Dress Rehearsal Game: Cowboys Dressed for Success in 2012

In the first half, the starters for Dallas were clearly better than the Rams starters. If it were a game that mattered, Dallas wins by at least a couple of TDs. Based on their performance in this game, Dallas is ready for the regular season but not without some areas that must improve.

Here is what I liked about the game: (including the fact that the Rams coach elected to kick the PAT late in the game instead of going for 2 and risking a preseason overtime game.)

Passing game: Both Romo and Orton looked sharp combining for 18 of 25 and 297 yards in limited play time. That’s without two of their best targets Austin and Bryant. For the most part they had decent pass protection from the O line. Big performance by Dwayne Harris who is in line to become the 3rd starting WR now in my view. Blog about WRs HERE.

In the absence of TE Jason Witten, Phillips and rookie James Hanna had good games combining for 3 catches and 47 yards. With Witten’s status in the Giants game uncertain, these two will need to step up their games.

Running game: It was nice to see DeMarco Murray getting back into the swing of things as he ran for 26 yards including one 16 yard run. If he stays healthy, Murray will be a star in the NFL.

Also Felix Jones, who I have been concerned about, showed some life in the game leading all rushers with 34 yards. Not convinced the old Felix is back yet but his effort was better than previous games. The Cowboys will need to be able to run the ball to have a good season.

DEFENSE Getting after it.

Another excellent performance by the defensive starters who are showing that scoring on the Cowboys will not be as easy as it was last season. Nice to see Morris Claiborne making some plays particularly in the red zone to prevent a score. Early in the game Claiborne looked a little out of position on a few passes but he was strong at the goal line. I expect he will get better with each game.

The Rams were able to score because of a big kick off return and a fumble by Orton that set up scores. Also the Rams executed a fake punt that moved the ball to mid field. Really Rams? Faking a punt in a meaningless preseason game? May want to keep that play in your pocket for a game that matters. You look like you will need it.

Even without Ware, there was a good push up front by the Cowboys defensive line and the secondary was very active. The blitzes were effective as Sean Lee picked up a sack.

Can’t help but feel optimistic about the Cowboys on defense this year.

Areas for improvement:

Special teams: The kickoff cover team allowed rookie Pead a 47 yard return that helped the Rams offense score a long FG. Last season the Cowboys were not so good in this area either so they must tighten up their coverage. If the kicker is not going to kick it out of the endzone, then they have to cover them better.

KO Return: Dallas has shown very little life in returning kickoffs so far. They have guys who are simply fighting to get the ball out to the 20. That can be accomplished by just letting the ball go through the endzone. Felix Jones and Teddy Williams don’t look like the right guys to have returning kickoffs. Try Dwayne Harris.

Offensive Line Communication: During the Rams game, there were a couple of times where the Dallas Offensive line just completely tuned guys loose for a sack. It appeared to be a lack of communication and not so much someone getting beat. The good news is those kind of things can get corrected.

On one play it appeared the running back Felix Jones, missed a blitzing LB and on another play Tyron Smith let a DE go expecting a back to pick him up however the back didn’t appear to know what to do. These things must get corrected before the Giants game.

If opposing defenses watch this game film, (and they will) they will blitz the Cowboys up the middle and show different looks to confuse them because it works. Unfortunately the Cowboys linemen haven’t spent much time playing together so the lack of communication is obvious. Got to get better quickly.

Penalties: Cowboys finished with 68 yards of penalties compared to 15 yards for the Rams. Most penalties occurred after the starters came out of the game but this was a problem area last season and has the potential to hurt them again this season. The offensive linemen were the biggest offenders. Must get better in this area. It can kill offensive drives.

Overall a good performance by the Cowboys and reason to be optimistic for the season.