The Dallas Cowboys returned to our lives on Thursday night with a performance in the Pro Football Hall of Fame game that screamed preseason, but it is great to finally have some data that comes against another team to assess and discuss.
Some Cowboys stood out on Thursday night for both positive and negative reasons. With football being back so is our weekly winners and losers discussion, and this year we are even tossing in honorable mentions!
Winner: Micah Parsons
An easy way for a defensive player to make the winners list in any game, preseason or otherwise, is to get your hands on the football. Micah Parsons was the only person who did that on Thursday night.
Being in the right place at the right time is not exactly a skill, but Parsons did more than recover a fumble. He showed the right amounts of speed and athleticism that saw him regarded as a top draft pick a few years ago. Seeing this right away was some much-enjoyed justification.
Winner: Garrett Gilbert
Part of why Garrett Gilbert won the night was the quality of play of those behind him. There isn’t exactly a strong competition at QB2 right now.
Still, Gilbert was fine during his brief outing. He seemed at least capable of handling things at an NFL level which is far more than can be said for those around him. Obviously Gilbert has been getting more work with the ones with Dak Prescott not throwing at the moment. Ideally the Cowboys would have some more competition there, but things could be worse.
Winner: Israel Mukuamu
While Kelvin Joseph was the team’s highest-drafted defensive back this year, there is a bit more riding on Nahshon Wright and Israel Mukuamu having success and that’s proof of concept.
It was clear that the Cowboys were leaning into the Dan Quinn mold with those two selections, so seeing them thrive would prove that as a group they are onto something positive. Mukuamu had a great PBU as things wore on and was involved in some tackles. Right now, those are the signs of positivity we are looking for.
Winner: Rico Dowdle
There is no doubt about it. Rico Dowdle is RB3 for the Cowboys.
The running back group is a very set from one through three, and if there was any doubt about it, Dowdle’s 5.4 YPC off of eight carries should have removed it. He will have a locker at The Star for the duration of the year.
Winner: Quinton Bohanna
What do you know, an athletic 1-tech can contribute to the defense!
In all seriousness it was great to see Bohanna flash. He showed a lot of athleticism that correlates with the hype that people have had about him both before and during camp. There were a few times that he broke through the line of scrimmage to complicate things for Pittsburgh and he even hustled back to plays once they got behind him. A job well done.
Honorable Mention: Nahshon Wright
The aforementioned Nahshon Wright also had some moments to celebrate and while he “got beat” by Chase Claypool there was a very questionable push-off that was not called.
Ultimately, the fact that Wright kept things close with Claypool is rather inspiring. We have to keep things in context that this was only the first preseason game and for many of these players their first-ever taste of NFL action.
Honorable Mention: Noah Brown
When the Cowboys drafted Simi Fehoko, it seemed like the WR5 job could ultimately belong to him, but Noah Brown has done everything in his power to hold onto that job rather tightly and continued down that path on Thursday night.
Brown only had a lone catch on Thursday, but he looked smooth and confident. He was never going to play a ton in this game and in the brief time that he did he reaffirmed that he has the inside track to that fifth spot.
Honorable Mention: Kelvin Joseph
Outside of getting hit by his own teammate on his very first NFL play, it seemed like a rather enjoyable night for the team’s second-round pick in Kelvin Joseph.
Unlike Wright and Mukuamu, we have yet to see a notable highlight moment from Joseph thus far throughout camp. This isn’t to say there should be any cause for panic, but even a stable performance from him in the preseason is something worth celebrating right now considering how early on we are.
Honorable Mention: Sean McKeon
The most impressive fight after the catch on Thursday might have come from tight end Sean McKeon, another player who is seeking to lock up their spot on the roster.
He will likely get more play throughout the preseason and he is certainly somebody to be excited about as the third option at tight end.
Honorable Mention: Malik Turner
We are adding honorable mentions to these weekly awards and that doesn’t always mean that they are 100% positive or negative. Malik Turner had a fumble on Thursday which is obviously not great, but the catch right before it was nice! Let’s be positive!
In all seriousness, Turner has really popped throughout camp so having a nice moment of any kind justifies the idea that he could wind up on the team. Unfortunately things happen rather quickly like a fumble that can really impact the way that things shake out.
Loser: Ben DiNucci
What is there to say, really? It was bad.
We knew going into DiNucci’s regular season start last season that it was not going to go well because he was a seventh-round rookie having to start in primetime. That was an awfully unfair hand to be dealt.
But this is the preseason. The environment is different and one that should be more conducive to DiNucci’s current skill set. Seeing him flounder throughout the second half served only to elevate Garrett Gilbert’s performance on the night.
Loser: Reggie Davis
Mistakes in the preseason will pull roster spots out of players’ hands and ones that happen when you are on an island will only exacerbate how intense they can be.
Late in the game, completely by himself, Reggie Davis muffed a punt. That is a serious no-no in general, but especially for someone who is fighting for every opportunity that they can get. A serious bummer.
Loser: Ty Nsekhe
It was not a great debut game for the potential Cowboys swing tackle. And that is not good.
Concern that the team could be dealing without Tyron Smith and/or La’el Collins for any point of the season exists within the back of all of our minds and Nsekhe was supposed to help alleviate those concerns. He got beat a few times on Thursday night which was uninspiring to say the last.
Loser: Brandon Knight
We are entering the point in Brandon Knight’s career with the Cowboys (his third season) where we just about know who he is as an NFL player.
Look, it’s the preseason and you have to play all of the games all of the way through. Things aren’t always going to be bright and sunny from start to finish.
But Brandon Knight got a lot of experience last season, actual regular-season experience. He struggled against Pittsburgh and it might be time to figure out other combinations as far as depth is concerned.
Loser: Hunter Niswander... the kicker
This is only a criticism of Hunter Niswander’s field goal attempts because, well, they were not great.
It is hardly fair to expect a punter to be a great kicker which begs the question as to why the Cowboys are doing this to Hunter. If the plan is for him to punt for the team then why are they having him focus on anything but that?