The Dallas Cowboys first game of the 2012 NFL season is now over.  In a game in which t..."/> The Dallas Cowboys first game of the 2012 NFL season is now over.  In a game in which t..."/>

Quick Reactions to Dallas Cowboys vs. Oakland Raiders: Offense


The Dallas Cowboys first game of the 2012 NFL season is now over.  In a game in which the action was compared to watching “paint dry” or “ice melt”, there were not many performances worthy of note. That being said, the scrimmage did answer some questions for Cowboy fans.  Before taking a look at some of what we learned, it is wise to remember that you should never get too worried, or excited, about a pre-season game, especially the first one of the season.

Heading into tonight’s game, there were two specific things most fans were watching for on offense.  First, how would the OL look?  Second, would any of the WR’s start to emerge as a realistic candidate for the 3rd receiver position?

The Offensive Line:

The fact that the Cowboys’ offense could only muster 3 points against a less than stellar Raider’s defense tells you most of what you need to know about the offense’s performance.  All 4 QB’s were under consistent pressure; none of them had time to get comfortable in the pocket.

Free agent rookie Ron Leary got stood up, turned around, pushed down, and generally looked out of his league. Leary also had a personal foul called on him, although it was not clear why the penalty was called.The OL is clearly the weak link for this team.  None of the QB’s were consistently given time in the pocket to progress through their reads.  Romo was sacked once and forced to scramble on other plays.  David Arkin and the guards seemed to get their blocking assignments confused at times, which resulted in pass-rushers being unblocked.  Arkin looked like he lacks the strength and power to play center effectively; hence the holding penalty.  At times Arkin looked so focused on delivering the snap that he was late getting off the ball and on to his block.  Arkin was able to snap the ball without any fumbles.

Jeremy Parnell, last year’s swing-tackle, had 2 false start penalties.

The OL was not able to give the RB’s any room to run or lanes to run through until well after half-time when the 3rd and 4th time defenses were playing.

Tyron Smith is going to be a Pro-Bowl LT some day.

It is hard to imagine any QB without being extremely mobile, like Romo, having any success behind this offensive line.  It is far too early to panic, but it looks like the OL is going to be a huge problem, and many fans are starting to question how Jerry Jones was smart enough to fix the secondary by acquiring Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, but neglected to make any significant upgrades to the unit responsible for ensuring that the Cowboys best player, Tony Romo, can actually play in all 16 games.

The Battle for 3rd WR:

Kevin Ogletree, Tim Benford, and Dwayne Harris each caught one pass (12, 9, 13 yards respectively).  Cole Beasley was targeted only once (I think), and it was incomplete. The pass to Beasley was in one of the early series when Romo was still in the game, but he was unable to get involved after that. Cole did have one punt return for 16 yards, so he may have helped his case slightly there.

Andre Holmes is the only WR who did much to increase his stock today.  He had 3 catches for 40 yards. Two of his catches were nice athletic snags (one required a leap in traffic to go up and get the football).  On his third catch, Holmes did an excellent job of running the slant inside and then using his big frame to shield the ball from the defender.  Whether or not Holmes is ready to become the full-time 3rd WR is far from certain, but he is definitely showing significant improvement and progress.  His performance tonight suggests that he will have  role in this offense, even if it is a limited one specifically designed to take advantage of Holme’s unique skill-set.

Harris’ one catch came on 3rd and 15; although he came up short by 2 yards, he did an excellent job of fighting for the first down. Harris also drew a pass interference penalty on the lone scoring drive of the day.

Expect to see all of the WR’s continue to get chances to prove what they can do; don’t expect the Cowboys to go out and sign a veteran WR until after at least 2 more pre-season games.

Other Things of Note on Offense:

– It looks like the Cowboys coaching staff, despite having last year’s rookie Shaun Chapas and this year free-agent signing Lawrence Vickers on the roster, are giving the undrafted FB Jamize Olawale from North Texas an opportunity to see what he can do.  Olawale had 12 carries (42 yards); no other Cowboy back had more than 2 rushes.  If Olawale can show an ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, his size and effectiveness as a short-yardage back could possibly earn him a spot on the the team (he dropped at least one tonight). Shaun Chapas did get some snaps tonight, but it was difficult to evaluate how he performed.

– The Cowboys starters played 3 series.  They were on the field for 11 plays; they gained 22 yards; they managed one 1st down.

– 9 of the 12 WR’s on the Dallas Cowboys roster have zero receptions in the NFL.

Stephen McGee (5/9 for 48 yards)looked like the same QB we saw last season.  He had 2 passes deflected on the same possession, although one of those deflections was caused by a pass-rusher coming free and getting pressure on what looked like a missed assignment by the TE (Hanna?) who slipped into a pass route instead of staying in to pick up the blitzer.

Kyle Orton (7/12 for 87 yards) looked mediocre, but so did Tony Romo (3/6 for 30 yards).  The interception Orton threw was no where near anyone with a star on their helmet, but it was in the vicinity of 3 or 4 Raiders. On some plays, Orton would telegraph where the ball was going long before he released it by staring down one receiver.

Rudy Carpenter played one series: he handed the ball off once, was sacked once and scrambled away from pressure on the third.  He did not register a pass attempt.

– Two of Romo’s three possessions ended with dropped passes on 3rd down (once by DeMarco Murray and once by Jamize Olawale), but both passes were check-downs due to pressure on the QB, and both plays would have required amazing runs after the catch to reach the 1st down marker.

– In limited action, 6th round draft pick James Hanna looks more like a WR than a TE when he runs routes and catches the ball. Despite being 6-4 and 250 lbs, Hanna runs fairly smooth routes, show good fluidity in his breaks, appears to see the ball early and react to it, and has the hands to be a reliable pass-catcher.  It will be interesting to see if the Cowboys like Hanna’s potential as a receiving TE enough to keep 3 TE’s despite Hanna’s shortcomings in the blocking game.

Dez Bryant has a very nice 24 yard reception on a toss from Romo that was perfectly placed on his back shoulder. Some believe that this type of play is evidence of WR Coach Jimmy Robinson’ influence on the passing game.  The more optimistic fans are hoping that this play is evidence that Romo and Bryant are finally on the same page.

That is all I was able to glean watching the game once at full-speed.  Did you guys see anything that I missed, or see things differently than I did?

I will try to get my observations of the defense posted soon.

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