Dallas Cowboys: What We've Learned Through Week 2 of Preseason
From the suspension of cornerback Orlando Scandrick to the health of quarterback Tony Romo to the usage of tight end Gavin Escobar, we’ve learned a lot about the 2014 Dallas Cowboys through Week 2 of the preseason.
There’s still a lot that we, and the coaches need to figure out, but we’re a little bit closer to knowing what this Cowboys team will look like come Week 1 of the regular season. Here are eight important things we’ve learned thus far.
The Cowboys Will Have Trouble with Cornerback Depth
The Cowboys were already in a bad position with their secondary before cornerback Orlando Scandrick got suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
It’s not that the Dallas cornerbacks are terrible, but rather that they need to play at an elite level if the defensive line is unable to generate pressure without the defense blitzing. Scandrick was arguably Dallas’ top cornerback last year, and his absence will thrust Morris Claiborne into the starting lineup and Sterling Moore into nickel packages.
There’s Still Reason for Concern over QB Tony Romo’s Back
The Cowboys are being very cautious with Tony Romo and his healing back, which is smart. The fact that Romo has missed a lot of preseason practices isn’t necessarily cause for concern, but when it’s accompanied by the fact that he is having trouble throwing deep, per Brandon George of The Dallas Morning News, that’s a different story.
It’s not that we need to panic about Romo’s health, but you have to think that he’s not truly 100 percent healthy at this point, given the evidence. And if he’s not 100 percent healthy, it follows that he might have a higher-than-normal probability of getting injured during the season, which of course would be crippling to the Dallas offense.
The good news is that he looked great against the Baltimore Ravens, but this is a situation to monitor.
Dallas Is Going to Run More Play-Action Passes
The Cowboys quarterbacks threw 11 play-action passes on just 29 dropbacks against the San Diego Chargers in Week 1 of the preseason, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), which is good for 37.9 percent. They threw seven play-action passes on 35 dropbacks against the Ravens, which is good for 20 percent. Compare that to 14 percent for Romo last year, which was fifth-lowest in the league, and 10 percent in 2012, which was dead last.
With Scott Linehan now calling the plays for Dallas, we should see a lot of changes for the better—one of which will presumably be a (much) increased rate of play-action passes.
The Rookie Wide Receiver Battle Will Be a Good One
I liked Chris Boyd more than both Devin Street and L’Damian Washington coming out of the draft. Boyd and Street are the ones left battling for playing time in Dallas, and things are heating up. Street has really looked good in practices and in the team’s first preseason game, but Boyd (6'4" compared to 6'3") is bigger, was better in college and probably has a higher ceiling.
The Cowboys will likely play Cole Beasley as the third receiver this year, but I like one of the rookies to eventually take over that job.
Tyrone Crawford Needs to Play Defensive End
I originally liked Tyrone Crawford at defensive tackle and still think he should move there in passing situations, but the Cowboys need his services on more than just third downs. With Demarcus Lawrence out for the first month or so, Dallas is in a really poor spot on the outside.
Whether or not Anthony Spencer is placed on the PUP list, the ‘Boys need someone to step up and become a No. 1 rusher. I like Martez Wilson quite a bit, but Crawford is the more likely candidate to get playing time. Outside of Wilson, he has the highest upside as a defensive end.
DT Davon Coleman Has Serious Upside
I really like rookie Davon Coleman. Arm length is important for defensive linemen, but Coleman’s arms are very short at 31.75 inches, according to CBS Sports. That’s not good, of course, but it caused Coleman to go undrafted despite producing at a high level at Arizona State.
Coleman recorded 13.5 sacks and 26 tackles for loss over the past two seasons, according to Sports Reference. Those aren’t Aaron-Donald-esque numbers, but they’re still good. With the hole at the defensive tackle spot next to Henry Melton, Coleman has the potential to be a contributor sooner rather than later.
TE Gavin Escobar Should Be a Legitimate Threat
I said in the offseason that if the Cowboys use tight end Gavin Escobar more frequently, he has the skill set to produce. Well, it looks like he is going to get more opportunities to make plays since the Cowboys are using him at wide receiver in certain packages, according to Jon Machota of The Dallas Morning News.
The Cowboys should really be scaling back Jason Witten’s reps to get Escobar more time, but it's more likely that they’ll just run more two-tight end sets. We shouldn’t get too ecstatic about Escobar’s projected bulk stats this year because there aren’t enough balls to go around, but he’s likely to be a more efficient player than Witten.
Rookie OG Zack Martin Could Be the Real Deal
We haven’t heard too much about first-round pick Zack Martin because (1) second-rounder Demarcus Lawrence has stolen a lot of the press and (2) Martin’s position is "boring." Those within the organization, though, have compared Martin to center Travis Frederick, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas.
I love the potential of Frederick and Martin on short-yardage runs. If the Cowboys can establish consistency running behind that duo when they really need it, especially near the goal line, it’s going to help the offense.