It was great to finally get back into football last night as the 2011 Cowboys started their preseason with a 24-23 come from behind win against the Broncos. The starters were out of the game early, which meant a chance for the other players looking for a spot on the team to show their stuff. With any first preseason game there were some good things and some bad things. The new Rob Ryan defense is still a work in progress as there seemed to be some confusion in the secondary at times. The starters on offense moved the ball early and came away with a field goal. I guess you really can’t take much from the first game. For me it was fun to watch the younger players and to see who stood out. I came away with a few thoughts as I watched.
-The kicking competition between David Buehler and rookie Dan Bailey could be the best battle of camp. Buehler kicked a 42 yard field goal in the first quarter, but it was not pretty since at first it did not look to be good. Bailey kicked off four times in the game and all four went into the end zone, two of which were touchbacks.
-The secondary gave up some big plays during the game and it looked like communication was an issue at times. Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins did not play, but safeties Gerald Sensabugh and Abe Elam did start.
-I’ve been a big Victor Butler fan since he came to the Cowboys. Against the Broncos he seemed to be in the backfield many times. I expect big things from Butler this season and it could end up being a problem for Anthony Spencer if he doesn’t pick up his game.
-Felix Jones looked good as he broke free for an 18 yard run in the first quarter and also added a 16 yard gain on a screen pass from Tony Romo two plays later.
-Rookie Tyron Smith seemed to play well in his very first pro game. He played the first half and showed how athletic he is on many plays as well as how strong he is. I think moving Kyle Kosier to RG will only help Smith in his development.
-I’m sure the Cowboys are looking for someone to step up in the punt return game. On the Cowboys four punt returns they totaled -1 yard. As far as kickoff returns, it was rookie Raymond Radway with a 40 yard return and fellow rookie Dwayne Harris added a 32 yard return during the game.
-Speaking of rookie wide receiver Dwayne Harris. He continue to impress in his first game as he caught a short pass from Stephen McGee and then out raced the Broncos defense for a 76 yard touchdown to tie the game in the fourth quarter. Then with 15 seconds left in the game and on 4th down it was once again Harris who scored on a 13 yard touchdown pass from McGee to get the Cowboys to within one point. Harris ended the game with 5 receptions for 127 yards and two touchdowns. He could push Kevin Ogletree for the third wide receiver spot as the preseason continues.
-The backup offensive lineman did not do a great job of protecting Stephen McGee at times. Depth on the line should be a concern. When they did protect McGee he played well and seemed to have more confidence as he threw for 208 yards and three touchdowns against the Broncos.
These are just a few of my thoughts coming out of the first preseason game. I love that there is competition at certain positions and that the team is open to that since in past years it seemed it was never that way. I look forward to the position battles continuing and what the final roster will look like once the regular season starts. Next up for the Cowboys is San Diego next Sunday night at Cowboys Stadium.