The Dallas Cowboys were able to pull out a 20-18 win over the Arizona Cardinals in the Hall of Fame game. Here is the breakdown, position-by-position of what we learned from the Cowboys first pre-season game Thursday night.
With Dak Prescott sitting out with the rest of the starters back up Kellen Moore getting the start. Moore orchestrated two scoring drives after a rough first few drives and finished with over 100 yards and one interception before the half. Undrafted rookie Cooper Rush from Central Michigan started the second half and lead the Cowboys on the first drive of the second half hitting receiver Uzoma Nwachukwu.
The battle for the backup job heated up today as both Alfred Morris and Darrin McFadden saw plenty of playing time. McFadden struggled behind the back up offensive line and never really got going. Morris, on the other hand, looked really strong showing a good balance of power and speed proving that he still has something left in the tank. Newly signed Ronnie Hillman saw action in the second half. Fullbacks Rod Smith and Keith Smith (no relation) had strong games with Rod Smith getting a decent amount of carries showing a lot of power running downhill including a huge fourth down run late in the game.
Brice Butler had a very strong showing in the first half giving Cowboys fans a glimpse of what made the Cowboys acquire him from Oakland a few years ago. Tight end Rico Gathers, the University of Baylor’s all-time leading rebounder, caught the Cowboys first touchdown of the game and had another diving impressive catch later on showing great promise. I look for Gathers to get better and better each game and earn a spot on the active roster this year after spending last year on the practice squad. Andy Jones had a decent game along with rookie Lance Lenoir.
The offensive line got off to a rough start but rebounded nicely as the game went on. The only starter to see action was La’el Collins as he is transitioning from left guard to right tackle replacing the retired Doug Free. Collins had his moments but struggled against a bull rush showing that he needs to get stronger. Byron Bell had a strong performance at guard and undrafted rookie Dan Skipper showing some promise as well. The Cowboys need to improve as a whole especially when pulling as they gained few yards on those plays.
The defensive line needs a lot of work. Defensive end Charles Tapper final got to see some action after dealing with back injuries all of last season. Tapper, along with rookie defensive end Taco Charlton, provided a strong rush from the outside. The inside pass rush, however, is severely lacking. Rookies Joey Ivie and Jordan Carroll have a lot of work to do as they got pushed around a lot. The back up defensive line has a lot of work to do moving forward.
The linebackers could stand to improve in pass coverage as they left a lot of receivers open in the middle of the field. Tackling is an issue but improved some in the second half. Without the starters, it is tough to get a read on a position that saw a lot of players get a lot of playing time. Jaylon Smith, who missed all of last season, did not play as well.
The secondary needs work, a lot of work. Chidobe Awuzie, who has a had a strong camp so far, got picked on a lot and for the most part respond well but has work to do. Saftey Byron Jones also struggled as well missing tackles and being out of position. Jeff Heath, who is vying for a starting safety spot, struggled as well missing several tackles which are something that is out of character for him. Starting cornerback Anthony Brown suffered a hamstring injury early in the first half. Rookie Jourdan Lewis did not play as well. I look for continued improvement throughout the preseason.