FRISCO, Texas – A handful of observations from this final game of the preseason, as the Cowboys' reserves gave us one last look before roster cuts.
Here are my notes from re-watching the game:
· I haven't had many opportunities to write about Charles Tapper, but outstanding pressure on his part to help Jihad Ward grab a sack of Joe Webb. Tapper just one-arm pushed Martinas Rankin into Webb's lap and was swatting at the ball with his other hand. Ward, running a twist stunt opposite of Tapper, was able to clean up on the play as Webb attempted to slide to his left to avoid the pressure. Well-executed rush by both of the Cowboys' defenders.
· I am not excusing Cooper Rush for his first interception, but Darius Jackson's lack of awareness in the pocket hurt Chaz Green's effort to pick up Brennan Scarlett on the rush. That forced Rush to flush out of the pocket. As Scarlett rushed to the inside, Green tried to adjust with him, but Jackson, waiting to help block, ended up picking Green from him. With no choice, Rush tried to move to his right and throw the ball on the move, but it slipped out of his hand and fluttered weakly into Justin Reid's hands.
· On the Dorance Armstrong sack, give credit to Caraun Reid for pushing the middle of the pocket, forcing Brandon Weeden to slide to his left to avoid the rush. But also give the secondary credit for outstanding coverage. Initially giving Weeden a two-deep look, they played man coverage and dropped Jeron Johnson down inside to take away the crossing route. Weeden had no time to react as Armstrong was able to finish in the pocket.
· I mentioned this during the broadcast, but Michael Gallup can cover some ground once he gets going up the field. He ran a route where he closed the cushion on Dee Virgin so quickly that it put him on his heels, which allowed Gallup plenty of room to curl back toward Cooper Rush for an easy pitch and catch.
· Good disguise by Tyree Robinson showing Brandon Weeden a down safety look, then at the snap of the ball breaking to the outside hash to turn it into Cover 2. The change in coverage forced Weeden to look at other options, but Donovan Olumba and Justin March-Lillard took that away from him, allowing Daniel Ross and Austin Larkin the necessary time for the sack.
· Well-executed quick out by Mekale McKay using Michael Gallup as a pick on Bryce Jones to get him the necessary separation. Gallup was able to run right through Jones, who was left scrambling to attempt to recover in coverage. McKay never gave him a chance and Cooper Rush put a perfect ball to the outside, where McKay was able to drag both his toes in order to make the reception in bounds.
· I never remembered Caraun Reid playing with this much power off his first step. Lining up as the nose tackle, he was into Kyle Fuller so quickly that there was no way that he could stop his charge. Reid pushed Fuller straight into the backfield and right into Lavon Coleman, which stopped the ball carrier dead in his tracks. When Coleman tried to redirect, Reid just threw Fuller and made the tackle himself for a loss.
· Haven't seen these Cowboys quarterbacks complete many back shoulder fades, but Cooper Rush and Mekale McKay hooked up on a nice one. McKay, working against Andre Chachere, had a sense that, based on the coverage, Rush would be looking short with the ball. Once the ball left Rush's hand, McKay slowed up in preparation to leap. Chachere never turned to look for the ball, as McKay was already in full extension. McKay managed to get both hands on the ball and get both feet down, as well.
· I felt like Kony Ealy was in a fight for a roster spot before this game. To his credit, he was one of the few veteran players that played the majority of the snaps. Ealy has shown more ability to play the run than he has the ability to rush the passer. Backed up on his own goal line, Ealy made a stop on Alfred Blue where it appeared that things might open up to the outside -- but Ealy and Jeron Johnson were both there to quickly slam the door on Blue before he had an opportunity to lower his head and get up the field. It's those types of plays in those desperate situations where a veteran player needs to step up and make a play -- which Ealy was able to do.
· Michael Gallup will learn that when the coaches ask you to block on a screen pass to a teammate, you'd better find a way to execute that assignment. It was Gallup's responsibility to take care of Dee Virgin, which would have sprung Lance Lenoir to the outside. It appeared that Gallup wasn't ready for how hard Virgin broke on the play, and it was in that split second that he was able to beat Gallup to put a hit on Lenoir. The tackle hit Lenoir right in the thigh, and he remained on the field for a few minutes before the trainers helped him off. The Cowboys caught a huge break when Lenoir was able to return to the game. It was a teaching moment for Gallup.
· Give Brian Price and Austin Larkin a lot of credit for their fourth down stop of Terry Swanson. Price was able to eliminate both David Quessenberry and Kyle Fuller while Larkin beat Kendall Lamm to the inside to allow Kyle Queiro to scrap over the top unblocked to make the tackle for no gain. Also good assignment football by Kony Ealy to stay at home on the backside in case Joe Webb decided to pull the ball and attempt to run the ball around the edge on the read-option.
· During the broadcast I wondered why Mike White didn't get enough on the deep ball to Dres Anderson down the middle of the field. Anderson had beaten Bryce Jones to the post and was pulling away. What I didn't see was White attempting to climb the front of the pocket, where he was unable to get his full body into the throw due to Darius Kilgo splitting the blocks of Jacob Ohnesorge and Damien Mama. If White had a chance to step up, it would have likely been a touchdown to Anderson but instead the ball ended up short of the target.