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