4 Players to Watch in the Cowboys Third Preseason Game

Kiffin man crush on Patmon

Kiffin man crush on Patmon

Saturday represents the crucial third preseason game for Dallas where starters get more work, and guys on the roster bubble need to make the most of their precious opportunities. For a variety of reasons, there are a few players who haven’t played much and now find themselves with a small amount of time to impress the coaches.

A look at 4 players who need to standout immediately that will be worth watching in the third preseason game.

1. DT Zach Minter:
Minter was only signed 5 days ago from the Bears when injured rookie defensive lineman Ben Gardner left the team for surgery. Minter entered the game in the 2nd half against the Ravens and made the most of his time by making 2 sacks and causing a fumble.

It was an impressive performance by Minter for sure however, his achievements come with a bit of caveat since he did all this against third string Ravens. During practice this week, Minter has been running some with the first team defense and that means we should see him much sooner in the Dolphins game and against better competition.

Can Minter show up like last week when playing against starters on the offensive line? That’s exactly what the Cowboys defense needs to find out because the defensive line is where they could use the most help.

2. LB Will Smith:
Smith was drafted by Dallas in the 7th round but you probably have heard very little about him during camp. Smith has missed time with a groin injury. Injured groins appear to have replaced the hamstring injuries that Dallas was once plagued with in a case of “if it isn’t one thing it’s another”.

Smith saw his first action as a Cowboy late in the Ravens game and was actually pretty impressive in a short amount of time getting credit for a tackle and an assist.

In evaluating Smith’s college play after Dallas drafted him, I was quite impressed with his ability to move and get to the football. I came to the conclusion that he would impress when the pads come on and I still believe he can help this defense. He is a solid tackler and very active on the field.

Holloman has a neck injury and Dallas is still searching for a LB combination for week one. Smith needs to make the most of his opportunities in the next 2 games and I’m looking for this guy to show the coaches what he can do.

3. CB Tyler Patmon:
The undrafted rookie corner out of Oklahoma State impressed in OTAs but has missed practice in camp with a hip flexor (at least it’s not a groin). He returned to action in the second half of the Ravens game and he recorded a tackle and an assist in limited action. I thought Patmon displayed good cover skills and I noticed that the Raven QB avoided throwing his way because the receiver was covered.

Currently Dallas knows Scandrick will miss the first four games of the season. Claiborne has missed time with a shoulder injury, Webb has continued to struggle in coverage, and the rookie Mitchell has been inconsistent. Patmon will need to have a couple good preseason game performances to make the roster but he should certainly get an opportunity.

I’m watching Patmon to see if he can make some plays and convince the coaches to keep him on the roster.

4. RB Ryan Williams:
The 2nd year player that Dallas signed from the Cardinals, is in a battle for a roster spot with 2nd year player Joseph Randle. I believe Randle may hold a slight edge primarily because he is contributing on special teams. Last week Williams showed something with a TD and 36 yards on 6 carries. His running has been impressive displaying a combination of power and quickness.

Have to think Dallas would prefer to keep just 3 RBs on the roster, but Williams is making a solid case for keeping him as the 4th one. I’m looking for Williams to put together another solid performance to convince the decision makers that they need him on the roster.

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Did the Cowboys find a Defensive Lineman in the Ravens Game?

MInter

MInter

Observations from the Cowboys 37-30 loss to the Ravens in a preseason game Saturday.

It’s difficult to evaluate the Cowboys defense when playing such a variety of players. It was a combination of starters, backups, and guys who likely won’t even make the roster, all out there at the same time.

No surprise that the results were a mixed bag but I do think the Cowboys may have found a much needed defensive lineman and I think one guy stepped up on defense that they are expecting to help them. More on that later but first, a look at the return of their QB.

ROMO:
In a earlier blog, “5 Things to look for in the Ravens game” I said I wanted to see how Romo performs in a game. I came away feeling encouraged that he is ready to go but not completely convinced that he is 100%. Romo moved nicely to buy some time and complete a pass for a first down on their first drive which was nice to see.

