5 Things to Take Away from Dallas Cowboys’ Second Preseason Game

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5 Things to Take Away from Dallas Cowboys Second Preseason Game

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Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Friday night, the Dallas Cowboys played their second of what will be five total preseason games against the Oakland Raiders.

Unlike the NFL's annual Hall of Fame Game last week against the Miami Dolphins, most of the Cowboys' starters on both sides of the ball played, save for any injuries.

Tony Romo saw his first action of the preseason, and so did fellow offensive teammates DeMarco Murray, Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, and Jason Witten. On the defensive side of the ball, Bruce Carter, Sean Lee, DeMarcus Ware and Brandon Carr were the notables to make their first appearances.

The Cowboy defense got off to a solid start, and the offense did as well out of the gate - although the all too familiar occurrences of false start penalties halted their opportunity to score on their second drive. Left guard Ronald Leary was called for a false start on a 3rd and 7 and Dan Bailey's 26-yard field goal was blocked.

Romo, Murray, Bryant, Austin and Witten got two series' in before their nights were over, and Romo had a very nice night - going 6-of-8 for 88 yards. Dez Bryant led the receiving group with 55 yards on three catches. Lee - playing in his first game as the true middle of the Cowboy defense - had three tackles and one sack in his lone defensive series.

Though the Cowboys had a 10-6 lead at halftime, they would ultimately lose 19-17. And though it's the preseason, there were a few things to take away from that game as both positives and negatives for the Cowboys. Here are those top five things.

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5. The Linebackers Look Fast

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Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

One of the biggest things that Monte Kiffin emphasizes in his Tampa 2 scheme is needing everyone to fly to the football - something Warren Sapp talked about on the NFL Network halftime show - with a "pack of wolves" mentality.

On the first defensive series, it was evident that the Cowboy defense, in particular the linebackers, has speed. Sean Lee is free to roam as the true middle linebacker now, and his athleticism was on display. In one series, Lee picked up three tackles and one sack, the sack coming on a play where he was unblocked coming through the gap and unloaded on Matt Flynn.

You could also see fellow 'backers Bruce Carter, Ernie Sims and Justin Durant display their speed as well. That is one of the things that caught my eye on that first possession. This linebacking group isn't the biggest, but in the Tampa 2 defense, you want linebackers with speed and athleticism.

That was certainly on display Friday night.

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4. Tony Romo Looked Healthy and in Mid-Season Form

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Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Tony Romo underwent surgery in the spring to remove a back cyst, and, though healthy enough to play last Sunday, he sat out the Hall of Fame Game.

Friday was the chance for fans to get the first glimpse of Romo and to see how he would play following the minor surgery, and he more than passed the test.

In two series, Romo went 6-for-8 for 88 yards, 55 of those to Dez Bryant. On the first play of the drive, he delivered a timely ball to Bryant on the right side for a 15-yard gain. Then two plays later he found Miles Austin on a slant across the middle for another first down. The play that stuck out for me, though, was the very next play where Dez Bryant ran a short slant inside. Romo, seeing defensive end Andre Carter in position, faked to Bryant and then reloaded to Dez on a play that scored another first down.

It's only the preseason, but it's a good sign for Cowboy fans that Romo looked healthy and focused.

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3. Dez Bryant Looks the Way We Expect Him to Look

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Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Early in his career, a lot was made about Dez Bryant's maturity issues. There was the incident at a Dallas-area mall where he had his pants too low and then the jewelry fiasco where he owed thousands of dollars.

But Bryant showed what he could really do last season, catching 92 balls for nearly 1400 yards and 12 touchdowns. This offseason, he has said that is focus and dedication is as serious as ever.

And it showed Friday night.

Bryant only played one series, but on that series had three catches for 55 yards. On the game's first play, he ran a hook on the right side against former Cowboy corner Mike Jenkins. Dez showed his speed in getting off the ball and then used his strength to shield Jenkins off to make the catch. Then a few plays later on the aforementioned play designed to be a slant showed his open field speed. He also ran his mouth a little at the Oakland defensive backs, I'm sure telling them in essence that they can't stop him. When swagger meets skill, it's a dangerous combination.

If the Cowboys are to do anything this season, they are going to need a big year from their emerging star, perhaps even bigger than his 2012 campaign. First impressions say a lot, and Bryant looked really good Friday.

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2. DeMarcus Ware Will Be the Same Force Playing Defensive End as He was as OLB

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Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

It took an extra week to see DeMarcus Ware playing defensive end in the new defensive scheme, but we got our first glimpse on Friday night. There's no question that the impact Ware will have this season will greatly affect the play of the defense.

For that potential impact, look no further than the first play of the game to see what kind of impact Ware will have this season. As always, he was quick off the ball, and he blew by Oakland's offensive tackle to stop running back Darren McFadden at the line.

Ware has always had an outstanding first step off the football, but playing defensive end allows him to play closer to the ball and get quicker jumps.

Judging by the early impression, I think it's clear that Ware will be the same force that he was at outside linebacker as he will be with his hand in the dirt.

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1. The Offensive Line is Still a Work in Progress

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Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

If the team is truly going to do anything this year, the position group that has plagued them in recent years is going to have to be solid. A lot has been made of this line. They have a rookie at center flanked by one underwhelming guard and the other unproven, and a right tackle who needs to prove himself all over again. Needless to say, the first two preseason games for this group have yielded mixed results, and that won't be good enough come September 8 when the likes of Cullen Jenkins and Justin Tuck will be salivating at the chance to get to Tony Romo.

Let's remember too, that the defensive fronts that that they have seen in the first two contests may not be Week 1 starting groups. And though the running game performed nicely last week - 34 attempts, 170 yards and two touchdowns - they dipped on Friday, as the running backs ran for 70 yards on 20 carries and just one score.

Travis Frederick, while looking smart in making the line calls and directing traffic so to speak, hasn't impressed all that much at least for me, especially being a first round pick. Some plays he holds up well and blocks his man, but other plays he gets physically overwhelmed and ends up on the ground. He also looks slow off the ball.

Doug Free has also looked a little slow off the ball, and there's one play in particular that stuck out last game. On the Cowboys' first running play of the night, they ran DeMarco Murray to the left side for five yards. While a good pickup on first down, Free's man made the tackle. It is a general rule as an offensive lineman that if the play is being run to your opposite side, there's no way your man should make the tackle. Also, when the Raiders sacked Romo, Free's guy made the play as well. It was really a coverage sack, but if you watch Free, you could see that he had given up on the play once he had made his initial block.

A lot of observers have been fine with the line's performance so far, but I would be more than cautious in making those claims, especially considering the front that they will be matched up with in Week 1, the New York Giants.

Jake Carapella is a Dallas Cowboys writer for RantSports. Follow him on twitter @JKCSports1, or add him to your network on Google.


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