Well, last week’s preseason game was a mixed bag. The first team offense and defense looked good again, but the ending was a replay of the first preseason game’s unpleasant finish for Cowboys fans. Now the team approaches the “so-called” dress rehearsal with uncertainty around the whole offense due to some significant developments on the offensive line. That leaves us with a high likelihood that neither Dak Prescott or Ezekiel Elliott will see the field once pre-game warmups are done. The past two weeks in Dallas have been traumatic as the Cowboys have hit after hit to their vaunted offensive line group and now Dallas is heading out to the desert to face the Arizona Cardinals. While the teams no longer occupy the same division, Arizona is both a place where there are a ton of Cowboys fans,and a place where the local team’s fans hold division foe-level animosity to the team with the Star on their helmet.
Former #1 overall draft pick for St. Louis, Sam Bradford is the starter…for now. The Cardinals invested a lot of draft capital in Josh Rosen, the rookie from UCLA. During Draft Season, many felt that Rosen was the most pro-ready on day 1 and he has been solid in his preseason work to this point. Not enough to unseat Bradford just yet, but Rosen’s time is coming fast. Bradford came out of Oklahoma as a great talent. His career in St. Louis was totally derailed by injuries. While those injuries have sapped some of his raw ability, Bradford has shown himself to be a serviceable NFL starter with some upside potential to be a good starter. In fact, he looked very good in his brief stint as the starter in Minnesota before succumbing to another injury and giving way to Case Keenum’s breakout season. With a dearth of quality starters on the market, he was able to leverage his quality showing with the Vikings into the starter role in Arizona replacing the retired Carson Palmer. then, however, he looks like a boxer that has gone too many rounds with Father Time. The Cardinals have a solid if brittle, starter and a first-round prospect to groom behind him in 2018. There are better quarterback rooms in the league but the Arizona Cardinals appear to have quality depth which not many teams can claim
Dak Prescott has been good in both of Dallas’ first two preseason games. His struggles to connect with his revamped receiving corps in reports from training camp have not followed him into the games. Prescott has been efficient and gotten the job done with three of his four drives ending in points (two of them touchdowns). He has been moved into Jason Witten’s old locker and is expected to lead with far more than just his play this season. His play will be vital as neither 2017 UDFA Cooper Rush or 2018 5th round pick Mike White have looked very capable of keeping the train on the tracks in the event of any missed time for Dak. To be fair, they have both suffered through shoddy offensive line play with the 2nd & 3rd team units and haven’t had a great opportunity to show growth. Reports from camp indicate that Whit has struggled a lot which is especially disappointed as many observers thought he could give Rush a real run for the number two quarterback spot. White is now in danger of not making it to the Cowboys’ 53-man roster.
With Dak probably not playing and the depth for Arizona, this is a resounding…
Ezekiel Elliott should not and probably will not see the field in Arizona. The Dallas running game has looked to be in capable hands with Elliott being held out the first two preseason games. Rod Smith has gone from battling for the top backup spot to locking it down and slamming the door on all competition. He has run with power, vision, and balance as well as showing good production in the passing game as a receiver and blocker. Bo Scarborough was impressive himself in the first preseason game only to have his second opportunity cut short by a hip injury. To the glee of 2016 Cowboys fans, Darius Jackson took total advantage of Big Bo’s absence and put on a show of his own in game two. This was especially impressive considering the overall struggles behind the backup offensive linemen. Jamize Olawale won’t get too many touches on this team in the season and he isn’t the devastating lead blocker that Keith Smith was but he has shown well enough as a lead blocker and offers an athletic upgrade at fullback.
The Cardinals boast one the few running backs in the entire league that could be considered equal to Elliot in David Johnson. The true dual-threat 3rd rounder form 2015 is on the mend and is looking like he is ready to once again surpass 2000 yards from scrimmage and be a force catching the ball. In fact, he better reach those lofty heights because the Cardinals appear to have a collection of camp bodies behind him if he has any health issues.