Later he threw a couple underthrown passes to Dez Bryant which Dez actually turned one into a touchdown with a nice adjustment. Did Romo intend to throw the ball short to let Dez make a play? Or is his back preventing him from putting a zip on deeper passes? Should we be concerned a bit?

I’m actually not sure which is the case but Dez is such a beast it may not matter anyway as long as Romo throws it his way. It is not a bad strategy at this point, to just throw the ball up toward Dez and let him do his thing. Even in double coverage, I like the chances Dez comes down with the ball.

Found a Baller on the Defensive Line?:
The Dallas defense finally recorded a sack Saturday which came from Martez Wilson. But late in the game recently signed Zach “The Sack” Minter entered and took over the game recording two sacks, four tackles a forced fumble. He brought some much needed energy to the defensive line and proved to be unblockable as he led a come back for Dallas that came up a bit short.

Have they found some much needed help on the defensive line in Minter? Perhaps so, but I would like to see him play in the game earlier against better competition next time. The Ravens backups couldn’t handle him but that’s all we really know for now. Minter was previously on the Bears roster.

Rolando McClain Stepping Up:
A big need for Dallas is a player to step up and take control of the middle LB spot and that is why they went out and signed a retired McClain. During the game, he displayed his athletic ability which made him a first round pick by the Raiders. Rolando led the defense with a total of 6 tackles and a forced fumble.

It has been a while since a LB instead of a safety, led the team in tackles. It could be a good sign that Dallas may have their MLB. Durant who has been playing the middle only finished with one tackle in the game.

Where was Ahmad “The Bomb” Dixon?”:
I refer to Dixon as the “The Bomb” because of his aggressive tackling style that unmercifully blows up ball carriers. Earlier I read that Dixon was cleared to play on Thursday with concussion like symptoms, however I didn’t see him in the game Saturday.

It turns out he was suspended for the game by Jason for showing up late for practice on Friday. No word yet on why he was late but after the draft, I noted that Dixon does comes with character red flags. Hopefully the physical safety returns to action next week.

Deep at Wide Receiver:
Wide receiver is one position that Dallas is deep at and eventually they will likely cut a pretty darn good receiver. We know the five they are likely to keep, Dez, Williams, Beasley, Harris and the rookie Street. But Jamar Newsome and LaRon Byrd and making plays that must make Dallas consider keeping a 6th WR. Newsome had 2 catches for 29 yards and a nice TD grab. The 6-4 Byrd caught a 13 yard pass.

If there is an NFL team out there in need of a WR, keep an eye on the Cowboys’ final roster cuts. Could pick up a good receiver.

Commit to the Run:
Before the season, Jason, Jerry, Stephen, and play caller Linehan all talked about how they intended to run the ball this year. We have heard all that before so being a little cynical is justified. So how did it go in the Ravens game? Like last season, it is a tale of two half’s.

In the first half Dallas ran the ball 16 times and passed it 19 times. That’s not a bad ratio and I would consider that committing to the run. But in the 2nd half they passed 16 times and only rushed 8 times. Being down a couple scores will dictate a change in plans.

There are 3 things that can interrupt their commitment to the run game.
1. Penalties. Creates greater distances for a first down.
2. Being behind by a couple scores. Forces passing to lengthen the game.
3. QB audible. Changing the play from a called run to a pass based on defense alignment.

Early in the game, they appeared committed to run Murray but penalties made them turn to the pass. Also I thought the timing with Murray in the game was a off a bit. It was his first action this season and there clearly was rust in the play timing and execution. The fumble on the Romo-Murray exchange was proof of that. It all needs to be tightened up.

Not so special “special teams”:
The kick off coverage was so weak It isn’t worth talking about much. Let’s just all agree it must improve quickly. The kick returns appeared very training camp like and not ready for prime time. Lot of work to do here!

Final Take:
Romo looks good enough to move the ball but I’m not so sure he is totally back yet. When in doubt, throw it up for Dez the beast!

The defense still has a LONG way to go to respectability but they may have found a MLB in McClain and a defensive lineman in Minter to get after the QB.

