Preseason Week 1: Cowboys vs. Bengals Initial Post-Game Notes
Listed below are my in-game notes and initial reactions to the Cowboys’ preseason opener against the Bengals. I will study the game film as soon as possible and report back with in-depth stat analysis and final player grades in the coming days.
- Left tackle Doug Free looked outstanding in pass protection versus Antwan Odom. He also appeared to block well in the run game.
- The Cowboys did run “Double Tight Right Strong Right” a number of times. I will get back to you with official results, but I do know they ran the popular strong side dive three of the first four times they lined up in the formation. They ran that play 71.6 percent of the time they lined up in the formation last season.
- Roy Williams looked fairly quick out of his breaks. He ran a nice post on a 3rd down near midfield and also got open in the end zone on a slant, but Tony Romo missed him.
- Romo showed off a back shoulder pass or two. He hinted that he was working on that aspect of his game and so far so good.
- John Phillips was the offensive MVP. Before going down with a knee injury (which now looks to be a torn ACL), Phillips showed why coaches and players are raving about his play. He displayed outstanding body control, good hands, and solid route-running ability. I was most impressed with his blocking, an area in which he struggled some in 2009.
- I was impressed with Jon Kitna’s arm strength. He’s no Brad Johnson back there. He seems to love getting the ball to Phillips.
- Stephen McGee also showed what appeared to be improved arm strength. He’s gotten some negative reviews during practice, but I thought he moved around the pocket fairly well and made good decisions.
- I’ve been calling for the ‘Boys to run the ball a bit more on 3rd down, and they did so on a second quarter draw play out of Shotgun which was unsuccessful.
- Robert Brewster moved from right tackle to left tackle after Alex Barron left the game with an injury. He struggled at both positions.
- Pat McQuistan played some guard and did really poorly. He got beat multiple times by rookie DT Geno Atkins.
- Rookie fullback Chris Gronkowski struggled blocking. Scott Sicko performed much better and the two players are probably fighting for the same roster spot.
- Lonyae Miller will have a tough time making the team, but he appeared to be a very natural pass-catcher out of the backfield.
- Defensive end Stephen Bowen looked absolutely sensational. His pass rush moves were incredible and he looked like he was a man among boys at times. That was probably the best I’ve seen him play.
- Jason Hatcher had a quiet night. It is just one game, but he fell behind Bowen in their battle for extra snaps at defensive end.
- Nearly as dominant as Bowen was the performance of outside linebacker Victor Butler. The Cowboys are looking for someone to emerge as a part-time replacement for starters DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. Butler showed he may be that guy, acquiring a sack and displaying tremendous burst all night. I was most impressed with his run defense (the weak spot in his game). He tracked down the running back from the weak side multiple times.
- Rookie cornerback Jamar Wall was abused by Matt Jones all night. He has struggled in practice and it has carried into the game. At one point, the Cowboys were in “Cover One” and Wall unsuccessfully jumped a comeback route. With no help over the top in that coverage, Wall has to be safer. He wasn’t even close to making a play.
- Linebacker Leon Williams played well. He had a great form tackle in the third quarter and later showed good pass rush skills.
- Newly-acquired cornerback Teddy Williams, a former track star, played much better than I anticipated. His technique appeared pretty good and he was very close to making some plays.
- The numbers don’t show it, but David Buehler had a poor night kicking field goals. He was three-of-four, but a few chip shots just snuck in and he missed a 49-yarder by a wide margin. He also nearly missed an extra point.
- On the bright side, his kickoffs were tremendous. They traveled to the six-yard line, two yards deep, five yards deep, six yards deep, and out of the back of the end zone.
- Wide receiver Titus Ryan returned the opening kickoff. He showed a good burst and some “wiggle.” He also was back deep to return the first punt, with cornerback Cletis Gordon back for the second.
- Jesse Holley had an up-and-down night, but he got called for a bad hold on an early punt return. He wasn’t even near the returner and needs to play smarter.
- Undrafted rookie cornerback Bryan McCann was back deep to return a punt or two, but didn’t get an opportunity to show his talent.
- In addition to struggling on defense, Jamar Wall also didn’t do well on special teams, completely whiffing on Bengals return man Jordan Shipley during his long punt return which set up Cincinnati’s only score.