Jerry sees only good things in the defense's future.
But perhaps the Dallas defense’s biggest weakness last year – stopping the run – looked like more of a strength Thursday based on a small sample size. Tampa Bay only had 14 rushing attempts and gained 52 yards – a 3.7 average with a long of 7.
For Jones, that’s a promising development. So is the offseason arrival of defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, and the roster help that should be on the way in the coming weeks.
Starting defensive tackle Neville Gallimore is expected to return from an elbow injury at some point this season. Rookie cornerback and second-round draft pick Kelvin Joseph (groin) can come off the Reserve/Injured list after Week 3. Veteran safety Malik Hooker was inactive Thursday after limited preseason work, but the club believes he can be an impact player on defense coming off last year’s Achilles’ injury.
And Jones liked the fight he saw from the young players on defense, notably first-round draft pick Micah Parsons, who played 51 of 65 defensive snaps and posted seven tackles with a quarterback hit and a pass breakup.
The Cowboys will have to find a way to deal with Gallup’s absence.
With Gallup out, there is an opportunity as the third receiver in Dallas’ offense. Cedrick Wilson is likely to be the best option, and he got the most opportunities aside from the big three in the season opener.
Wilson caught all three of his targets against the Buccaneers for 24 yards. The 2018 sixth-round pick out of Boise State had a breakout game in Seattle last season, where he caught five passes for 107 yards and two touchdowns. The talent is there for Wilson, who now has a chance to earn a larger role in the offense.
Noah Brown is another WR who has a chance to step up, but he’s coming off the COVID-19 list. Brown’s best season was in 2020 when he caught just 14 passes for 154 yards. The fourth-year receiver now has an opportunity to play higher up the depth chart.
Without a roster change, the only other option for the Cowboys is rookie Simi Fehoko, who showed in preseason that he needed more work. The fifth-round pick out of Stanford doesn’t look ready, but he was active in the opener against the Buccaneers, so he’ll have his shot too.
Martin played a few games at RT last season.
The Cowboys current plan to do so involves Ty Nsekhe and Terence Steele – with 31 career starts between the two, 14 of which came from Steele last season. There isn’t much the Cowboys want to remember from that season, though building a better contingency plan to account for either Collins or Smith missing time should be one of them.
If their current plan doesn’t involve moving an All-Pro guard that held up well at tackle to protect Prescott from Joey Bosa on Sunday, the team is showing a level of faith in their OL depth that simply hasn’t been earned.
Hard Knocks star Isaac Alarcon is on the Cowboys practice squad, and is the only other player on the roster with experience at tackle aside from left guard Connor Williams playing LT in college.
Another look at the Collins situation.
McCarthy’s not about to divulge the game plan for dealing with (Joey) Bosa, period – let alone nine days before kickoff. But it was interesting to hear him work through the possible process for replacing Collins in the starting lineup.
On one hand, he did allow that he’d like to continuing working with the primary two backups who have split tackle reps since the start of training camp, Ty Nsekhe and Terence Steele. But when he was asked about the possibility of kicking Zack Martin out to right tackle, he noted that Connor McGovern played well in Thursday night’s loss to Tampa Bay.
“We’re eyes wide open — you have to be, because things happen,” he said. “We want to be able to have as many combinations as possible.”
It’d probably be a mistake to infer too much from that answer. Despite a rash of injuries along the offensive line, the Cowboys were reluctant to move Martin to tackle last fall, hesitating to make the switch until their Week 11 win against Minnesota.
They’ve also worked Nsekhe and Steele extensively to insure themselves against losing both Collins and Tyron Smith. As McCarthy noted during his press conference, both players have spent the last six weeks working on both sides of the line.
Facing Tom Brady, Bucs to begin his rookie season a learning experience for Cowboys LB Micah Parsons - Calvin Watkins, DMN
The Cowboys first-round pick is just starting to learn about the NFL game.
The first defensive snap of Cowboys rookie Micah Parsons’ career came at middle linebacker. He later moved to outside linebacker and got two blockers stopping him. He blitzed, tried to cover Tampa Bay tight end Rob Gronkowski, he spun around trying to find defenders and well, just looked like a rookie.
To say the 51 snaps of Parsons first NFL regular season game was a learning experience is accurate. When that first game ended, Parsons had seven tackles and was credited with a quarterback hit and a pass defended.
Not bad for the 12th overall pick of the NFL Draft that the Cowboys expect to improve.
“I thought it was a good start for him,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “He’s beyond his years but he’s still working. His first time to play in an NFL game, also the communication responsibility that he has to handle. That’s a new experience. I don’t care where you played or how much time you get in the preseason.”
NFL Week 1 takeaways: What we learned, big reaction questions and stat leaders for every game - ESPN
A look at the Cowboys first game and what it could mean.
What to know: There are reasons to be encouraged by the Cowboys’ Week 1 game: Dak Prescott’s 403 yards, Amari Cooper’s 13 catches for 139 yards and the defense’s four takeaways. And then there are reasons to be discouraged by the loss: Ezekiel Elliott had 33 yards on 11 carries, the Cowboys allowed four touchdown passes, and there were too many mistakes on special teams. “Like coach said in the postgame, the only thing we know after this game is that we aren’t going undefeated,” Cooper said. “It wasn’t all bad. We did some good things, too.” — Todd Archer
How much worry should there be regarding kicker Greg Zuerlein? He hooked a 31-yard field goal attempt and was off from 60 yards — which is fine — but also had an extra point hit the upright. He didn’t kick much over the summer because of back surgery and had one attempt in the preseason. The Cowboys need to do a better job offensively in the red zone, but Zuerlein can’t miss makeable kicks like this. — Archer
Archer’s confidence rating: 7.5. The offense did what was expected. Scoring 29 points against Tampa Bay is a good showing even if it didn’t — or couldn’t — run the ball. Dallas shredded the Bucs’ pass defense, and Prescott was sacked once. And Dallas doesn’t play Tom Brady every week. — Archer
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