Both teams have top-notch talents as their lead runners. Arizona has very little behind theirs while the Cowboys look to have at least two solid backups for Zeke. Johnson in, Zeke out. Even with the Dallas depth, Johnson alone makes this…
Larry Fitzgerald is one the top WRs of all-time and is one of only 3 pass catchers still ahead of the Cowboys Jason Witten in career receptions. Fitzgerald has never been a burner but he still wins consistently with his great hands and superior route-running. He will absolutely be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and probably only 5 years after he retires. The rest of the Cardinals’ WR group is pretty pedestrian with former Cowboys wideout Brice Butler penciled in as a starter on their most recent depth chart. They have high hopes for former Aggie Christian Kirk, but he is listed on the third team. Fitzgerald seems to be ageless and has shown us enough over the years to convince me that he will continue to be a load for defenses until I actually see his game slip significantly in regular season games. After him, there is very little about which to be excited in the Cardinals’ wide receiver group.
Dez Bryant is gone. That makes me sad, but nothing is going to change that fact. The team has tried to sell the world on not needing a lead dog in the wideout room. It makes little sense outside the Star in Frisco but that hasn’t stopped the team from selling it to anyone that will listen. Allen Hurns has looked solid in his brief preseason work. Michael Gallup has looked dominant in both games and in reports from camp over the past month. With Cole Beasley and Deonte Thompson finally returning to practice, Dallas looks to have a room of try-hard guys that will work their butts off to get open for Prescott. The depth in this group is enhanced by the fact that Tavon Austin is looking like a true wide receiver in his work throughout training camp and not just a gadget guy.
Larry Fitzgerald is one of the greatest to ever lace up the cleats at wide receiver. His greatness is unquestioned but the overall depth of the Cowboys group makes this a slight…
Jason Witten is not coming through that door to rescue the Cowboys anymore. For all the talk of him slowing down (and he was), there is no doubt that his absence will leave a cavernous hole in the Dallas locker room. Nowhere is this more apparent than the total lack of confidence most observers are expressing in the collection of inexperienced tight ends trying to earn the right to play the 1048 snaps vacated by Witten’s decision to jump to the Monday Night Football booth. Even in his 15th NFL season, Witten played over 98% of the Cowboys’ offensive snaps per Pro Football Reference. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, James Hanna chose retirement over more abuse on his body at the same time. Geoff Swaim, Blake Jarwin, and 2018 4th round pick, Dalton Shultz appear to be rounding out this year’s tight end room with perennial pet cat Rico Gathers consistent inconsistency on full display with highlight-reel catches sprinkled in with egregious errors in executing the most basics parts of the playbook.
If the WRs after Larry Fitzgerald are little-known, their TE group is downright anonymous. Ricky Seals-Jones is currently listed as the starter and neither he nor any of the three players behind him were drafted. A room full of unproven UDFAs with no real star is a recipe for hope but not confidence. Even with all the uncertainty in Dallas, it is still…
The Cardinals brought in Andre Smith and Justin Pugh from the Bengals and Giants respectively to shore up a porous and ineffective offensive line unit heading into 2the 2018 season. Neither the Bengals nor the Giants had an OL unit that put fear in anyone’s heart in 2017 but both players are respected in the league as better than their units’ performance. They both look to be upgrades to the line the Cowboys saw in last season’s Week three tilt and the line overall should be better than last season. Both DJ Humphries and Mike Iupati are healthy, making this is a solid offensive line that can open holes for the run game and keep their quarterback upright. With Bradford being injury-prone and backup by a rookie. That will be vital for Arizona to have any real offensive success.
Dallas has had offensive linemen dropping like flies for the past two weeks. At some point during this timeframe, their left tackle (hamstring), right tackle (ankle) and right guard (knee) have all given the team a scare. None will play this week but all three should be on the field on week one of the regular season. Then their All-Pro center starts having problems with numbness and after meeting with several doctors, we learned that he is suffering from a rare condition, Guillain-Barré syndrome. Plenty has been written about this since the story broke but nothing about football is more important than Travis Frederick, the person, getting himself completely healthy. During practice this past week, the Dallas line was (left to right) Cam Fleming, Connor Williams, Joe Looney, Kadeem Edwards, and Chaz Green. Since this is probably what the team will roll out on Sunday night, this is a walkover…
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