For the Cowboys 2018 season, I am going to roll out a weekly Gameday Checklist filled with things I need to see in order to feel good about the Cowboys going forward. After the game, I will revisit the list and grade where the Cowboys checked the boxes and where they left more to be desired.
Preseason Week 2: Cincinnati Bengals @ Dallas Cowboys
Can the Cowboys first team defense hold their opponent scoreless again?
The Cowboys had no problems slowing down Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers offense, especially on the ground. This week Dallas faces a challenging offense that will have AJ Green alongside upcoming contributors Joe Mixon and John Ross on offense.
These three will challenge the Cowboys both vertically and horizontally, and with this year’s defense stressing speed to the ball, three guys with sub 4.50 40 yard dash times will certainly provide a good test. I’m excited to see how Green matches up with Byron Jones as well as Anthony Brown in the slot with John Ross. The Cowboys need a good start with their first defense, and slowing these guys down is the recipe for a job well done.
RESULT: Uh how bout without a first down? This defense kept all of the Bengals weapons on safety mode for the entire first quarter. This defense is very, very real.
Will the first team offense keep Dak Prescott upright?
It’s no secret that Dak Prescott plays his best on game day, and despite a quiet preseason, he is poised for a big third year in Dallas. Last week Dallas made quick work of the Niners’ defense but Prescott did take a couple hits on his only drive in the game. With Dak scheduled to see double-digit snaps, I’m really curious to see La’el Collins against Carl Lawson. Dak’s struggles with feeling pressure almost exclusively come from his front side, and Lawson is coming off a big rookie year.
RESULT: Once again the first team offense moved the rock and Dak wasn’t sacked. This coming without Travis Frederick at Center and without Zeke at tailback. The offense continues to impress, and they moved the ball effortlessly without 3 of their best players on Saturday.
Can Dan Bailey nail a couple of kicks in this one?
Not much was made of the Cowboys delegated field goal duties to Brett Maher. I wonder if the field in San Francisco had something to do with that. In 2016 Bailey missed a short kick at Levi’s Stadium and last year he got hurt leading to some infamous Jeff Heath HOF highlight reel extra points. Bailey dealt with an injury last season and wasn’t quite himself to end the year. Dallas needs to see Mr. Automatic send a couple of autopilots through the uprights against Cincinnati.
RESULT: Not much more to see here, he’s fine. Split a 35 yarder and an extra point both right down the pipe. I’d still like to see Dan kick in the 3rd game as well.
Will a wide receiver not named Lance Lenoir stand up?
I feel very comfortable locking in Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, Terrance Williams, Tavon Austin, and DeAndre Thompson onto the Cowboys roster. Lance Lenoir has made his case to force Dallas to keep a seventh wide-out. Whether the Cowboys want to keep another smaller receiver is between Jerry Jones and his Johnny Walker Blue. Noah Brown was a staff favorite last year and saw a lot of time blocking in the second half of the season, but he has been AWOL in this training camp.
Mekale McKay has a very fun frame and the ability to go up and get the rock, which may be a weakness looking at the receiver depth chart. Hopefully, if he isn’t the 7th choice, the Cowboys could sneak him onto the practice squad, but some big plays in the next couple of weeks could earn him a new uniform in another city. At the end of the day, is there a receiver who is going to stand up and announce their own arrival enough to convince the Cowboys to keep that extra wide receiver and not hang on to say a fourth tight end in Rico Gathers?
RESULT: The leading receiver for Dallas was Rico Gathers with two catches for 32 yards. I will give a slight amount of leeway as units lead by Mike White and Cooper Rush were among the worst blocked series the Cowboys have seen in years. Still, no one has been able to separate themselves from the pack, and Lance Lenoir, the clubhouse leader had a nice 19 yard catch, the long on the night from a receiver.
Can Randy Gregory make it through this game?
The expectations on Randy Gregory have been sky high ever since he was picked after a draft weekend freefall. His rookie debut Gregory even made a few plays against the Giants before getting hurt later in that game. The high expectations game is certainly fun to play, but let’s get Randy through his first game back happy and healthy, and allow him to build on that going into the dress rehearsal game next week.
RESULT: Not only is Randy Gregory real, he is spectacular. Randy looked great in his debut, and would’ve had a sack if not for a false start on the other side of the line. Taco Charlton also looked strong and put up some stats as well. Gregory being available on passing downs will be a huge plus for Dallas with DeMarcus Lawrence on the other side. The Cowboys linebacker corps could put opponents in a lot of 3rd and 7+ situations where the Cowboys can pin their ears back and send their pass rush at QB’s, Gregory being fresh and healthy for those situations can do nothing but good things for Dallas.