Pre-season football isn’t just great

DENVER – Welcome to the first game of preseason, when nothing is as good as it seems, nor as bad as it seems.

And for the Dallas Cowboys here at Mile High, who lost 17-7 to the Denver Broncos, that seemed pretty hard to watch.

The Cowboys have trouble maintaining drives, only three of 10 possessions ending up on Denver’s side of the 50, only one in the end zone with 4:46 in the game, then one on an interception and one on a missed 56-yard field goal attempt.

Then there were the penalties, chunks of them. The Cowboys waved for 22 of them while only 17 counted, for 129 total yards.

And there were the big games that gave up in the passing game, the Broncos totaling 155 of their 285 yards, passing just six passing games, 42, 40, 24, 19, 17 and 13, winning just 169 of their other 57 games from scramble. Imagine that.

But before you head to the windowsill, please remember: The Cowboys started the game with just six would-be starters on the field, four on offense, three of those on the offensive line, but one will only start for full time his sophomore year, one a raw rookie and the other a full-time starter for the first time in his career.

Then on defense just two would-be starters, although one probably won’t.

And if you skim the official playbook, by my count 22 potential starters or guys considered prominent players like Jourdan Lewis, Tony Pollard and Noah Brown might as well have stayed at Oxnard at that point, where the team returned around 3 :30 Sunday morning for the final stretch of camp there, if not for Thursday’s valuable practice with the Broncos.

Look, we’re not talking about Dak, Zeke, Zack, Tyron, CeeDee, Dalton Schultz, Micah, Jayron Kearse, D-Law, Diggs, AB, LVE, Dono, Hooker and not even Will Grier or Jabril Cox or Anthony Barr or Gallup or James Washington underneath.

And to make things fair, the Broncos had just one starter on the field early on and took no chances even with their best players.

I bet they weren’t happy that the Cowboys rushed for 145 yards or that their offense was a whopping 39 yards and 22 carries, um, 1.8 per carry. Only four of the seven guys who ran the football finished with positive running totals and one of those just three yards.

But hey, they won, whatever that’s worth.

Why did QB1 wait to play so early?

“I’m not a spectator, I’m not a spectator,” Dak said, probably knowing he won’t be playing the Chargers next Saturday either. “It caught me early on.

“You know, I thought I was going to want to work out, and the more I watch, I don’t want to work out.”

Mike McCarthy, the coach, had to put up with it too, but he knew young guys like Tyler Smith and Sam Williams and Jalen Tolbert and Jason Ferguson, De’Ron Bland, Devin Harper and John Ridgeway all along. The 2022 Cowboys draft picks are also playing their first NFL snaps, albeit in preseason. The same goes for Josh Ball, Markquese Bell, Dennis Houston, Peyton Hendershot and Alex Lindstrom to name a few.

“That’s exactly what we needed,” McCarthy said. “There are plays you make or you don’t make, but I’m not too attached to them.

Just the necessary evils of the preseason of just having to build a 53-man roster, having a salary cap where nobody wants to risk those frontline players getting injured while they’re basically taking practice snaps that can’t win and defeats count. How would you like the Jets to be today knowing their suspected starting quarterback Zack Wilson will be out for two to four weeks if he needs his knee. Or Cleveland losing its starting center Nick Harris in the second game of a preseason game for the season.

This is the wrestling match the NFL faces. Teams know they need preseason games to prepare for a season to better evaluate a 90-man roster, but have reached an agreement with the NFLPA to reduce the amount of work players do in the offseason are also exposed during training camp training.

You know the Cowboys only practiced in pads for the eighth time Saturday night, and not only at mile-high altitude, but also in heavy rain early in the third quarter. Why bet the Cowboys got half as much practice in pads in the two weeks leading up to Super Bowl XXVII?

That’s why Thursday’s practice against the Broncos and the upcoming two with the Chargers this week are so important to the Cowboys’ preparation. Practice in pads but in a controlled environment. Not everything like those preseason games.

“They need more of that game action,” Dak said of the younger players, noting that this was his first time training against another team and he was a fan of the concept.

Why do you guarantee Dak, Zeke and her more snaps in this practice session than if they played in front of an announced crowd of 76,476 in that Saturday night preseason game?

And look, it wasn’t all bad. Ben DiNucci, who is considered a fourth-line quarterback and is struggling to stay on a 53-man roster, had one of his best performances, completing nine of 16 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown for a 99 QB rating, 0 graduated.

Then there was Simi Fehoko, a fifth-round pick last year who only played seven offensive snaps in his rookie season and caught that 12-yard touchdown pass. And there was an undrafted rookie running back Malik Davis, who hoisted 51 yards on eight carries and added another 16 yards with three catches. And Ferguson catches three passes for 29 yards.

Add kicker Brett Maher, who scored his extra point on his first opportunities to kick in a game or practice since joining the roster last week, starting his kickoff through the end zone for a touchdown while opposite Lirim Hajrullahu nailed a touchback on his lone kickoff, though he missed a 56-yarder when the low snap was mishandled in wet conditions.

And as for all those penalties, go back and watch this game. It was also the first game in eight months for these officials. Bet her grades won’t be great either, especially towards the end if McCarthy were handing them out. And let’s spare the undisciplined continuation of the narrative. Aside from the pre-snap penalties, these others were often the product of hitting, either when trying to block or cover, or trying too hard, like late hits in the QB.

“Believe me, no one is happy with the number of penalties today,” McCarthy said, a little irritated when comparisons were made to last year’s troubles. “It’s just where we are today. This is a training camp. This is our first preseason game.

“That’s how it works. We played against a lot of young players on Thursday and today.”

Then McCarthy finally got around to saying what he really wanted to say about all the flags: “I was a little surprised they missed so many penalties in a pre-season game.”

Especially if you go back and look at some of them.

Keep in mind, though, that no one ever said — or should have said — that this Cowboys team is a finished project. Far from it. growing pains, you know

But also remember, you don’t play all the youngsters at once when the season starts like they did on Saturday night. A few will have big roles, maybe like Tyler Smith and Tolbert and Houston. Others will be rotation players as long as the Cowboys remain relatively healthy.

Think the backup swing tackle requires attention. We still don’t know anything about the kicker. There seems to be a promise at the backup tight end. Fehoko’s performance was encouraging. But as for the obvious weaknesses on defense, we’ll see, but we don’t value many, if any, unless it’s depth in the cornerback position.

So let’s move on, get through the preseason while protecting the health of the team the best the Cowboys can. Wins and losses don’t matter. Not yet.

But continued care does.

So don’t jump yet.

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