GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Cowboys made the second half rather entertaining and even had a chance to win until giving up a pair of late field goals Friday night.
The Cardinals got the 19-16 win over the Cowboys, but the bigger story might be the injuries sustained in the game.
Still, let's focus on some aspect that might be overlooked. Here are five players, plays or moments to remember in this preseason version.
Joseph's penalty extends drive – In the first quarter, the Cowboys' defense was about to get off the field after making a third-down stop when rookie corner Kelvin Joseph was flagged for defensive holding away from the ball. The five-yard penalty gave Arizona and automatic first down and on the next play, the Cardinals attacked Joseph again. He gave up a 34-yard pass down the sideline to Christian Kirk. The Cardinals got a field goal later on the drive.
Another fumble recovery by defense – On the final play of the final practice in Oxnard, linebacker Keanu Neal picked off a pass to end a two-minute drill by the offense. Two days later, the first-team defense stopped Arizona's opening drive when Neal stripped the ball away from Maxx Williams and recovered it. That marked the second straight game in the preseason the Cowboys defense recovered a fumble on the first possession.
The bigger part of the play is how Neal is starting to fit into the scheme. Don't forget his connection with defensive coordinator Dan Quinn in their time together in Atlanta. Quinn likely has a specific role in place for Neal and it's starting to show just how effective he can be, especially in the nickel package.
Tight end position takes another hit – One of the more underrated players of camp has been Sean McKeon, who has seemingly made a big play in every practice. But an ankle injury ended his night early on Friday. He had to be helped off the field and into the locker room and couldn't put weight on his ankle. The Cowboys started Blake Jarwin, who missed most of last year with a torn ACL, but only played him for two series. Dalton Schultz had a minor ankle injury and didn't even make the trip to Arizona. Jeremy Sprinkle played the majority of the first half and into the third quarter.
DiNucci ends the streak - Thanks to a stat I learned from former QB Babe Laufenberg, who called the game in the Cowboys' TV broadcast booth, Ben DiNucci entered this game with 18 drives under his belt – counting 12 in the Eagles game last year and six against Pittsburgh last week. None of those 18 drives ended with a touchdown. But that streak ended when he engineered an 80-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown pass to Brandon Smith.
Don't forget this roster rule – With the amount of injuries the Cowboys sustained Friday night, it's a bit early to start assessing how serious each of them are and how long the guys could miss. But don't forget the fact that if teams designate a player for IR-Return, meaning he could be back in either three or six weeks, he's got to be on the final 53-man roster for at least one day. Again, not to say we know how long guys like McKeon or Malik Turner or even Neville Gallimore will be out, they might be candidates for a player that isn't ready for the start of the season but can return later. That can lead to some tricky roster maneuvering when it's time to trim the roster.