SANTA CLARA, Calif. – So much for rookie jitters.
It wasn’t all pretty, and there will be plenty of corrections coming – but it’d be hard to ask for much more than what the Dallas draft class delivered on Thursday night.
The Cowboys threw seven of their 2018 draft picks into the fray in Thursday’s preseason loss to San Francisco. For the most part, you wouldn’t have known it was their first NFL action.
It only took 10 plays. Facing a 2nd-and-7 from the 49ers’ 30-yard line in the first quarter, Dak Prescott saw third-round pick Michael Gallup facing one-on-one coverage and lofted a floater to the rookie receiver. Having beaten Jimmie Ward soundly on his route, Gallup’s first pro reception went for a touchdown.
“You’ve got to be able to do it. Coach tells us all the time that you’ve got to be able to win nine routes,” Gallup said. “If they’re going to load the box, you’ve got to have wide receivers that are putting out production.”
Gallup’s counterpart in the backfield didn’t start the game, but seventh-round pick Bo Scarbrough shined in his own time. The rookie out of Alabama entered the game after Rod Smith exited in the second quarter, and he took no time to get acclimated.
Scabrough lost yards on his first carry of the night, but he responded by grinding out a gain of four before busting loose on a rumbling, 28-yard run through the San Francisco secondary.
“You’ve just got to be patient. You’ve got to get what your offensive line gives you, and those guys did a great job tonight,” he said. “You’ve got to get in the secondary and create your own – but you’re not going to get into the secondary quite that often in the NFL, so you’ve got to make the best of it.”
That gain helped the Cowboys move into the red zone, where Cooper Rush found Blake Jarwin to move the ball down to the goal line. From there, Scarbrough took a 3rd-and-1 carry and powered himself into the end zone for a touchdown of his own.
Ezekiel Elliott didn’t mix into Thursday night’s action, but he ran all the way down to the goal line to secure the football for Scarbrough – a memento of his first career score.
“That says a lot about him personally,” Scarbrough said. “To me, most guys probably wouldn’t do that. But coming from Zeke it means a lot. He didn’t really have to do that.”
On and on it went. First-round pick Leighton Vander Esch finished his night with four tackles, nearly coming away with a diving interception on a ball that was just barely thrown out of bounds.
“It was kind of surreal being out there on the field finally and playing in an actual game setting,” Vander Esch said. “But then again, you can’t really get distracted in that sense. You still hone in and focus on your craft and on every single play so you know what you’re doing.”
Fourth-round pick Dorance Armstrong finished his night with three tackles and a couple of pressures, winning matchups on both sides of the line. Fifth-round pick Mike White entered the game in the second half, completing 6-of-11 passes for 63 yards.
There were hiccups, to be sure. Second-round pick Connor Williams got a rude welcome to the NFL, as DeForest Buckner blew past him for a sack on the fourth play of the game. But Williams rebounded nicely, remaining in the game and helping the Cowboys rush for 5.5 yard per carry in the early going.
“Connor gave up the sack early on, but one of the really positive things – I think he came back,” said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett.”
It’s not anything worth getting too excited about. There’ll undoubtedly be corrections when the Cowboys run the game tape back. But for a franchise that prides itself on its recent success in the draft, it was a nice first step for the 2018 class.