ARLINGTON, Texas – So this is what the offense might look like without Ezekiel Elliott?
OK, so maybe not exactly considering you'd like to think both sides will scheme a little more, and I'm sure other defenses will be more competitive than what the Colts trotted out there Saturday night.
But let's control what we can control here. From the two series we got to see here against Indianapolis, Cowboys fans have to be excited about what they saw from Dak Prescott and this Zeke-less offense.
It wasn't completely perfect all around. But for Dak, it was pretty close. In fact, he ended the night with a perfect passer rating, only misfiring on one pass that was batted down at the line of scrimmage.
I thought it was rather fitting that Dak had a perfect night. The way I see it, to beat the likes of the Giants, Broncos, Cardinals and Packers and really any other team in these first six games, Dak is pretty much going to have to be perfect to make up the difference.
And he put on a clinic in that first drive, which started from the Cowboys' own 5yard line thanks to a special teams penalty on the opening kickoff.
No problem for Dak, who came right out and went to work. If you look at his four throws on that first drive, it couldn't have been scripted any better. He made throws from the pocket over the middle. He made some on the run. Dak also did a nice job of dumping it off when nothing was there down the field. And then the drive finished with a perfect throw to Dez Bryant for the touchdown.
Before you argue with me that the ball was underthrown and Dez had to come back for the ball, don't forget that's exactly where the ball needs to be. With a player like Dez, he's always the best athlete when the ball is in the air. So just give him a chance, and that's exactly what Dak did. When the ball is underthrown like that, Dez will see it and the cornerback rarely does, which is why you saw him fly out of the picture.
Great play by Bryant, who showed off his beastly skills after the catch, twirling and spinning into the end zone.
Now, let's get to the actual replacement for Zeke. Darren McFadden was very close to not only calming everyone down for having to play without Elliott, but perhaps adding some excitement, too.
For a moment, he looked like Arkansas D-Mac. He was sticking that foot in the ground and bursting into his cuts. He was pushing the pile forward when nothing was there. And he was dragging some defenders for a couple of extra yards.
McFadden was letting us all know the Cowboys will be perfectly fine without … and then he fumbled! Dang, he just had to fumble and ruin his own moment.
Maybe he didn't exactly ruin it because he still ran for 59 yards on nine carries (6.6 yard average), but that fumble in the red zone was a setback. Not only did he fumble, but the ball seemed to pop out before McFadden even got hit. He's always had some fumbling issues, so that's something the Cowboys will have to live with – as long as it doesn't get out of control.
In fact, fumbling will probably be the reason the Cowboys rotate a little more between McFadden and Alfred Morris, who showed some juice and nice feet when he got the chance to run behind the second-team offensive line.
Speaking of the line, it helps to have Tyron Smith out there – even for one series. I thought Jonathan Cooper looked solid, which is rather easy to do when you're surrounded by Smith and Travis Frederick and their combined seven Pro Bowls.
Again, I know it's preseason. I know the Colts weren't game-planning for the Cowboys. But this offense was pretty vanilla, too. It's just the way it goes here in these exhibition games.
It's not always a great indication of how things will be when the games count for real. But if anything, the Cowboys showed they could not only be effective, but even dominant without Zeke in the lineup.
To keep it up, they're going to have to lean on that quarterback. But in just two series, he seems up for the challenge.