Before the Dallas Cowboys met the Arizona Cardinals in their preseason game, my podcast partner Roy White (@RDubThree) and I discussed five things we needed to see from the Cowboys. Now that the game is in the books, it is time to look back and see what we did and didn’t get. If you want to read that previous article, you can find it here, or you can listen to the Ryled Up episode below.
So here are the points and what we did or did not see.
We need a touchdown
The good news is that they did get one. The bad news is that neither Garrett Gilbert or Cooper Rush engineered it, and it was not until Ben DiNucci found Brandon Smith in the fourth quarter that Dallas got into the end zone for the first, and so far only touchdown of the preseason.
Part of the issue for Dallas was that the offense for the first two series of the game with Gilbert under center was absolutely ragged. There were drops by the receivers, but the most significant element was the very poor performance of Connor Williams at center. The team has been trying to make him the backup for Tyler Biadasz, but based on the evidence of this game, they need to reconsider that. Williams had multiple bad snaps that just killed any chance for the offense to get a rhythm and sustain drives. The pass blocking was not great either. Yes, the Cowboys finally found paydirt. But it was not nearly as encouraging as it could have been.
Let’s get a pick for the defense
Yeah, they came up empty again. And it wasn’t like they didn’t have opportunities. Kelvin Joseph gave up a couple of completions that went right past him. In both cases, he was just unable to pick up the ball coming to the receiver. His coverage was tight much of the game. Nahshon Wright and Israel Mukuamu also were around the ball, but were not able to grab one. And Dorance Armstrong came close to catching a ball he batted in the air.
This is a bit of a good news/bad news thing. No, they haven’t made an interception in the first two preseason games. But the coverage generally was better than at many times last year, and the Cardinals only had 157 yards passing. If the defenders are staying close, interceptions are likely to come.
However, so far they haven’t exactly faced the best passers the opponents have on the roster. There’s also the way the Cardinals seemed to go to a college style option running attack once Chris Streveler came in a quarterback, which held down the passing numbers. They still have a couple of games to show that the frequent picks in practices are indications of what they can do. And the defensive backs on the roster like Travon Diggs and Maurice Canady, who have been grabbing so many of those balls in practice, were not on the field for long in this game.
So we have to wait another week to see if they can get one away from the opponents.
Let’s see some benefit from the extra preseason game
This was flat out a failure. Despite having already played a game, the Cowboys did not look at all better or more prepared than the Cardinals. Mike McCarthy was notably displeased with the last practices before the Arizona game, as reported by Michael Gehlken in the Dallas Morning News. It did look like camp fatigue set in for the players.
Nonetheless, this has to be placed mostly on the shoulders of the coaches. Dallas just did not look fully ready to play. That is not at all encouraging.
We need to figure out who the real Nooch is
Oh, he got the only touchdown of the game! Good news, right?
Well, there is also this.
Look, I’m no football expert, but those throwing mechanics strike me as being just a wee tad off.
More importantly, it seems highly doubtful that those can be fixed by even the most accomplished QB coaches. And if you look a bit deeper at DiNucci’s performance, there are some other things that are rather troubling. He kept some drives alive with clutch throws, including on fourth down. But he needed those clutch throws because he had some real clunkers just before them.
We’ve posited before that DiNucci’s ceiling was a practice squad spot to develop, but one has to wonder just how much there is to develop. Since a practice squad QB can also become an emergency callup at any time, the team needs to look another direction. And to a degree, we still are scratching our head at what DiNucci really is.
Let’s see this thing continue from the first preseason game
As it works out, we get to end this on a high note. This was about the heavy usage for Osa Odighizuwa, Ron’Dell Carter, and Quinton Bohanna in the HOF game. While the snap percentages were down a bit, they still were among the tops in terms of playing time. And their performances were very encouraging. Carter got a sack, an additional tackle, and three QB hits in all as the pass rush capitalized on a rather poor Cardinals offensive line. Odighizuwa had three tackles in all, including one for a loss. Bohanna added two tackles, and repeatedly pushed the blockers back. On one play, he broke through and chased the quarterback out of the pocket.
With Neville Gallimore sadly expected to miss games at the start of the season due to his injury during the game, Odighizuwa and Bohanna are even more important for the defense. And Carter is making a serious case to make the 53-man roster. This was one thing that was gratifying to see from this game.
However, that leaves the team one for five based on what we wanted to see. It was not a good feeling. We’ll have some more things to look for against the Houston Texans, hopefully with better results.