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Cowboys at Seahawks: 4 good trends and 4 bad trends that continued in the Dallas loss

The final score may not matter, but how Dallas got there may be telling about upcoming roster decisions.

NFL: Preseason-Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys Nation had to stay up late last night for Dallas’ preseason bout with the Seattle Seahawks and ultimately was rewarded with a 22-14 loss. But a meaningless score isn’t the issue today; the real stories from this game were how certain players did or didn’t shine, and the continued impact on roster building for when the games do matter.

The biggest development of the preseason so far is the mounting evidence that wide receiver Jalen Tolbert is ready to play. It’s an odd path for him; you generally don’t see a Day 2 pick do nothing as a rookie and then turn it around this dramatically in his second season. Tolbert’s no-show in 2022 could have had factors involved with his personal life, maturity, attitude, or who knows what else that got in the way of clear football talent. But with another game in which he looked a cut above his competition, which included some of the Seahawks’ starting defensive backs, Tolbert is finally ready to deliver.

Another enduring bright spot from last week’s game was the play of safety Juanyeh Thomas. He has the range to play deep but hits like a strong safety; you saw him bring that intensity on several plays as he led Dallas in tackles last night. The taunting penalty was laughably weak and you probably wouldn’t see that in a regular season game. But Thomas is looking like the next man up now at safety behind the three veterans, especially if he can fill in for Malik Hooker in deeper coverage.

Running back Deuce Vaughn continues proving he’s a gamer, scoring a 14-yard touchdown with balance and strength despite contact. Fun stories about his size and his father’s role with the Cowboys weren’t going to land him on the 53-man roster, but the thought of what he could do with the starting offensive line blocking in front is very intriguing. He has the athleticism and skills to make guys miss, and even some power to push through tackles, which reminds you of Tony Pollard.

Staying at running back, Rico Dowdle also continues to write his ticket for the roster. While Malik Davis did have the one nice 18-yard run last night, Dowdle shows more consistency with his vision, cuts, and overall play. And while he may have caused the blocked punt late, you have to love the way he reacted and tried to make something of it. His complete game is going to put him on the 53 this year.

It hasn’t all been good, of course, especially given the back-to-back losses. One guy you have to point to with that is quarterback WIll Grier, who has thrown the only two picks so far this preseason. While you love his scrambling ability and the way he keeps play alive, Grier also shows you why Dallas might still lean toward the steadier, low-risk option in Cooper Rush. It’d be interesting to see these guys competing with the starting offensive line in front of them, but we won’t get that chance. Grier is still playing well enough to deserve a roster spot if the Cowboys want to keep three quarterbacks, but he’s also showing why Rush will probably keep the QB2 job.

Speaking of the offensive line, there’s good reason to be concerned about the depth going forward. Guys who were pegged for backup roles this year like Chuma Edoga and Matt Waletzko are now injured and the other options aren’t shining. Josh Ball has arguably been the best lineman in the last two games and that's a scary statement. Don’t be surprised if the Cowboys are active on the waiver wire or even the trade market at final cuts.

It’d be nice to see more game opportunities for kicker Brandon Aubrey, but all he got last night were two extra points. His big leg is evident from booming kickoffs but we have yet to see it on a field goal; his one succesful field goal, against the Jaguars, was only from 29 yards. The camp reports have been good lately but Aubrey needs to be battle-tested, and even the low-stakes environment of preseason still turns up the pressure.

Despite lots of offseason talk about the excitement and improved depth at defensive tackle, so far it hasn’t really shown up in games. Unfortunately, that starts with first-round rookie Mazi Smith. The technical skills to put his obvious athletic gifts to work just aren’t there yet, which is certainly forgivable at this early stage. But with none of Osa Odighizuwa, Neville Gallimore, or other tackles really showing up themselves, the total picture at DT so far isn’t looking different from last year. There’s still plenty of time for that to change, but it has to if this team is going to take the next step toward title contention.

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