FRISCO, Texas – On a forgettable night from AT&T Stadium, I did still manage to come away with a few favorable impressions from this third Cowboys preseason game.
Here are my notes from my vantage point in our studio at The Star:
· Randy Gregory continues to find ways to win off his first step. D.J. Humphries had no chance to stop Gregory on his sack. Gregory was able to gain ground, which forced Humphries to kick wide to get to him. Once Gregory felt Humphries' weight to transfer from his right foot to his left, that's all he needed to win to the inside. It was tremendous coverage by the nickel secondary to make the sack possible.
· Cooper Rush learned a valuable lesson when working against Patrick Peterson. If Peterson is facing the ball and has the opportunity to read the route as it develops, there is a pretty good chance that he's going to get his hands on the ball. Peterson, having speed and quickness himself, wasn't worried about Tavon Austin's ability to run. So when he saw Austin break to the outside and the ball from Rush arriving late, that was all he needed for the pick-six.
· Complete game from Chidobe Awuzie both defending the run and the pass. Awuzie played well with his eyes in seeing what was happening to him. He wasn't fooled or taken out of position. When he saw the ball, he reacted well, but more importantly he was able to finish on the play with textbook form -- which is a dying art for cornerbacks in this league.
· Sounds like Kavon Frazier is going to be okay with his shoulder injury just from listening to him talk in the postgame locker room. Frazier started the game off well making a tackle in the hole, knifing into the backfield and trapping Chase Edmonds for no gain. This is the type of play that we've seen from Jeff Heath when he's been asked to play as that down safety in the nickel package. It's good to see Frazier have similar results.
· I am not going to try to convince you that Joe Looney is Travis Frederick, but I will say that Looney will not be the weak link in this offensive line. This staff will lean on Looney and ask him to do just as much as they do from Frederick when it comes to the line calls and executing those athletic blocks that we've seen from the Pro Bowler. Joe Looney is better equipped to handle these assignments, where just a year ago it would have been difficult.
· Got a glimpse of Cole Beasley's ability to be more than just a slot receiver with the "stutter-go" he pulled off. It should have been a touchdown reception if Cooper Rush had not over thrown him. Beasley did come back with a nice reception later in the game on a deep slant where he was able to separate from Budda Baker to make the reception.
· We had started to see more of Tyrone Crawford playing as the under-tackle in practice with Randy Gregory playing as the right end. Crawford carried that over from the practice field and started the game in that spot. Crawford was paired with Antwaun Woods on the inside with Gregory and Taco Charlton rotating at end. Crawford made a really nice stop beating Justin Pugh with a quick inside move to tackle Chase Edmonds for no gain.
· If anyone needed a nice game, it had to be Jourdan Lewis. I had been very critical of Lewis and the way he has performed during this training camp, but he came to play against the Cardinals. When a cornerback is going well, he is usually finding ways to deny the ball from going inside on him and he was able to do just that. The Cardinals receivers tried to take him across the formation and he was up to the task when the ball came his direction. It honestly surprised me that he played as well as he did, so hopefully this will get him back on track to be more consistent like we saw him last season.
· I said this last week during practice from The Star: don't be surprised if you see this defensive staff use Damien Wilson more than Jaylon Smith as a nickel blitzer. He has a real feel for how to attack the pocket and arrive at the ball. He and Joe Thomas worked very well together on a twist stunt that forced Mike Glennon into a poor pass on third down. Glennon tried to hit Brice Butler coming across the field but couldn't put it in a good spot to give Butler a chance for the reception.
· Nice job by Mekele McKay and Mike White of reading the blitzing corner and getting the ball out quickly. After the reception, McKay was able to win off the line against A.J. Howard for a sizeable gain. It's not often that you see two rookies have enough poise to pull those types of plays off.
· Daniel Ross continues to make a case for himself as a candidate for a spot on the final roster. Ross just destroyed Josh Allen with power, knocking him into the backfield and tripping up Sherman Badie just as he took the handoff from Charles Kanoff.
· Well-placed ball by Mike White to Dres Anderson with Deatrick Nichols draped all over him. White let the ball fly just as Anderson was making his break to the inside. Anderson was able to extend his hands and make the reception for a first down. Anderson had a solid night connecting well with White.