Dallas Cowboys Preseason Week Three: The eye test
The Dallas Cowboys will be breaking in newly-named AT&T Stadium this evening, for their fourth preseason game of the year. The Cowboys got an extra week to evaluate their roster, and are closing in on the final 53 with tonight’s exhibition against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Bengals will pose a challenge on both sides of the football for the Cowboys. With most media outlets reporting that the Cowboys first team offense and defense will play the entire first half, consider this a dress rehearsal against a playoff caliber team. The Bengals have made the AFC playoffs in three of their last four seasons, and posted a 10-6 mark in 2012.
The Bengals had one of the best draft classes of the 2013 class that included Notre Dame standout tight end Tyler Eifert (Cowboys passed on), Giovani Bernard, a solid rookie from UNC, that has had a great showing so far this preseason, and Dallas’ own Margus Hunt, from SMU.
Both teams will be looking to workout the final kinks in their roster. There are two more roster cuts remaining for the preseason, and every spot counts – just ask of NFL scouts that are in attendance tonight.
42 Million vs. 52 Million Dollars
The Cowboys signed linebacker Sean Lee to a six-year extension through 2019. Lee can make as much as an extra 10 million dollars if he can manage to stay on the field. Injuries have consumed Lee, as well as many other players on the Cowboys defense. The loss of Lee was a devastating blow last season, and he will have to stay on the field if the Cowboys want any type of chance of having a successful season. Lee is one of only two active linebackers to have intercepted both Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning.
Timing, timing, timing
This preseason has not been good for the Cowboys offense in terms of production. The first team offense has yet to score a touchdown on an opening drive. Many drives have stalled out, and it has almost become expected of the offensive line, that is only two seasons removed of their overhaul of veterans Leonard Davis, Andre Gurode, Kyle Kosier, and Marc Colombo. The offensive line has changed a lot since last season’s regular season exit in Week 17, and has yet to gain any continuity this preseason. Look for the offense to put points on the board early, and let’s see if the Cowboys running game can get more that two first downs on the ground (vs. Oakland) this week.
Free is the key
Cowboys right tackle will be evaluated at guard in against the Bengals. This is a sign that the Cowboys offensive line is depleted, and they are looking at every possible option available to supplement the disappointment of Nate Livings. Livings has yet to play this preseason, and was injured most of last season. Free has had an awesome camp, and I wouldn’t put it past him to do well at guard in this game, but he will have his work cut out for him. If Free can guarantee offensive line continuity in two weeks, do it. This team is in no position to Look to see if Free commits penalties early, which is a telling sign that the man across him is having the better of him.
Terence Newman is back.
Bengals corner back Terence Newman has put together a solid campaign in Cincinnati. Newman is a two-time pro bowler, and the man proved that he still has it by making two interceptions last season. That was his lowest season total since 2006. It looks as if Newman is looking to redeem himself. He has been a lot more physical this preseason, and has been trusted on an island on Cinci’s defense – which says a lot. Look to see who Newman can shut down on the field.
Who is going is the better receiving running back?
Bengals second round draft pick Giovani Bernard has already proven that he can be a major threat on the ground, and he is starting to prove that he can do it in the passing game as well. He has improved at pass blocking, and is finding ways to get open as a receiver. For the Cowboys, fifth round draft pick Joseph Randle has showed glimpses of what he can do, but has not been consistent in camp. Randle has been able to contribute in passing situations, as well as on the ground, but both offenses like to throw the ball. Look to see which running back is able to dominate linebackers in the flats.