The Dallas Cowboys played a football game on Saturday night. That in and of itself is a very good and cool thing.
Obviously there are things that happened (or didn’t happen) that we wish were different. The scoreboard notes that Dallas lost, but that isn’t where gripes have fallen among fans of the team. It’s the how of all this happened, including Thursday’s scrimmage against the Denver Broncos, that is more troubling.
Saturday night featured both positive and negative things. Normally every year we have a series called winners and losers following Cowboys games, but this year we are re-branding that to Stock Up and Stock Down in the interest of being more positive!
Stock Down: Penalties and Team Discipline
There is just no excuse for committing 17 penalties. None.
What is insane about that figure is that not even all of the penalties committed by the Cowboys were accepted. There were multiple instances where multiple penalties were committed by Dallas and obviously only one can be enforced. Additionally an 18th penalty could have been called against them late in the game, but the Broncos declined it.
Mike McCarthy spent all offseason telling us about how his team was going to specifically improve team discipline in this exact area. This is the preseason, starters weren’t out there, and all of that jazz, but at a certain point he has to take a long and hard look in the mirror.
These weren’t all penalties that can be debated or argued like holding. Consider that Kelvin Joseph (a second-year second-round pick) jumped offsides at the end of the first half as the Denver Broncos missed a field goal. He breathed life into a possession that would have otherwise died and the Broncos converted on their second chance. He literally gave them points.
This was highly discouraging.
Stock Up: Neville Gallimore
The most stock down thing about Neville Gallimore might have just been how much he played throughout the night. Why was he in there so long?!
With Gallimore getting hurt during the preseason a year ago we didn’t get to experience all of him in the way that we wanted throughout the 2021 season. It is clear that he is on pace for an impressive season in his third year, although he obviously wasn’t up against some formidable competition.
Still though, good for him.
Stock Up: Tyler Smith
Truth be told there were both positive and negative moments for Tyler Smith, but all told it feels like the former significantly outweighed the latter.
Yes, Smith contributed to the penalty issue (the first holding was a bit debatable), but he also showed the type of physical tenacity that made him such an intriguing prospect to begin with.
There is no question that Tyler Smith is going to be a force in this league.
Stock Up: The running game
We know that the Cowboys want to run the ball, and it seemed like they are well set up to do that on Saturday night.
Obviously the team was void of its primary starters along the offensive line and top two running back options, but for the most part they were able to move the ball with relative ease on the ground.
Dallas averaged 4.8 yards per play against the Broncos, but a stout 5.0 yards per rush. Maybe they will in fact be able to feed whichever ball-carrier they prefer.
Stock Down: Josh Ball
Of course the run game can only go as far as the offensive line allows them to over the course of the season and Josh Ball is set up to be an incredibly weak link along that chain. The trouble is he is currently the sixth link in question.
Ball is in fact the top swing tackle option on the team at the moment. Scratch that, he is the only swing tackle option on the team at the moment. Cowboys fans have spent the last few months screaming about how poor of a decision this seems to be and on Saturday we saw a peek at the potential consequences of going down this road.
Stock Down: Cooper Rush
Another position treated somewhat lightly by the staff this offseason was QB2. Considering that Cooper Rush won his first-ever start last season that didn’t seem to be an issue though, right?
The trouble with that is that Cooper Rush made his first NFL start in his fifth NFL season. Here he is entering year six, meaning that we are fully aware of who he is and more specifically who he isn’t. And on Saturday he was both of those people.
Rush finished 12 of 20 for 84 yards with an interception and managed to be the less impressive quarterback in a competition between him and Ben DiNucci. If that doesn’t tell you all that you need to know what will?
Stock Up: Simi Fehoko
If you catch a touchdown your stock is obviously going to go up and Simi Fehoko hauled in Dallas’ only one of the night. It was one of his two catches so there wasn’t much to write home about, but this was an important moment for him.
No real other wide receiver really stood out (again, shout out Cooper Rush) although both Jake Ferguson and Payton Hendershot did at tight end. In fact the tight end group just missed out on some elevated stock. Simi had a good night in a literal sense and with a competition brewing that certainly bodes well for him.
Stock Down: Lirim Hajrullahu
Nobody can deny that Bryan Anger did not get off the most stable snap and hold in the world, but you know what, we are past a point where we can use excuses in the kicking department.
Lirim Hajrullahu is fully aware of the state of things at kicker on this team and he missed his only attempt on the night. The literal-ness of stock being up and down merits that he regressed in this capacity.
Stock Up: Brett Maher
Similarly, it is hard to argue against the idea that Brett Maher’s stock literally went up after Saturday’s game. Only one kicker made all of their kicks on the evening and it was him.
Are we sure that the Cowboys have solved their kicker conundrum? Of course not. Did they take even one step towards doing so? Honestly it is hard to tell.
But Saturday night belonged to Brett Maher in the way it belonged to Ben DiNucci.
Stock Down: Jalen Tolbert
It is difficult to find a player who has had as much hype around them over the last few months than Jalen Tolbert. Some of that is the nature of the position that he plays, but some of it is based off of projecting him into the NFL.
Needless to say Saturday was not the most glowing entrance to the NFL for a rookie wide receiver. Tolbert was targeted 7 times and had 2 receptions (again, quarterback play was not great) for 10 yards. What’s more is he had a crucial fourth down drop.
He will be alright. This was surely quite the learning experience.