DENVER – The Cowboys dropped their preseason opener to the Broncos Saturday night. Obviously, the team sat more than 20 players – mostly starters – but still the loss showed a lack of depth on the second and third teams.
Here's what the DallasCowboys.com staff writers had to say following the game in Denver.
Patrik Walker: There wasn't much positive to take away from the first preseason game, unless you were covering the Broncos. Thankfully, it wasn't all bad for the Cowboys, who did see flashes of elite play from players like rookie first-round pick Tyler Smith in the first half. But even that was dampened by two [questionable] holding calls against Smith that added to what became a laundry list of penalties for the team as a whole. Because while there were some flags that shouldn't have been thrown, when you deliver nearly as many penalty yards as you do passing yards, you have to own the reality that several of them were indeed your fault.
The starting defensive line looked hungry and dominant – led by Neville Gallimore, Quinton Bohanna, Dante Fowler and Tarell Basham – but their counterparts on the offensive line as a whole were tough to watch. Josh Ball in particular struggled in both production and discipline (the owner of three penalties on the evening) and the consistently questionable pocket might have led to the struggles by Cooper Rush, although Rush was himself accountable for often forcing the ball to Jalen Tolbert a bit much (missing on his first five targets to the rookie and one of them turned into an interception).
Rob Phillips: Obviously it was super sloppy, and it starts with the penalties, three of which helped Denver score 17 points. I will say that there were some encouraging things from the rookies. Holding calls aside, you could see Tyler Smith's power and movement skills. Jalen Tolbert created some space downfield – he and Cooper Rush just couldn't connect much. Sam Williams, Devin Harper and Markquese Bell were around the football. Jake Ferguson tied for the team lead in catches.
Fellow rookie tight end Peyton Hendershot showed again that he can get vertical. KaVontae Turpin had a nice punt return. This game was about young players getting to play a lot. Obviously there's a ton to clean up, though. And there are still question marks at certain spots such as swing tackle, unless Smith becomes an option there in addition to his work at left guard.
Nick Eatman: I'm sure the penalties have been addressed already. And I wrote a whole column on what I think needs to happen with Tyler Smith. So let me focus on something else. The kicker situation has been a hot topic and we didn't see a lot of change Saturday. Now, the Cowboys did have a shot to kick a 58-yarder in the first half but Mike McCarthy went for a fourth-and-2 and the Cowboys were turned away.
To me, it was a great chance to let one of these guys make a kick. In the pregame, both were hitting from 60-plus, taking advantage of this thin Denver air. But let's see if they do it in a game? Now, Lirim Hajrullahu did try a 56-yarder in the fourth quarter in the rain and missed, and Brett Maher came on and hit an extra point, followed by a booming kickoff that was a touchback. Not much really came of the kickers in this game, but maybe the Cowboys should've allowed for more chances.