They should be able to run the ball this season but penalties and getting behind early, threaten to make them a very predictable passing team.

Cowboys First Preseason Game: Those Who Impressed and Those Who Didn’t

Jerry Jones told us his bottom ranked defense had no where to go but up however that actually turned out not to be the case. There was room to get worse and they did.

The tackling was absolutely awful with a large number of failed arm tackle attempts on the night. Yes the Cowboys were without both starting corners but the Chargers were missing some guys too. It was amazing that the Chargers only managed to score 10 points at the half. The Dallas defense allowed over 100 yards rushing by halftime and the Charger QBs were a perfect 7 of 7.

It was like practice for the Charger QBs who finally had an incompletion after 12 straight completions. They finished a near perfect 14 out of 16.

A look at the Cowboys who did manage to impress and those who did not.

Impressed:

Joseph Randle:
Randle is in a battle with Ryan Williams for a roster spot. I thought Randle looked sharp running the ball as he finished with 50 yards on 13 carries. He made a very nice move on a run that helped set up their first score. Also Randle made a tackle on punt coverage. While Williams also had a decent night, I think Randle is in the lead to secure that third RB spot.

James Hanna:
With the emergence of Escobar, Hanna is sometimes forgotten but he caught a TD pass and finished with 2 catches. Hanna reminded us to not forget about the other young talented TE.

Brandon Weeden:
Who needs Johnny Manziel after watching Weeden scramble and throw his first TD pass as a Cowboy. Weeden seemed poised and able to improvise which makes me feel a little better about Romo’s backup. Weeden finished 13/17 for 107 yards.

Ahmad Dixon:
It wasn’t easy to find positives on the defensive side of the ball but I came away very impressed with the play of Dixon the rookie from Baylor. He flew around to the ball and at times seemed to be the only guy on the field making tackles. He may not be a huge asset in pass coverage yet but Dixon is a great tackler that brings the proverbial wood. I may be out of bounds here, but I think they should consider moving Dixon to Linebacker since he is so good in the box.

He finished with an outstanding 11 tackles and made a strong case to keep this guy on the roster.

Anthony Hitchens:
Linebacker play overall was weak but I thought the rookie had a pretty good game. He made an outstanding tackle at the goal line early in the game finishing with 5 solo tackles and 3 assist. In pass coverage, Hitchens appears a bit slower than required but he shows some instincts in run defense. Not a bad game for the rookie.

Martez Wilson:
The 4th year pro defensive end has been getting noticed though out camp and I’m starting to believe he may be this year’s Selvie. Wilson knifed into the backfield and made a nice tackle for a loss. With Lawrence out with injury and Spencer not playing yet, Wilson is needed.

Devin Street:
The Cowboys traded up in the draft to get Street and he didn’t disappoint in the preseason game. Street had 4 catches for 43 yards and did not appear to be a rookie. I look for Street to earn more and more playing time during the season.

Did not Impress:

BW Webb:
I’m sure Webb made my list of not impressive players last year too. Webb looked lost most the night and didn’t appear to be a willing tackler either. I’m calling this 2013 4th round pick a bust and I don’t look for him to make the roster this year. With injuries at CB, it was an opportunity to shine but he didn’t.

Terrance Mitchell:
The 7th round pick in the draft played a lot because of the missing starters and while some have liked his play in camp, I’m just not seeing it. He had two pass interference calls and he has been doing that in camp too. He did come up with a fumble in the endzone but most the night he was out of position in coverage. I like him a little better than Webb but that’s not saying much.

The Defensive Line:
Too many names to call out but as a group these guys got whipped all night. They were pushed around, missing tackles, and ineffective.

Bruce Carter:
Carter struggled last year but word was he had looked better in camp. While he did make 4 tackles, his pass coverage was weak just like last year. Dallas better be looking for an answer at LB because I’m afraid Carter is not it.

Caleb Hanie:
The 3rd string veteran QB was sacked and fumbled. Thought he held the ball too long all night and failed to move the offense effectively. Hanie did not make a case to keep him as the third QB. The undrafted rookie Dustin Vaughan actually looked better.

