FRISCO, Texas – Can’t believe it’s already Wednesday, and really need to lighten the load in my notebook.
Just amazing how much has taken place over the past four days, from the Cowboys opening the season with that 35-17 walloping of the New York Giants on Sunday to the sad passing of T. Boone Pickens, the legendary oilman and good friend of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, on Wednesday at the age of 91.
So without further ado . . . .
- Better D: Not to be lost in the hysteria of the Cowboys scoring 35 points in the opener and piling up 494 total yards, or Dak Prescott becoming the first NFL quarterback, along with Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson on Sunday, to produce that perfect 158.3 QB rating in a season opener, is what the Cowboys' defense didn’t do. Sure, the Cowboys limited the Giants to 17 points, those final seven after the Cowboys had built that 35-10 lead. But that performance, allowing the Giants to total 470 yards, 151 of those rushing, certainly isn’t up to the Cowboys' standards, last year’s seventh-ranked total defense now 27th. “We think we’re the best unit in the league,” Cowboys Pro Bowl defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence lamented, “and we don’t feel like we showed that last week.” No the defense didn’t, also allowing the Giants running back Saquon Barkley to run for 120 yards, 59 of those on the Giants’ second snap of the game. Too much chasing, not enough gap control. That must improve against the Redskins Sunday, otherwise 1-1 will be staring them in the face.
- Gallup-ing Along: OK, it’s just one game. But when Cowboys receiver Michael Gallup awoke Tuesday morning, there was his name at or near the top of the league stats with his 158 yards receiving on just seven catches. So, his 158 ranks him second in the NFL, behind only Kansas City’s Sammy Watkins’ 198. But Gallup leads the NFC in receiving yards, four yards more than Philly’s DeSean Jackson. His 22.6 yards per catch also ties him for second among NFL receivers with at least five catches. First, and highlight this one, is Washington rookie receiver Terry McLaurin, five catches for 125 yards (25.0). Beware on Sunday.
- Roster Churning: The Cowboys have made one roster move, and there still might be another one coming. They released rookie running back Jordan Chunn, who was active in Sunday’s game, mostly for special teams purposes and as insurance if for some reason Zeke couldn’t handle things with just three days of practice. He could, and Chunn didn’t exactly have a good performance on special teams. So the Cowboys signed second-year linebacker Chris Covington off their practice squad, hoping he can help on special teams. But things could become complicated if WR Tavon Austin, who missed Wednesday’s practice with concussion symptoms, isn’t cleared by time the Cowboys leave for the Washington D.C. on Saturday. That would leave the Cowboys with just four receivers and only one punt returner they trust (Randall Cobb). They then might need to sign WR Cedrick Wilson off the practice squad. The thought was the Cowboys would try to sign Chunn back to the practice squad if the first-year back cleared waivers, but they already had signed RB Darius Jackson back to practice squad to simulate running backs on the scout team. Good news is after not practicing for the past couple of weeks and inactive against the Giants, safety Darian Thompson did practice on a limited basis Wednesday.
- Same Song: Maybe just a different verse since here is what Washington coach Jay Gruden said when asked how much different the Cowboys' offense looked under first-year offensive coordinator Kellen Moore: “Not too different, they’re very efficient. I think he did a great job of calling plays for his first game, but very similar. Formationally, they like to run the ball, they do the play-action’s off the strong running game that they have, good offensive line, good targets to throw to.”
- Taco Time? While 2017 first-round pick Taco Charlton was inactive for the season opener, might he be on the 46-man roster this Sunday? The Cowboys went for versatility with the eight defensive linemen up for the Giants game, keeping just three defensive tackles and then five defensive ends. But three of those defensive ends, Tyrone Crawford, Kerry Hyder and Joe Jackson, could also play defensive tackle in passing situations. Plus, the Cowboys didn’t want to overwork their starting two defensive ends, DeMarcus Lawrence and Crawford, rehabbing all through training camp. Lawrence ended up playing just 32 of the 69 snaps and Crawford 30. Of the defensive ends, Hyder played the most snaps (44), some inside, Dorance Armstrong 30 and the rookie Jackson 26. Now Crawford (hip) did not practice on Wednesday, so we’ll see, but they probably can squeeze a few more snaps out of Lawrence, and it’s not like the backups made a huge impact on the Giants game.
- Kid Stuff: Now you have a better idea of why some players, and many former ones from the ‘90s, don’t sign autographs in public. It’s a no-win situation, unless you have the time of day to sign every last single one. Otherwise, someone is going to complain. Lawrence found that out Sunday leaving AT&T Stadium after the game when he turned down the request of a youngster wearing a Giants jersey, saying, “You’re wearing the wrong jersey.” Oh my gosh, social media had a field day with the video. First, you need to know Lawrence. That’s him. Not rude. Just a sense of humor that can be taken the wrong way. “Just know DeMarcus Lawrence loves kids,” he said Wednesday after spending Tuesday bowling with members of the Boys and Girls Club of America and passing out 100 backpacks loaded with supplies. “It kind of shocked me. I don’t think that was the first time I told somebody, ‘Hey bro, you’ve got the wrong jersey, get you a new jersey. Tell your parents, for Christmas, you need a DeMarcus Lawrence.’” Be careful Tank, we have a sensitive country these days.
- Short Shots: Ezekiel Elliott says he’s no worse for the wear after taking 37 snaps against the Giants . . . With Redskins starting running back Derrius Guice suffering meniscus damage to his knee, Gruden says veteran Adrian Peterson will be their starter if Guice isn’t ready to go, which at this point seems highly questionable . . . While Dak Prescott threw for 405 yards Sunday, this is interesting: The Cowboys actually gained 176 of those yards after the catch, meaning he was hitting guys on the run.
And the final word goes to Cowboys tight end Blake Jarwin, who played his college ball at Oklahoma State, where T. Boone Pickens, who passed away Wednesday at 91 years of age, was a huge supporter, donating roughly a half billion dollars to the school, and specifically to the athletic department. “The impact he’s had on the program was immense,” said Jarwin, who this year was among a group of former players to fly on Pickens’ jet to his ranch, then being driven around the property with Pickens. “It’s a tough day . . . that guy from the day I stepped foot on Oklahoma State, I’m thankful for what he did. The impact he had on Oklahoma State will never be forgotten. Our stadium is named after him. We would not be where we are without him.” Well said.