Dallas Cowboys vs Cardinals Film Review: It’s actually good news

ARLINGTON, TX - AUGUST 26: Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys and Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys smile during warm ups before the preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals at AT&T Stadium on August 26, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - AUGUST 26: Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys and Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys smile during warm ups before the preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals at AT&T Stadium on August 26, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images) /

Fans are understandably upset about the Dallas Cowboys after seeing them struggle against the Cardinals on Sunday but the film review shows it’s far more good news than bad.

Dallas Cowboys fans know the score doesn’t matter in the preseason. The preseason is primarily for player evaluation and situational practice. But when you lose a game 27-3 it’s hard not to let the score bother you, at least a little.

But I assure you, the worry is largely unfounded once you slow down the game and watch what really happened. Personnel and context are important and while we don’t have access to the All-22, slowing the game down and applying these items goes a long way in alleviating concern and offering up optimism…

Four Important Points

  1. The Dallas Cowboys are going to lean on their defense this season as they break in their new receiving and tight end corps. The good news is this defense has the potential for complete dominance. Lost in the despair of the loss on Sunday was the fact the starting defense, once again, shut their opponent out. It was the reserves that allowed the Arizona offense 3 points to end the half. On that lone scoring drive Sean Lee, DeMarcus Lawrence, both starting cornerbacks and both starting safeties where out.
  2. The starting offense has been good when the starters play (which didn’t happen on Sunday). Yes, some of the backup stink, but we kinda knew that already. We hoped to see more from Rush but we can’t act surprised that he played like an undrafted free agent yesterday. Much has been said about the Dallas Cowboys’ ineptitude on offense last night but we need to keep in mind Zack Martin, Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott all sat out and all are expected to start against Carolina in Week One. In fact, Dallas was without their five best offensive players today, four of which will start in Carolina.
  3. Again, the starting defense has shut down EVERYONE this preseason.
  4. The Dallas Cowboys had eight turnovers on the day. That’s a worrisome number until you look at who gave those turnovers up. Not a single turnover was from a player whom is expected to start this season.

Game Notes and Player Evaluation

  • It’s safe to say Lance Lenoir will not be the Cowboys punt returner this season. Option No. 1 will be Tavon Austin and Option No. 2 will likely be Cole Beasley. If you remember, even last year Lenoir had trouble fielding punts so his history of struggles suggests he’s not a viable option when the games count.
  • Defacto starting center, Joe Looney, deserves a significant amount of our attention since he’s going to be forced into the starting lineup this season – ready or not. Don’t underestimate the significance of his tenure on this team. He’s familiar with his co-workers and knows the blocking system both old and new.

    The Dallas Cowboys are shifting to more power blocking this season (pulling linemen to block on the run) and this appears to play to Looney’s strength. He showed Sunday he can pull and block with balance as well as get out in space on a screen and lead a convoy downfield. Where we are going to see him struggle is against some stunts/games and bull rushes. On the very first play of the game he was blown off the ball letting his man make the tackle deep in the backfield.

    The common theme is if the real starters were in the offense would not look this inept.

  • The play that ended Dallas’ second drive was a blitz up the middle that Rod Smith was unable to pick up. It’s safe to say Zeke and Zack would have had this well-handled and with receivers running open down field, Dak could have found the first down. The common theme is if the real starters were in the offense would not look this inept.
  • We don’t have the All-22 available to confirm but it seemed pretty clear Deonte Thompson and Cole Beasley were running open pretty often. The only problem is Cooper Rush never started looking their way until well into the second quarter, and when he did, he missed his target. Running the two-minute drill, Cooper started finding his targets for whatever that’s worth.
  • Related Story. The solution to the Cowboys deep ball problems. light

    • Another positive sign from the receivers was seeing Michael Gallup break free from Patrick Peterson deep. Peterson is unquestionably a top-5 CB in this league and to beat him deep is no small thing. As we know, the pass was off target a little and Gallup miss-played the ball as well, but given the Dallas Cowboys struggles with the deep ball, this is a step in the right direction.
    • With Tyrone Crawford playing inside at under tackle, the Dallas Cowboys are going to be susceptible to the run up the middle. Crawford lost weight this offseason to fit the mold of a defense end, only to be moved back inside and find himself grossly under sized. On Arizona’s second drive they ran a fullback right at him and picked up a first down. You’d like to think the Cowboys would pull Craw out on these 3rd and 1 situations when it’s the regular season but it’s worth mentioning now because it exposes a very real weakness in his game.
    • The good news about Craw playing inside was on display in the second quarter when he exploded through the gap, looped around two blockers, and made the tackle behind the line. This is a play only Crawford can make and shows there’s more to stopping the run than just holding up at the point of attack.
    • Flying under the radar at linebacker is starting SAM, Damien Wilson. Wilson appears primed for a breakout season. He’s not just a pursuit linebacker but he’s also come into his own as a coverage man. On Sunday he was lining up players and baiting the quarterback by disguising coverage.  He even looked good rushing the passer giving the Dallas Cowboys one more good linebacker to blitz with.
    • On Patrick Peterson’s Pick-6, Rush telegraphed the pass to Tavon Austin to the right, never looking over at his receiver running a wide open out to the left. He made his mind up before the snap and never took advantage of the open opportunity.
    • I liked most of what I saw from RB Darius Jackson. I stated in my last 53-man roster projection (link below) that Jackson is better player for the Cowboys today while Bo Scarbrough is the better option tomorrow. Jackson looked good returning kicks and running the ball. Scarbrough had a couple nice runs but he tanked an important block in pass protection that resulted in a sack (and nearly resulted in a safety).

    Next. Dallas Cowboys 53-man roster projection 3.0. dark

    This was Mike White’s best day as a Cowboy. And that includes his practice performances. I still question his pocket presence and release time but he was able to complete some balls as well as deliver it on the run.

    • Published on 08/27/2018 at 12:01 PM
    • Last updated at 08/27/2018 at 12:27 PM