#41?
I couldn’t find a #41 listed on the roster and with the way he covered, I wouldn’t list his name either. 41 was burnt for a long TD pass and frankly looked like he sneaked onto the field when no one was looking. The Cowboys were desperate at corner coming into the game, and having the “unknown corner” on the field was proof.

Final Take:
It was only a preseason game and many key players on both sides of the ball were missing but still it’s not easy to come away feeling good about things. Lot of work to be done back in Qxnard. The Cowboys may have rolled into San Diego on a train but right now, this Cowboys train looks like it jumped off the track.

Which On the Bubble Cowboys May Have Done Enough?

Saturday Dallas will make the final cuts down to a 53 man roster. While the last preseason game is considered “meaningless” by all accounts, it can certainly be a meaningful game to a group of prospects that are right on the bubble of making the team.

As a team, Dallas showed little interest in their 24-6 loss to the Texans but these individual Cowboys may have done enough to make the team. A look at the “on the bubble” players that made one last effort to make the squad.

WRs Anthony Armstrong and Tim Benford:
There is no way Dallas can keep both of these WRs and it’s possible they aren’t able to keep either of them on the final roster. But I think there is a good chance they will keep one of them.

Benford had a nice game Thursday night leading all receivers with 4 catches for 60 yards. In the preseason, Benford has been the more productive receiver of the two with 11 catches for 135 yards while Armstong finished with 4 catches for 47 yards. Armstrong has NFL experience and provides much needed speed. He also has done a good job on special teams in the preseason covering punts. Those factor into the decision of who to keep.

This one will be a tough decision for the Dallas coaches. On one hand, Benford has been the more productive player as a receiver while Armstrong also helps them on special teams. Both of these guys are strong candidates for their practice squad if they don’t make the roster. I think Benford may have done enough Thursday night to be the Cowboys 6th WR. UPDATE: Armstrong to be released
QB Alex Tanney:
Tanney saw plenty of action Thursday night as he was sacked 7 times playing behind a very patched together, make do, offensive line. Talk about taking one for the team. When Tanney was able to throw, he went 17 of 31 for 177 yards and threw an interception. He finished the preseason with 423 yards passing and a QB rating of 65. Not terrible with everything considered.

The question is will Dallas keep Tanney on the roster as their 3rd QB or slide him over to the practice squad? Moving him to the practice squad comes with a risk as another team could claim him like what happened years ago with QB Matt Moore. But to justify a roster spot, Dallas must ask themselves if they think Tanney will play and contribute right away and I think the answer to that is probably not. But if they fear losing him, they may keep him on the roster.

Since the Cowboys need depth at other positions, I believe Dallas will attempt to move Tanney to the practice squad for more development and keep just two QBs on the roster.

Safety Jeff Heath:
Heath, a rookie out of Saginaw Valley State, is the guy who made the big hit in the Bengals game which caused a fumble. Creating turnovers will be a big priority on defense this season so this kind of thing will get a player noticed. Heath was involved in 5 tackles Thursday night which helps make the case to keep him.

With safety Matt Johnson injured once again, I think Dallas must consider keeping a healthy Heath and move on from an injury prone Johnson. I think Heath has earned a spot on the roster at safety.

LBs Cameron Lawrence, Caleb McSurdy and Taylor Reed:
All three of these LBs may be fighting for one last available spot at LB.

Lawrence had a very good game with 5 solo tackles to make a case to keep him.

McSurdy was the Cowboys final pick in last year’s draft but spent last season injured. They have given him a serious look at LB this year and he has played well but well enough is the question? He had 2 solos and 2 assist in the game. I imagine Dallas wants to keep him since he was a draft pick.

Taylor Reed finished the game with 3 solo tackles and 2 assist. During the preseason games, the SMU rookie has been involved with a total of 16 tackles so he has been a consistent performer.

