Dallas Cowboys Film Review: Who and what stood out against the Bengals

ARLINGTON, TX - AUGUST 18: Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys looks for an open receiver in the first quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals at AT&T Stadium on August 18, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - AUGUST 18: Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys looks for an open receiver in the first quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals at AT&T Stadium on August 18, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

After reviewing the game film repeatedly we’ve identified the game standouts, notes, and observations in the Dallas Cowboys second preseason game of 2018

The Dallas Cowboys took on the Cincinnati Bengals in their 2018 preseason home opener. I faithfully stayed up all night reviewing the game in order to identify standouts and make some observations that may have been overlooked at first glance.

There was a lot of good and plenty of bad so let’s get down to it in the first film review of the season:

Ten observations on offense

  1. On the first drive – 3rd and 3 – Dallas rolled out with Michael Gallup, Allen Hurns, and Terrance Williams. On their breaks every one of them got separation. A testament to their route running. It’s notable that Dak was looking Gallup’s way (lined up at X) the entire time
  2. Later on that first drive Dallas brought in 13 personnel signaling run. Then they all motioned off the line and spread out as receivers alongside Gallup. Prescott once again looked to his right and targeted Blake Jarwin for the second time on this drive. The pass was incomplete but it looked like Jarwin was the one who didn’t get to his target point rather than Dak missing his spot. Again, it’s important to point out Dak throws to places on the field rather than to players. That’s why route running is important. Players need to be where they are supposed to be because that’s where the ball is usually going.
  3. When the drive stalled on that failed 3rd and 9 attempt, the Bengals blitzed Prescott into making a quick decision. Even though the conversion failed, Dak made the right play, hitting the hot route (Hurns) rather than tossing a jump ball into coverage. In the face of pressure the ball was perfectly positioned for Hurns to catch and run but two tacklers where on site quickly and he was unable to break free from the second man. Given the circumstances, this was a good play.
  4. Geoff Swaim finally looked respectable blocking near the point of attack. His strength is functional so if he can make sure he’s in position he can at least get in the way.
  5. Tight end Rico Gathers stole an interception, showing his value in the passing game. But he also dropped a ball and gave a couple half-hearted blocking attempts. He’s still on the outside looking in and time is running out.
  6. Another great play in the face of pressure – Dak Prescott executed a perfect screen play to Rod Smith, throwing into the blitz on 2nd and 8. The pressure was intense with a DB blitzing from Dak’s right. When that DB arrived, Dak delivered the perfect ball to Rod that allowed him to catch and run in stride (a less-than perfectly placed ball would have resulted in a loss). Additionally, Rod was aware of a closing LB and started his high-step just in time to avoid the diving tackle.
  7. On the next play Dallas ran out 12 personnel and again looked to Blake Jarwin on an intermediate route. He ran great, breaking free from coverage but Dak couldn’t hit him, sailing a pass over the left pylon. It’s become pretty clear in practice and preseason the Dallas Cowboys intend to use Blake Jarwin a ton in the passing game.
  8. Later on 3rd and 1 the Cowboys go with 2 TEs once again. It’s telling with Swaim and Jarwin lined up on the left side, the Cowboys ran the ball to the right. None of the Dallas TEs qualify as “plus” run blockers so we probably aren’t going to see the ball run behind them as often as we did in the past.
  9. The starting unit’s third drive was a thing of beauty. It was 16 plays, 82 yards and ended in a 6-yard touchdown reception off a scramble. Dak Prescott showed great decision-making throughout and it all paid off in the end. But 5.7 YPA is a troubling number. This offense needs to pepper in the big plays because drives this long and this incremental usually find a way to stall more often than not. The top concern for the starting offense heading into Week 3 of the preseason is generating a big play.
  10. With Noah Brown still out, we saw Lance Lenoir handle some of the in-line blocking assignments Brown traditionally did last season. They motioned him inside next to the two tight ends and attacked that side.  Like the rest of us, Dallas is trying to figure out how to handle this receiver situation. Brown needs to get back on the field yesterday.

Four notes on defense

  1. The first team defense may have forced a 3-and-out on Cincy’s first possession but it wasn’t a perfect showing. A.J. Green got open on 3rd and 5 but Andy Dalton failed to deliver. Anthony Brown gets the ding here since he was “picked” on the route and couldn’t catch up. On the snap, Jeff Heath charged up leaving Xavier Woods alone deep. Since Chidobe Awuzie was playing bump and chase at LCB, Woods needed to keep an eye his way and couldn’t commit to A.J. Green’s side until he saw the ball in the air.
  2. Antuan Woods looks like the real deal at nose tackle. He’s making the team. The only question is will he start (with Collins playing the 3-tech). Taco Charlton played great as well adding depth to an already deep edge unit. It’s clear if Kony Ealy makes this team it will be as an under tackle. The edge is too packed with talent and Ealy looks pretty good inside at DT (another battled pass).
  3. Chido’s interception to end the first half was a thing of beauty. He saw the play develop and played the ball the entire time knowing he had safety help over the top. Granted, the safety was late but ideally it would be someone more competent playing the spot (like Xavier Woods or -gasp- Earl Thomas).
  4. With the first team defense, we saw Tyrone Crawford playing some 3-tech. Not surprisingly, the slimmed down version of #98 was a liability against the run inside but it did show the Cowboys willingness to give him snaps at DT, something we were unsure of since he lost so much offseason weight.

Related Story. How Maliek Collins will have a career season in '18. light

How about depth?

  • I don’t think it surprised anyone to see Chaz Green victimized on the edge but it was initially startling to see Cam Fleming get beat on the right side. We need to keep in mind he was beat by one of the better young talents in Carl Lawson. Lawson, more of an edge speed guy, beat Fleming going inside. It’s likely Fleming was more concerned about the speed on the edge and set himself up Lawson’s inside move. I’m not concerned about this play, but I am concerned Fleming isn’t getting snaps as the LT2 because that’s probably going to be his role (swing tackle) in the regular season once Chaz is presumably gone.
  • Cooper Rush didn’t look good but I’m not sure Aaron Rodgers would look good behind this second team offensive line. The Dallas Cowboys did well addressing the O-line in the offseason but there is clearly a significant drop from the starters to the back-ups. If either tackle is injured this season coaches will need to change the game plan because the backups cannot play up to the starters standard.
  • The depth in the secondary is concerning to say the least. We already knew the depth at safety was non-existent but the falloff in talent after the top two cornerbacks is also readily apparent. Even Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis have struggled.

Other notes:

Cincinnati showed excellent depth at tight end. They’re well regarded and make the oft-injured former Pro Bowler Tyler Eifert somewhat expendable. I proposed trying to trade for Eifert last week and after seeing the Bengals depth first hand, I think they would be willing to listen to offers. Eifert is a top-5 TE in the NFL, the problem is he’s been hurt a lot and it’s hard to valuate his worth when his contract is up next offseason.

Next. Why the Cowboys should trade for TE Tyler Eifert. dark

I was hoping to see fringe players, Charles Tapper and Jihad Ward, excel against third team offensive linemen in the fourth quarter but more often than not they were neutralized fairly easily. That’s not good for their chances of making the Final 53 considering the Dallas Cowboys’ D-line is their deepest unit.

  • Published on 08/19/2018 at 13:00 PM
  • Last updated at 08/19/2018 at 11:11 AM