The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Quick hits from Cowboys preseason loss to Cincinnati

08/20/2018
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There’s a ton to be gleaned from the Dallas Cowboys’ 21-13 preseason loss to Cincinnati. Here’s a look at some of the quick hits from the game:

The Good

The first-team offense was efficient – Dak Prescott played with poise and sound decision making. The third-year starter completed 10 of 15 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown. He didn’t force the ball, took what was given, and managed an offense that gained 135 total yards and 10 points on three drives.

The scramble drill was effective – One of the highlights of the night came on a 3rd-and-goal from the Bengals’ six yard line. Prescott spun away from pressure and out of the pocket, then patiently searched the end zone until he found Terrance Williams for a touchdown.

Prescott isn’t Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers when it comes to scrambling, but he can make plays outside of a play’s structure. That’s critical for an offense that might need the occasional spark in the passing game.

The running game can still be formidable with a couple of missing pieces – Travis Frederick was held out because of a stinger issue that’s bothered him the past couple weeks. In his place, Joe Looney performed admirably. Rod Smith, the backup to Ezekiel Elliott, showed good vision to read his blocks and find creases in the defensive front.

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The first-team defense was fast and athletic – At every level of the defense, the starters played with tenacity and speed. Against Cincinnati, they routinely stuffed runs for minimal gains or losses of yardage.

Led by players like Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Jeff Heath, opponents should have difficulty finding yards on the ground this season.

Turnovers continue to flow – The defense produced two turnovers Saturday night. First, Taco Charlton hustled from the pocket after a quick pass to Tyler Boyd. Colliding with the receiver, Charlton struck the ball carrier’s arm, forcing a fumble.

Near the end of the half, starting cornerback Chido Awuzie awed the crowd with a tremendous one-handed deflection and interception.

Could the interception gods finally rain their blessings upon the team after years of meager production?

Taco Charlton had a good day – The former Michigan Wolverine tallied three tackles and a sack, in addition to the forced fumble. He showcased his bend and strength when defeating Cedric Ogbuehi on his sack of backup quarterback Jeff Driskel.

The former first-rounder looks to continue his productive play from the second half of last year. Add to that the return of Randy Gregory and the drafting of Dorance Armstrong to a talented pass rushing corps that already includes premier sack artist DeMarcus Lawrence, and the 2018 defensive line should be among the best in the NFL.

The Bad

After Joe Looney, the rest of the offensive line’s depth isn’t promising – With Tyron Smith’s back issues in recent years, Travis Frederick’s stingers the past week, and Zack Martin’s injury scare, the depth behind the starting offensive line is uneven. Cameron Fleming hasn’t been horrible, and the team doesn’t need him to perform like a Pro-Bowler, but he hasn’t been as steady as one would hope for a quality backup.

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The depth at defensive back is also shaky – In training camp, Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis looked like skilled assets to the defense. But in the pre-season games, the two players haven’t performed as consistently. Both will make the 53-man roster. However, whether it’s been a defensive holding call or a missed tackle in open space, their development has plateaued.

The Ugly

Injuries – Zack Martin has a hyper-extended knee from the clash with the Bengals. However, the All-Pro’s prognosis is good, and the MRI results indicate he “could be ready for the season opener.” Dallas’ vaunted offensive line appears relatively intact, meaning fans can breathe once again.

Martin wasn’t the only player to fall on the field of play. Xavier Woods injured his hamstring, the same one that plagued him his rookie season. He, too, must have his leg scanned to determine the injury’s severity.

Bo Scarbrough was shut down with a hip issue, although he likely could’ve returned if needed.

The ugliest of the ugly was Jameill Showers’s left knee. Unfortunately, orthopedic surgeon Dr. David Chao diagnosed him with significant damage to the ACL, based on video.

His apparent season-ending injury, combined with Xavier Woods’s hamstring, further highlights the razor-thin depth at safety. Consequently, watch for the team to address the position in the coming days. But for those still dreaming of Earl Thomas donning the star, remember that Dallas and Seattle haven’t spoken since the draft. So, the odds of that happening remain highly unlikely until proven otherwise.

 

You can follow Allan on Twitter at @AllanUy22

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