cowboys.
Things seem be finally lining up for Anae. After last year’s wasted season where he basically saw no playing time, he is starting to crack the rotation a bit in 2021. With DeMarcus Lawrence and Tarell Basham sitting this game out, Anae saw a lot of time with the top defense in the first half. He didn’t waste it and put up three tackles including a tackle for loss. What was impressive was the play he made in the run game. Primarily known for his pass rush ability, Anae set the edge on a run play, took on the block, then shed it to grab the runner for a loss. It’s exactly the type of play that will help the defensive coaches trust him to play in the rotation.
He is still in a fight for a roster spot, but he certainly helped his own cause on Saturday night.