The Dallas Cowboys have officially completed 75% of their preseason and are quickly approaching their last exhibition game of the year. With one preseason game left before the real thing kicks off versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, there are still many things that need to be sorted out.
The Cowboys left their dress rehearsal happy with the fact they came out clean injury wise, but up and down the roster there is still much to learn about this team before week one. Saturday night saw defensive starters get their most action thus far and allowed us the chance to learn just would happen in case of a COVID-related issue as Dan Quinn was unable to be in his customary defensive coordinator role as he and defensive tackle Carlos Watkins were held out and left the premises out of an “abundance of caution.”
There was much to discuss following preseason game number three, and here is what we learned.
Backup QB is an issue and may not be on the roster.
The Cowboys have been hoping that someone, anyone on the roster would step up and firmly grab hold of the QB2 position. Sadly, Saturday night showed us quite the opposite as it looks as if the position may be a bigger issue than it previously seemed. Garrett Gilbert had issues and looked sloppy in his outing. Gilbert found himself holding on to the ball too long and struggled to get the offense in any type of rhythm while in the game.
Cowboys have said repeatedly they are comfortable w/ Garrett Gilbert as the team’s No. 2 quarterback.— David Moore (@DavidMooreDMN) August 22, 2021
That changed after this game. Asked if the backup is Gilbert or Cooper Rush or someone not on roster, Mike McCarthy responded:
“We have one more week & we’re going to need it.”
Cooper Rush seemed much more in control and was able to maneuver the offense with efficiency when he spelled Gilbert. However, wire-to-wire Gilbert has been viewed as a firm leader in the QB2 race between the two, so although the outing was a better one for Rush it may actually cause more questions than answers heading into their final preseason game.
Ben DiNucci struggled, to put it kindly, and it looks as if his play has hurt his prospects far more than it helped him. DiNucci was never in the running to win the backup job, but you wonder if his poor performances that was topped off with three interceptions in one half, has cost himself a position on the teams practice squad moving forward.
Tony Pollard looks poised to explode in 2021.
When Pollard touches the football you perk up a bit. It seems every time he gets a hand off or catches a pass in space, there is a real chance you may see something special happen. The patience to find the hole and the burst he shows to hit it with confidence is elite. The Cowboys have always tried to find a way to manufacture more touches for Pollard, and this year looks to be no different, but this could be the year where Pollard could see a bump in opportunities and production because he is just too good not to get involved.
Taking nothing away from Ezekiel Elliott as he looks poised to be on his own revenge tour in 2021, but having Pollard playing at a high level is only going to help the tandem be a top-tier duo for this upcoming season. The Cowboys would be wise to continue to find ways to scheme him into this offense and use him as a mismatch on less athletic linebackers in space.
WR1 - WR5 there isn’t a better WR group in the NFL than the Cowboys.
There may be question marks all over this team, but there should be zero question marks about this group of wide receivers. The top three speak for themselves, as Amari Cooper is quiet, efficient, and a route technician. Ceedee Lamb has been the best player in training camp and his career is only beginning, the sky is the limit for how much he can achieve. Michael Gallup is sometimes the forgotten man of the group but under no circumstances should be be slept on as he is in a contract year and is looking to expand on his route tree this year to be more of an issue for opposing defenses.
WR1 - WR5 there isn’t a better WR group in the NFL than the Cowboys.— Tony Catalina (@Tony_Catalina) August 22, 2021
Where the Cowboys are really deadly to opposing defenses is the fact that their fourth and fifth wide receivers can be productive in their own right. Cedrick Wilson makes plays when his number is called and could be viewed as a solid WR3 with fringe WR2 talent. Noah Brown has made his biggest impact on special teams but has shown the ability to make plays when it’s his time to step in. The type of depth this team possesses at one position is rare, and it may only last this final season as Gallup surely will see offers that could force him away from Dallas, but it would be wise for the Cowboys to capitalize on the here and now.
Jabril Cox may struggle to crack the rotation this year, but his future is bright.
The second linebacker in this year’s draft has been making heads turn with his play. Much like his running mate Micah Parsons, he is being praised for his high motor and relentless pursuit of the football. The Cowboys added Keanu Neal to the defense to go with Leighton Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith, and Parsons, which saw the linebacker room get crowded with talent, but it’s the play of Cox that has made many ask how Cox can get involved early.
Early on, Cox may be looked upon to make his biggest impact on the special teams unit, but do not be surprised as the season goes along if he isn’t fully entrenched in the linebacker rotation. The addition of Cox and Parsons has many questioning the future of Smith and Vander Esch, and although we have an entire season ahead of us to sort out the implications of the selections, it has the Cowboys in a good spot moving forward at the linebacker position.
The Cowboys next preseason game is August 29th versus the Jacksonville Jaguars. This will be their fourth and final preseason game of the year. This is the final opportunity for fringe players to showcase their talents, as many, if not all established players will not be playing. There are still many questions to be answered and the Cowboys will look to figure that all out before it gets real.
Saturday night was filled with plenty of highlights for the Cowboys and unfortunately also some lowlights. We collected them all for you on the Blogging The Boys YouTube Channel.