It was the Dallas Cowboys’ highly anticipated dress rehearsal game as they faced the Houston Texans at AT&T stadium. The final score was a 20-14 loss for Dallas, but it was little indicative of how the Cowboys dominated much of the game. It was a trio of mistakes by some backup quarterbacks that gave the Texans 14 points. Other than that, Dallas far outstripped them and smothered their offense almost completely out of practice after the Cowboys’ three giveaways, not allowing for a third down conversion throughout the game.
Before the game even started, however, there was something that was at least as important as what happened during.
After 17 warm-up shots from 10 to 20 yards, Cowboys QB Dak Prescott hosted a practice session tonight in which he completed 51 of 52 on-air passes for RB Ezekiel Elliott and WR TJ Vasher . On one miss, Prescott was too long on a deep throw to Elliott down the right limit. pic.twitter.com/Plrerrroug
– Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) August 21, 2021
After a day of dueling over whether or not he would be ready to play, it certainly looked like Dak Prescott was on track for the start of the regular season. In that regard alone, it was a victory for Cowboys fans.
But there was one game, which was eagerly awaited as it featured most of the starters from both sides at the start. It was very encouraging to see the starters on the offensive line all out on the field, but the opening practice results after Dallas got the kick off were not good at all. First, Garrett Gilbert fell when Zack Martin stepped on his foot, which appears to be the quarterback’s mistake in not backing up fast enough. Then on the third try, Gilbert clearly hesitated too long in the pocket with both an open receiver and room to take off and run, and instead, the ball was taken from him. That put the defense in a bad spot, with the Texans taking the ball at 23 from the Cowboys. Helped by a game where the defense seemed misaligned, they quickly hit him to take a 7-0 lead. But it’s interesting that the linebacker plan appears to be Micah Parsons and Keanu Neal on the transmission or against 11 staff, and Parsons, Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch on the downhills.
Gilbert started the next series with a 13-yard pass to CeeDee Lamb. He would have other completions at Dalton Schultz and Tony Pollard to get to midfield, but the running game went sour and the Cowboys had to kick.
The defense was in a much better position after the punt, with the Texans starting their own 11. Anthony Brown is another player who appears to be starting the regular season, and already had a defended pass and a tackle at the end of the second. possession of Houston, which was a three and out.
While it looked like most of the starters were still on the field for Dallas’ third offensive possession, Cooper Rush stepped in. And things immediately improved with Pollard getting the game’s first strong run for 16 yards. Then a 26-yard pass interference call brought them into Houston territory. After an end around four lost yards, Rush found Blake Jarwin doing what he does best, running down the seam for a big win of 25. Then the Cowboys got a touchdown on a screen. at Pollard. It was a quick 75-yard drive and it would be the last we’d see from most starters on offense.
And that opens up a very interesting question. Are we sure Garrett Gilbert has a lock on the QB backup job? Based on the first quarter results, this certainly looks like something that needs to be revisited. Rush just added fuel to the fire with a 13-play, 85-yard drive topped off by a magnificent throw to Cedrick Wilson in the right corner of the end zone, proving he can actually score in the zone. Red. Rico Dowdle looked great on the ball, and Noah Brown looked even better on receiving it. Wilson and Brown are WR4 and WR5, and both certainly seemed to be helpful this season.
A note for the game in defense was that DC Dan Quinn and DT Carlos Watkins were unavailable tonight due to COVID precautions. But even without them, the defense looked strong again, stuffing a few points and then using Parsons pressure to lead to a check and three more and away.
Without the starters things were a bit more spotty, as you might expect. One starter who stayed on the pitch was Tyler Biadasz. Was it because they just didn’t have a solution behind it, or were they trying to give it a little more work after Connor Williams took so many shots earlier? In this regard, the Williams experience at the center is clearly not over, as their work resumed in the second quarter once Biadasz was finished for the night.
Special teams had their own issues, letting Desmond King II get 24 yards as he appeared to bounce off all of the cover men except punter Bryan Anger, who ultimately knocked him down.
Although he received a lot of criticism, Jaylon Smith had a sure tackle in the cover to set up a fourth down, where Osa Odighizuwa was the main reason the ball would go down.
The second period was a bit off balance, as the Cowboys were going with their saves on offense, but most of the starters were still on defense. And the special teams continued their disappointing play as they nearly allowed a blocked punt, then had to do it all over again after an illegal man down the field plus five more for a false start. You never want to see a fourth and 30. But Anger scolded a 59 yards to give the defense a little more room to work.
Admittedly, no one expects the Texans to have a great team with their quarterback situation and other notable weaknesses on the roster. Still, they appeared to have absolutely nothing against the Cowboys’ defensive starters, putting up three threes and four outs in four possessions, the other being the six-game drive that ended with the fourth down. They wouldn’t have a single third down conversion in the first half.
It’s something you’ve heard before, but Micah Parsons keeps showing he’s going to be a star. He seemed to be all over the place, preying on runners, stalking the quarterback and breaking passes.
The first half ended with a 14-7 lead for the Cowboys, although they essentially put the Texans on a touchdown lead early on. While it was far from ideal, it was by far the most encouraging performance of the preseason. Again, the opponent’s problems should be noted. Still, there were more good things than bad for the starters, and the second string attack also did well. Defense wise, the longest play they gave Houston in the first half was eight yards.
The second half was back to the main job of the preseason, gauging depth and sorting out who will make the roster of 53 players. It certainly didn’t turn out to be a show of skill on Dallas’ part, especially on offense. One player who is sure he’ll be on the squad is Jabril Cox, but he wasn’t playing like he was safe, getting two tackles on the first practice of the second half. And Malik Hooker was also on the pitch tackling.
Ben DiNucci was the offensive leader in the second half. With his irregular play so far in the preseason, he had to show some value to at least get a practice squad offer. He certainly tried with a good game, even though he was canceled by compensatory penalties. He hit Aaron Parker for 36 yards on arguably the best pass he’s thrown this summer. Even though it didn’t count in the game, he noted that an offside flag was thrown and capitalized on what was meant to be free play. However, he may have washed off all the goodwill with a pick-six that he threw in the middle of the third quarter. He seems to be trying to make plays when he should be throwing the ball, which can be great for training, but that’s probably not what coaches want to see in the action of the game. And a second interception on a drive that could have tied the score or taken the advantage in the fourth quarter only hurt his case even more and prepared the Texans for their last points of the game. Things only got worse for him when a last breath was also interrupted by a choice he threw. It’s hard to understand what role DiNucci has in this squad, even in the practice squad. He must really be a great QB on the Boy Scout team.
With worries about center position lingering, it’s worth mentioning that Matt Farniok handled those tasks with Channel 3. That might not be enough to put him on the 53, but it could make him a priority for the practice team if it doesn’t.
Further analysis of how the depth chart might stack will need to be based on an instant count review. But defensively, the team looks very ready for the season, and the offense should really start to kick in when Prescott is on the field for the regular season.
With the dress rehearsal officially in the books, we have a lot of thinking. At the time of this post, we are LIVE on Blogging The Boys’ YouTube channel (be sure to subscribe … that you can do here) for our official Postgame Show. You can always watch it at your own pace or listen to the podcast. Be sure to subscribe to our podcast network wherever you get your podcasts. Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here.