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By Jonathan Bales

Preseason Week Five, Cowboys vs. Dolphins: Initial Post-Game Notes

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Jonathan Bales

The Cowboys did a lot of great things tonight and, although the starters didn’t play, they can feel a little more confident heading into the season-opener in Washington.  Here are my initial reactions from tonight’s game:

Offense

  • The most impressive player on offense was undoubtedly Stephen McGee.  He played sensationally tonight and locked up a roster spot.  His arm strength and athleticism were never in question, but tonight he made good reads and got the ball downfield.  He stood tall in the pocket in the face of pressure–something he had yet to do on a consistent basis.  His 43-yard touchdown pass to Sam Hurd was a thing of beauty.
  • I also loved the passion McGee displayed tonight.  He got in Jesse Holley’s face when the receiver didn’t run the right route in one play, letting everyone know who was in charge.
  • Phil Costa had one semi-poor Shotgun snap tonight, but other than that he was really solid again.  You don’t hear his name much, which is a good thing for a center.
  • Pat McQuistan is bad.  Really, really bad.
  • Tashard Choice is Dallas’ most complete running back.  His balance and vision are incredible.  If I could only have one back on the team, it would be him.  Yes, even over Felix Jones.
  • Montrae Holland had a poor game.  He committed two false starts and got beat on some other plays.  He’s making fans realize just how important Kyle Kosier is to this offense.
  • I don’t know why the Cowboys don’t switch Robert Brewster (left tackle) and Alex Barron (right tackle).  Brewster is slow-footed and not very athletic, but he’s shown he can play well on the right side.  Meanwhile, Barron simply isn’t nasty or strong enough to excel at right tackle.
  • I’ll talk about this more once I study the film, but I noticed the Cowboys’ fullback lines up about a yard closer to the line of scrimmage if he is running into the flat.  It is rather easy to predict run/pass based on his alignment.
  • There is a legitimate chance that Kevin Ogletree gets cut.  He’s very limited in the routes he runs well (outs and comebacks), isn’t a willing blocker, and has shown poor field awareness all preseason.  He nearly cost Dallas three points when he caught a pass late in the second quarter and ran up the field instead of going out of bounds.  He’s a poor situational football player.
  • Chris Gronkowski looked better tonight.  His lead blocking still leaves much to be desired, but his ability to move the pile as a ball-carrier in short-yardage situations could be quite valuable to Dallas.
  • I’m still not totally sure, but I think Travis Bright will probably make the team.  He’s shown improvement the last two games, and I think there will be an extra roster spot open if Dallas places Sam Young on IR.
  • Jason Garrett’s play-calling was still conservative, but, as I expected, he did open up the playbook a bit.  The Cowboys ran their first counter in two games and let McGee air it out on a few occasions.

Defense

  • Victor Butler had his best game of the preseason and, in my opinion, has been the team’s MVP thus far this year.  That’s big praise for a second-string player, but he’s shown incredible burst off the edge as a rusher and, much to my surprise, his run defense is vastly improved.
  • Akwasi Owusu-Ansah actually looks more comfortable at safety than at his more natural cornerback position.  He is fine in man coverage, but he still needs to get accustomed to his drops in zone coverage.  He is having trouble identifying who can threaten his area and isn’t getting enough depth.  He showed some good range at safety, though.
  • Cletis Gordon got some reps against Brandon Marshall.  He did pretty well on him, but later struggled against Miami’s less talented receivers.
  • Bryan McCann really struggled tonight.  He got beat continually in man and zone coverage, frequently staying in his backpedal too long. His tackling was also horrendous.  He never wraps up and leads with his head.  Miami knew it and three quick screens at him on one drive.
  • Michael Hamlin showed improvement in coverage.  On one play, he demonstrated an awesome speed turn, making the quarterback think he was beat when he was in perfect position, then deflected the pass away.
  • Sean Lee appears to play well when he lets his instincts take over.  I think he’ll eventually be okay because right now his problems are arising from thinking too much, not from a lack of talent.  He still needs to work on shedding blocks, but he did well as a pass-rusher tonight.

Special Teams

  • The Cowboys must be thrilled with David Buehler.  He was four-for-four on field goals tonight, including a 51-yarder and a game-winner.  This was something I said I wanted to see in my pre-game analysis, and Buehler came through.  In case you missed it, I’ve completed a study on just how important kickers are to a team’s win total.
  • Buehler’s touchbacks are also incredibly valuable to the Cowboys.  The field position is nice, but the biggest pro is that opposing teams don’t have the opportunity to pick up a quick score.  That will help Dallas beat the teams they should beat.
  • A big part of the reason Akwasi Owusu-Ansah will be solid on returns is his strength.  He has the potential to break a lot of tackles.

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7 Responses to Preseason Week Five, Cowboys vs. Dolphins: Initial Post-Game Notes

  1. Brett says:

    Cowboy nation has got to feel a lot better about or kicking game after that! I mean anything can still happen and he hasn’t made one that counted yet, but after a couple games with no attempts I was getting worried we wouldn’t see enough to know one way or the other.

    Again, its not settled by any means but we can atleast feel a little more comfortable. (even if its only for a week).

    On a side note: I really like beuhlers confidence when he speaks in post game interviews.

  2. Yeah, this game was absolutely perfect for Buehler and Dallas. The team got to see everything they wanted, and Buehler’s confidence is sky-high. I think that’s an important point (related to your note about his interviews) because he has a strong, unshakable personality. He’s a naturally confident person who thinks he belongs in the NFL because he’s truly an athlete. A lot of times I think kickers succumb to pressure because they feel they don’t belong. I dont think you’ll see that from Buehler, and it gives me a lot of confidence in his ability to respond to a missed kick.

  3. Vince Grey says:

    Loved your comment about Choice being your pick (If you had to choose just one) at RB, mainly because I’ve felt and said the same thing for some time now. That’s not a knock against Felix or Barber as much as support for TC, who doesn’t necessarily do anything super-great but does everything very well. AND stays healthy for the most part.

    Choice may not have many 80 yard runs, but I bet if you consistently gave him 20 carries a game he’d give you 100 yards or so, plus several catches, on a regular basis.

  4. Yeah, I agree with everything except one thing. While I think you’re right that TC doesn’t do anything “great” stat-wise (just very solid), I would argue his vision and (particularly) balance are great, even at an All-Pro level. He really reminds me of Ray Rice in Baltimore. Rice doesn’t do anything “great,” but his overall game is outstanding.

  5. Pingback: Tashard Choice next Cowboys player to be traded? | Dallas Cowboys Times

  6. Vince Grey says:

    I don’t think I’ve seen enough, game-wise, to call any of his abilities “all-pro”, though certainly there have been numerous flashes of that.

    Best thing for Choice, and his supporters, would be a game or three where he has to carry the main load. I think that would answer a lot of questions, such as why the Cowboys themselves don’t seem as enamored by TC’s ability as many of us fans are.

    For some reason they have him cast as a 3rd down option only, except for an occasional screen play. Not sure why they don’t see the same things we do.

    I hope it’s not simply a money thing, because to me that’s beyond stupid. Play the most productive guy, period, and let the money issue work itself out in the off season.

  7. Pingback: Analyzing DOs and DON'T for Cowboys vs. Dolphins/Final Film Observations | Dallas Cowboys Times

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