OXNARD, Calif. – Having spent a day with the tape of the loss to the Chargers, I've got a few thoughts on what we saw in the Cowboys' preseason debut.
Most notably, I was impressed by Terrance Williams, disappointed in DeVonte Holloman and surprised by Dartwan Bush and Kenneth Boatright.
- Tip of the hat to Bill Callahan and Frank Pollack for having their offensive line ready to play. Without much preparation, they were able to block the Chargers' 3-4 front. The first offensive line with Tyron Smith, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin and Doug Free were text book in their technique while executing blocks in the running game. There were plenty of snaps where the guards were shoulder-to-shoulder with the tackles, securing the down man, then breaking off to pick up a second level-defender.
Whether it was a reach or cut block, this first unit gave Joseph Randle and Ryan Williams options in which to carry the ball -- front side or bending it back, there was space. It's technique that these coaches grind on day-after-day in practice in order to make this running game work, and these linemen were outstanding in the manner in which they executed.
- It's not even close from observed at this time last season for Terrance Williams as to what we have seen now. Williams is becoming one of the most complete receivers on this roster and that includes Dez Bryant. Williams is developing as a pass catcher and he is doing a better job of trusting his hands and moving away from those times where we saw him body catching balls. His routes have become surer, he is finding ways to avoid contact at the line and while he is working up the field, there is a smoothness to his game. He has shown these offensive coaches a willingness and toughness to also be called on to be a reliable point-of-attack blocker in the running game. I am seeing a hint of a player that has a nasty side to him when he is on the field. There is no fear in the way that he is lining up and playing in these games or practices. Bryant will always be the lead dog in the sled but Terrance Williams has the look of a receiver that is starting to play more like a one than a two.
- If you watched the game Thursday night, it doesn't take a scout to tell you this defense did not play up to the standards Rod Marinelli believed they could. There were struggles getting off blocks along with entirely too many missed tackles in the holes, resulting in some sizable gains for the Chargers. If there was a player in that front seven that had shown, both at the end of last season and through these training camp practices, that he can be a reliable, it would have to be DeVonte Holloman. What was disappointing about the way Holloman played is that when this [embedded_ad] defense is having its struggles, he is usually the one guy that is normally is playing his best. It's rare to see Holloman not playing with technique in the running game. He struggled with his hands and it affected the way he took on blocks. His bad hands led to poor body position, which in turn allowed the Chargers blockers to be able to get inside on him. I was honestly surprised how much trouble Holloman had in this game because of how technique-sound he tends to play. If this defense is going to improve, DeVonte Holloman needs to be at the front of that line because he is too good of a player not to be.
- All through this camp there have been battles for starting spots -- and of course roster spots, too. With the loss of DeMarcus Lawrence for at least the first month of the season, looking for pass rushers at the right defensive end has been an ongoing process. The starter at the position is currently Jeremy Mincey with Martez Wilson as the backup. Both Mincey and Wilson have had their moments throughout camp, but there appears to be two new challengers to potentially take Wilson's spot. Dartwan Bush and recently-added Kenneth Boatright showed up well in the opportunities they received in the Chargers game -- which could make things difficult for Wilson. Both Bush and Boatright looked more explosive in getting up the field and around blocks. They played with initial quickness and a burst. They were not getting tied up on blockers like Wilson was. They played with nice pass rush moves and were able to counter the blockers as they were heading to the quarterback. In studying the special teams tape, Bush also is playing on several of the groups, which tells me that these coaches are trying to find a spot for him. We will need to keep a close eye on how the rotations play out this week working against the Raiders and next weekend versus the Ravens, because Dartwan Bush and Kenneth Boatright deserve more of a chance.