ARLINGTON, Texas – Well, if this was the dress rehearsal, there's definitely some work left to do.
Not major work, but just enough to change the entire appearance.
Yeah, the Cowboys were wearing a custom tailored suit with a matching tie and spiffy socks. The problem with this "dress rehearsal" saw a couple of scuffs on the shoes, the shirttail was hanging out the back and the tie knot was too loose.
All fixable things. Nothing that would ruin the evening. But just enough to garner that "sloppy" tag. And that's what this game was – pretty sloppy from start to finish. But yet, the Cowboys found a way to come back in the second half and grab a 24-20 win.
But we've been trained to guard against the final score of games like this. In fact, the halftime score is usually more important than the final because it's typical a matchup of starters vs. starters. The Raiders did hold a 13-10 lead at the break. The Cowboys had some good moments on both sides of the ball but weren't consistent, which led to breakdowns in coverage and stalled-drives on offense.
The only exception to the sloppiness was Dak Prescott, who looked sharp yet again in his second – and final – preseason appearance. I wasn't sure he could look better than he did last year but so far in these un-schemed games, Dak has been very impressive. And for the most part, he really hasn't had Ezekiel Elliott at his service. Zeke played a few snaps and was effective, but Dak's most impressive moments have occurred with Darren McFadden behind him. What does that mean in the big picture? Nothing at all, it's just pointing out this offense can function at a high level with McFadden for however many games that will be needed.
All in all, this really wasn't a pretty game, though. Penalties on both sides of the ball, including 12 for 132 yards by the Raiders. The Cowboys had seven, but had several more declined.
Then again, preseason games aren't supposed to be pretty. The only thing you're trying to avoid is injury and the Cowboys weren't able to do that. In fact, the three injuries we saw came at positions where there was already plenty of question marks to start with.
Chaz Green had a golden opportunity to win the starting left guard spot but left the game with an ankle injury. Linebacker is a position that has uncertainty for several reasons but Anthony Hitchens was one of those solid anchors that you could always count on. But the Cowboys left the game fearing he has a torn ACL and could miss all of the season. With Jaylon Smith still working his way back and Damien Wilson's future clouded, the Cowboys might be in some trouble now at linebacker.
Even Duke Thomas' knee injury could affect the roster moves as he was slightly ahead – in my opinion – of Marquez White for that final cornerback spot. More than anything, that position has seen plenty of injuries with the two rookie corners – Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis out with hamstring injuries.
So not only did they have injuries, but at already-troubled spots on the roster.
Now what? Well I think you have to start Jonathan Cooper at left guard now. A decision needs to be made and while he's not head and shoulders better than Green or Byron Bell, someone has to get picked. I think you go with Cooper by default. Now, depending on how long Green is out, Emmett Cleary probably is the swing tackle unless the Cowboys can find one off the waiver wire. Who knows, maybe they can trade a pick from next year's crop for a tackle with experience.
At linebacker, I think you have to look on other teams as well. I would say the Cowboys can just lean on Justin Durant but considering he hasn't played all of preseason, I'm not sure how reliable that would be. A veteran linebacker is probably needed.
And since the White-Thomas debate was already close, it will probably go to White now if Thomas is out for a lengthy period of time.
Just think, the Cowboys still have another preseason game to go? Now we might not even know where this final game will be played, but whether it's Houston or Dallas or somewhere in between, you can rest assured the starters or even the backups will be playing out there.