Tough decisions to be made here for sure but it’s possible that one of these three did enough to claim one of the final spots. With Lawrence, it may be a matter of stepping up too late. While McSurdy has played well, Taylor has been more consistent throughout preseason. I like Taylor’s chances best of the three to make the roster.

CBs Sterling Moore and Micah Pellerin:
With Mo Claiborne’s knee being an issue right now, I look for Dallas to keep more CBs than originally expected. They have Carr, Scandrick, Claiborne, and Webb for sure, but I look for them to keep at least one more possibly two.

These two guys are very even in a battle to make the roster. Both have two passes defended during the preseason and their total tackle numbers are similar too. Moore was a little more active in the game Thursday night and he has more experience as a 3rd year veteran.

A close call here but I have to give the edge to Moore as more likely to make the roster. It’s possible that both are kept and even possible that Dallas keeps neither one of them. But with Claiborne missing action with his knee, I like Moore’s chances to make the roster.

“Nothing good ever happens on a re-kick” And other notes from Cowboys win over Bengals

Bengals Cowboys Football.JPEG-0175d

After the Bengals’ Brandon Tate returned a punt for a 75 yard TD, he said of his coach,
“Darrin always tells us that nothing good happens for the punt team on a re-kick, and we made them pay,”

I’m not sure who is to be credited with originally saying it. No doubt many coaches and countless fans have uttered this expression over the years of watching football. I heard the great NFL philosopher, Warren Sapp, say it before. The re-kick was necessary after a punt hit Jerry’s big TV, a reflection of his enormous ego no doubt.

Anyway, hitting Jerry’s TV with a punt is a pretty impressive feat to me and I think punter’s should actually be rewarded for accomplishing it. New Rule: Two points for the punt team when they hit Jerry’s Big TV. Shoot off fireworks, drop confetti and make sounds like a pin ball machine or something.

OUR NOT SO SPECIAL, SPECIAL TEAMS
The punt return TD wasn’t the only special teams mistake of the night as they had a holding call on the opening kickoff that put them in the hole right away. Then late in the game clinging to a 21-18 lead, the Cowboys kickoff team allowed the Bengals a 53 yard return all the way to midfield. Putting them in good position to potentially tie the game with a FG.

-Last week against the Cardinals, Harris fumbled during a punt return that led to points for the Cardinals.
-In the Raiders game, they allowed a long kickoff return, had a blocked FG, and then Webb muffed a punt that led to the Raiders winning score.
In preseason games the Cowboys are dead last in punt returns with a pathetic 1.4 yard per return average. And they are 21st in KO returns.

It remains to be seen if their special teams problems leak into the regular season but it must be a concern at this point. If they don’t get better quickly, it will cost them a game this year.

Take Away Surplus
In an earlier blog “4 things to look for in the dress rehearsal game“, one of the things I mentioned was Dallas needed to take the ball away more than give it away. In the Bengals game, they created 4 turnovers while having 0 turnovers. That’s good to see. They recovered two fumbles and Xavier Brewer came up with a late interception that secured the win.

BW Webb also had a nice pick in the game and he is one guy who really needed to make a play. I still maintain that Webb would rather do about anything other than be involved with making a tackle. It’s the weakest part of his game as he allowed a Bengal to score from like 7 yards out because of weak tackling. But to his credit, the pick was nice. Baby steps.

This new defense looks capable of creating turnovers and if the offense can protect the ball, it should help them win more games in 2013.

Running Game Commitment
Another thing I mentioned was that Dallas needed to commit to the run game and against the Bengals, they did it. They finished with 156 yards rushing as they had more rushing attempts than passing attempts for the game. When Dallas runs more than passes, I like their chances of winning much better. Tanner provided a nice spark with 39 yards while Randle ran for 66 yards late in the game to help put the Bengals away. Murray finished with 51 yards rushing.

What was encouraging was that while their run game started slowly, they didn’t abandon it but kept coming back to it in the game. I really like that on one occasion after running the ball and failing to convert a 3rd and 1, they ran the ball again on 4th and 1 with Tanner picking up 2 yards to get the first down. I like that determination to run the ball.

