In studying the Cardinals from their game the previous week against the Packers, I had a feeling that without much game preparation, there was some potential for problems on both sides of the ball. The Cardinals make it hard for you to run on them, and not surprisingly, that was the case for the Cowboys.
I thought the first-team offense, protection-wise, with David Arkin and Tyron Smith working together, held up well despite this being the first game action for Arkin on the left side. There was only one time where they struggled with a twist stunt, but other than that, it was solid.
From my view in the broadcast booth, I liked what I saw from Travis Frederick and Mackenzy Bernadeau working together as well. Cardinals defensive linemen Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell can give any line a great deal of issues, but I didn't feel like they were a factor.
For a couple of players that needed a good game, I thought Dwayne Harris as a receiver and Gavin Escobar at tight end played very well. Harris and Escobar were in a nice rhythm with Alex Tanney in how they were able to run their routes, and they were also able to finish their plays.
What you have in Escobar is a player that has a real nice understanding of where he needs to be in the route, along with soft, dependable hands. There is no doubt that he will need to develop strength as a blocker and some overall quickness, but he showed you why he was drafted.
It was another well-played game for linebacker DeVonte Holloman and his push to get more playing time in this scheme. Of all the defensive rookies, he looks the most ready to play right now. He showed once again his ball skills with a big red-zone interception, but he also did a nice job as a pressure player when he was asked to come on the blitz. He is one of the most aware, first-year defensive players I have seen in a long time around here.
I honestly believe that George Selvie is a much better fit playing as the right defensive end than he is on the left side. On the right, he plays with much more quickness and he shows how he can get up the field.
It was also nice to see Brandon Magee have a much better day from the Mike linebacker spot. Maybe because it was a hometown game for him having gone to Arizona State, but he did a much better job of avoiding blocks and working toward the ball. It was the type of outing where I noticed him more and there were times in training camp where I was really struggling with that.
I don't believe that Landon Cohen will make this team as a defensive tackle, although I have to say that I am impressed with his ability to get off the ball. He plays with quickness, and when he uses his hands, he can make plays. His effort is outstanding and his relentless nature gets him noticed by my eyes.
I did like what I saw from the Cowboys’ punt-coverage unit. I thought that Chris Jones not only managed his distance, but was also able to control where he placed the ball with his height. My big concern coming into this game was how they were going to deal with Tyrann Mathieu when sending players down the field to cover punts. With Mathieu you have to get plenty of shirts around him and not allow him to get going, and as a group, Dallas was able to accomplish that, which was a real plus.
The turnovers were a huge issue, but the way the defense managed to keep the Cardinals out of the end zone was impressive. How these young defensive players responded, it says a lot about the scheme, but also tells you what kind of pride they have, and going forward, that really is a good thing.
Photos from the Cowboys-Cardinals game >>