The Dallas Cowboys lost to their inner-state rival Houston Texans by a 20-14 score, dropping Dallas to 0-3 in the preseason. While the final score itself is not that important, it's always good to see positive things happen on the football field in what was the team's dress rehearsal preseason game.
The team did some good things and there were plenty of things to take out of it. Here are my five thoughts on the Cowboys' loss to the Texans on Saturday night.
1. Defense showed promise
It's no secret that the Cowboys' defense needs to pull off a dramatic turnaround compared to how they performed last year. While there has been an abundance of changes made both with player personnel and the coaching staff, all we have right now is the hope that things will start to get better. Well, on Saturday night we got a little taste of what good defense looks like. This unit wasn't perfect by any means, but they made a lot of plays. In fact, they held the Texans' offense to just 220 yards and didn't allow a single third-down conversion the entire night (0 for 10).
The best part of this is that it came from all over the place. Cowboys' first-round draft pick Micah Parsons continued to ball out making play after play. Third-round draft pick Osa Odighizuwa was disruptive along the interior defensive line. Randy Gregory was winning every snap and the safeties looked very solid, including newcomer Malik Hooker. It was a team effort and it was very satisfying to watch them show up and make plays.
2. The backup QB job isn't up for grabs
Cowboys Twitter ran through the proverbial streets with their torches as they expressed much displeasure with backup quarterback Garrett Gilbert. On the surface, Gilbert didn't appear all that great. He had a play where his internal clock hit the snooze allowing a Texans defender to come around the edge and strip the ball out, resulting in a Cowboys turnover. That was a bad play, but outside of that one play, he was fine.
Gilbert looked composed and showed nice footwork during his two series. He only completed three passes, but they were nice throws to CeeDee Lamb, Dalton Schultz, and Tony Pollard. The running game didn't help him as he was put in bad down and distance situations on both of his drives, but he was able to get out of one of them. And even when he got tripped up by his own teammate, he made a nice attempt to complete a pass to Michael Gallup.
Overall, he played fine. Yes, Cooper Rush did come in and played uncharacteristically well, so that's a good thing, but that shouldn't be a knock on Gilbert. Some fans are still overly worried about the backup quarterback situation and believe the Cowboys front office needs to get on the stick and bring in some veteran replacement. That seems excessive to me as Gilbert looks better than any current unemployed quarterback out there just waiting by the phone.
3. Offensive line didn't look good
We got our first glimpse of the starting offensive line as the group of Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, La'el Collins, Connor Williams, and Tyler Biadasz were all in together for the first time this preseason. Overall, this group was okay, but they weren't dominating the trenches by any means. Other than one big hole opened up for Tony Pollard, the group struggled in run blocking. And they weren't stellar in pass protection either.
As mediocre as the starters looked, the backups looked even more unimpressive. The team's two top reserves, Connor McGovern and Terence Steele, were getting pushed around. The group seemed confused on stunts and just couldn't secure their blocks very well. The group as a whole allowed five total sacks after not allowing a single one last week against Arizona.
4. Penalties galore
It's just preseason, but it has to be frustrating to watch all the mental mistakes the team is making out on the football field. The Cowboys got flagged seven times on Saturday whether it was illegal formations or ineligible players downfield. It just looked like the group showed a lack of discipline.
The good news is, these infractions came from younger players who are still learning. The bad news is, the coaching staff, particularly on special teams, needs to get this corrected as there will be several newer players expected to contribute. That's not the self-control you want to see in a dress rehearsal game, so it's definitely an indication the team has things to clean up.
5. No injuries
The biggest plus for the Cowboys on Saturday is they escaped the game unscathed as there were no reports of anyone exiting the game to injury. The coaching staff has been very cautious about who they throw out there as we weren't going to see Dak Prescott, DeMarcus Lawrence, or even Ezekiel Elliott (who is not dealing with any type of nagging injury). With bubble wrap on those veterans, it was still nice to see the players who did have to go out there and do work came out of it with good health. And considering next week's game should consist of mostly bottom roster guys, the Cowboys starters can now just rest up for the regular-season opener.
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