NOTE: They will experience more success in short yardage situations running to the left behind Smith than trying to run right behind Free and Parnell. I don’t like Free at right guard. It’s not working.

For Dallas to succeed in the multiple TE sets they are talking of running this season, I believe an effective running game will be a prerequisite.

As far as a dress rehearsal game goes, it was a success for Dallas but they better tighten up on their special teams or it will cost them a game later. And avoid those re-kicks…

4 Things to Look for in Cowboys Dress Rehearsal Game Saturday

Saturday night’s preseason game is what is referred to as the “dress rehearsal” game for the Dallas Cowboys because it represents the preseason game where the starters should see the most action.

Dallas will finally play at home and against a good Bengals team that has made the AFC playoffs back to back seasons. This represents a good opportunity to see if any progress has really been made compared to last season.

Here are four things that I will be looking for in the dress rehearsal game.

1. Commit to the Run:
Last season Dallas had one of its weakest run attacks in the history of the franchise finishing ranked 31st in the NFL with a shameful 79 yards per game. For them to win in 2013, it must improve.

In preseason play, they got off to a good start in the HOF game with 170 yards rushing against the Dolphins but it has gone back to primarily throwing the ball since then. Dallas only had 70 yards rushing against the Raiders and then it fell to a measly 44 yards against the Cardinals. In fact in the Dolphins game, they had more rushing yards than passing yards which is the only time it has happened this preseason and interestingly, it is the only preseason game they won.

In the Cardinals game with their starters playing, Dallas faced a very manageable 2nd and 1. They ran the ball but came up short then on 3rd and 1 by default, Romo went to the obligatory shotgun formation and threw an incomplete pass. Too often that happened last season where they just abandoned the run, and put it on Romo.

I would prefer to see Dallas run the ball two times in a row in that situation to pick up that 1 yard. Let’s face it, if a team can’t pick up 1 yard running the ball in two attempts, then they aren’t going to win championships anyway.

When the starters are in the game, I am looking for a commitment to run the ball and not abandon it quickly the first time it doesn’t seem to work. Romo would benefit greatly from having a legit run attack in 2013.

2. Offensive Line:
It’s well documented that the offensive line was a weak area last season and while Jerry Jones once again failed to improve the guards, they did add a center in rookie Travis Frederick. In the Cardinals game, I noticed that tackle Tyron Smith struggled to protect Romo’s blind side and he was consequently pressured some. While the starters are in the game Saturday, I’m looking for this offensive line to play together as a cohesive unit in forming a reliable pocket for Romo to pass.

3. Win turnover battle:
Last season Dallas gave the ball away much more often than they took it away. In fact, they ended the 2012 season with a -13 deficit in turnovers. That would be why Rob Ryan was bounced as defensive coordinator and replaced by Tampa 2 guru, Monte Kiffin who is implementing their new 4-3 defense. It’s designed to create more turnovers.

However in the Cardinals game, Dallas had a ridiculous 6 turnovers while only managing to take the ball away one time. That deficit in take aways was all too common in games last year, and it must improve this season.

While the starters are in the game, I’m looking for Dallas to take the ball away more times than they give it away.

4. Secondary Struggles:
The too generous Cowboy secondary is a familiar issue. So far in preseason games, Dallas has allowed an average of 259 passing yards per game. That is the 3rd most of all NFL teams. If that isn’t a concern yet, it soon may be. Second year CB Morris Claiborne has been out the entire preseason so his “minor knee injury” is beginning to make me wonder just how minor it actually is? Yes, there have been a lot of reserve players flying around in the secondary contributing to their weak performance but in the dress rehearsal game, I’m looking for some consistency back there.

In particular, the Safetys need to step up and make plays for this Cowboys defense to get it done in 2013.

FINAL TAKE:
It’s the preseason game that may tell us the most about the 2013 Dallas Cowboys. From the offense, I’m looking for a commitment to the run game and improved pass protection. From the defense, I’m looking for improved secondary play and to win the important battle of turnovers.

How they perform in these areas may tell us if our expectations should increase for this year or if we are looking at another dismal 8-8 disappointment. Or perhaps even worse…..

Turnovers Story of Cowboys Loss in Cardinals Game: 5 Players Who Played Well

Watching this preseason game reminded me of why I don’t like officials reviewing plays. It just causes too much delay. The Cardinals coach actually challenged the spot of a ball which after what seemed like 30 minutes, the placement by the official was confirmed. Come on coach, it’s a preseason game.

New rule: No challenging the spot of the ball in preseason games.

OK let’s just get this cliché over with, a football team can’t win at any level turning the ball over 6 times. Orton had a forgettable game throwing two ugly interceptions and Tanney who had a very good game, threw one pick during the 2 minute offense at the end of the game. More on Tanney’s play later.

Then there were 3 fumbles lost. Dunbar had the luster of a great play removed when the ball fell out of his hands after a 43 yard catch and run. Dez had the ball aggressively stripped from his hands by defenders after a 27 yard hook up from Romo. Dwayne Harris fumbled a punt return early that led to a FG for the Cards. On that play, Brandon Underwood who is trying to make the roster, ran into Harris and that clumsy bump seem to help contribute to the fumble.

3 POSITIVES:  Even with the unacceptable turnovers, there are some positives to come away feeling good about.

  1. The Dez Bryant and Romo connection looks like it will be very tough to stop this season. They are developing chemistry.
  2. The Dallas 4-3 defense displayed a “bend but don’t break” effort that did not allow a TD. Even after the turnovers, they held the Cardinals to only 4 FGs.  The defense gave the team a chance to win.
  3. Dunbar is going to be an explosive weapon this season catching the ball out of the backfield. He really accelerated nicely after his catch, blowing by Cardinal defenders.

TOP PERFORMERS IN THE GAME:

QB Alex Tanney: Before the game, I blogged about the players who needed a big game and Tanney was one of the guys I named. And Tanney, the trick shot QB, had himself an impressive performance. He led the Cowboys on the only TD drive of the game covering 89 yards in almost 10 minutes. It was the best offensive drive of the preseason so far for Dallas. When the drive ended in a TD pass to rookie TE Gavin Escobar, Tanney was a perfect 10/10 for 100 yards.

I liked Tanney’s height (6-4), his strong arm, and the way he calmly tossed the ball to someone speeding down the road in the back of a pick up in his youtube video, but what we needed to see was how he handled himself in live action of an NFL game.

Tanney displayed composure and did an outstanding job of sensing defensive pressure and then maneuvering himself to buy a little more time to pass. I like how he stepped up in the pocket with shoulders squared and ready to pull the trigger quickly. He puts a nice zip on the ball which is a must at this level. His throws were confident and directed to his target with authority.

Tanney has moved ahead of Nick Stephens in the competition to be the 3rd QB in my view. He clearly needs developing, so Tanney would probably benefit a great deal from being on the practice squad.

LB DeVonte Holloman: Holloman came up with an interception at the goal line to prevent a Cardinals score. This play added to the HOF game pick six shows that this rookie is a play maker. Holloman had 4 tackles and showed he is a very good tackler in the open field. I think Kiffin must get Holloman on the field in passing situations.  

LB Brandon Magee: Magee is another player that I pointed out needed a big game and he was all over the field, finishing the game with 6 tackles leading all Cowboys in tackles. The Cowboys seem to believe in Magee and they had him running with some of the starters in the first half. But prior to this game, Magee had not been very impressive. Today Magee showed why Dallas needs to consider keeping him on the roster.

WR Tim Benford: Benford made 2 catches including a nice 19 yard reception, during the long Tanney led drive. Benford’s name had been forgotten as a WR in the mix but he stepped up today.

TE Gavin Escobar: The rookie TE caught 5 passes for 32 yards and got his first TD. Escobar was a player that hadn’t done much yet but he appeared to be a favorite target for Tanney today. We already knew Escobar has great hands and he showed that today along with making some highly contested catches. It was nice to see him involved in the offense today.