The Dallas Cowboys opened their preseason on the road against the Oakland Raiders in less than impressive fashion. America’s Team was only able to tally a field goal in this offensively-lacking matchup, but miraculously, three points was enough to solidify a victory.
The game did not offer much in entertainment, but brought many concerns to the forefront for the Cowboys as they move forward with the regular season just a few weeks away.
It’s difficult to properly evaluate a team in their first preseason game as many of the kinks are being worked out, but there were some things to note in their performance.
Here is a look at five things we learned about the Cowboys from their 3-0 win on Monday:
1. The Offensive Line is Atrocious
The Cowboys’ offensive line has been bad before, but it was downright awful against the Raiders on Monday Night Football. The first team offense ran 11 plays and gained just 22 yards with Tony Romo behind center; they picked up just one first down.
On one drive, the offensive line let Lamar Houston right in leaving Romo hanging out to dry. Fortunately, the quarterback had the wherewithal and elusiveness to narrowly escape the pass-rushers grasps and stay on his feet.
Unfortunately, Romo ate turf on the next play when defensive end Tommy Harris blew right through the middle in similar fashion and laid a good hit on him.
This kind of offensive line play is not something that will lead to consistent success during the regular season. It’s very evident this group and offensive line coach Bill Callahan have their work cut out for them in the pass protection department.
2. Tony Romo Does Not Have to Worry About Kyle Orton
Look, there is a reason the Denver Broncos felt comfortable replacing Orton with Tim Tebow. Yes, the Tebowmaniacs essentially forced their savior behind center, but Orton simply is not a starting quarterback in the NFL.
His terrible pass directly into the hands of a black jersey—Raiders defensive back Mike Mitchell—was a prime example of why that is. Of course, he has great arm strength, but his accuracy and poor decision making wipe away everything his arm strength enables him to do as a passer.
Orton’s career as a starter hinged on the fact that the Chicago Bears and Broncos were okay with him being just good enough. That’s why he’s 35-34 (6-15 in the past three seasons) in his career. But Orton isn’t good enough anymore; not for Denver and certainly not in Dallas.
All the murmurs about Orton being any kind of threat to Romo were laughable to begin with; his mediocre performance against the Raiders makes that a certainty.
3. The Cowboys Offense Needs to Improve ASAP!
Not to take anything away from the Raiders defense, but the Cowboys offense was horribly unpleasant to watch. Of course, the atrocious offensive line helped that cause, but whether it was passing or rushing the football, the Cowboys had nothing.
DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones ran the ball just two times each, accounting for minimal gains. Romo was 3-of-6 passing for 30 yards and the backups were not much better.
As a result, three measly points lit up the scoreboard in Oakland. One field goal! To put it in perspective, the Raiders finished 29th in the NFL each of the past two seasons with an average of 25.1 points allowed per game. Yet, Dallas, with a high-powered offense full of big names like Romo, Murray, Dez Bryant and Jason Whitten could not muscle much of anything in three possessions.
To think this continues appears irrational, but it must be a concern that the Cowboys offense was unable to get anything going on three opportunities with the football even if it is only the first game of the preseason. The NFC East is stocked full of offensive units able to put up points at will and the Cowboys will need to be able to keep up if they wish to be competitive this season.
4. Gerald Sensabaugh is Underrated
Though his interception had much to do with a foolish throw from Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer into double coverage, Cowboys safety Gerald Sensabaugh continues to stand out as a valuable, underrated asset in Dallas’ defensive backfield. The eight-year NFL veteran made a fantastic play on the ball, earning his place as one of few positive marks in the Cowboys’ tight victory.
The Cowboys did much to strength their secondary this offseason, adding the likes of cornerbacks Brandon Carr and rookie Morris Claiborne, but the decision to finally give their safety a long-term contract could pay dividends for defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s unit this season.
The strong safety role may be a bit of a question mark with the release of Brodney Pool and former undrafted free agent Barry Church easing into being the starter, but Sensabaugh proves to be a dependable player back there as the free safety and could have a big season in Dallas.
5. Injuries Are Impacting the Cowboys Right Now
The reality is injuries have marred the Cowboys’ entire roster. A handful of guys were unable to play in this game, including the rookie Morris Claiborne and star receiver Miles Austin, and others who did play have been hampered by injuries of their own (Dez Bryant).
All three centers are injured and the guard positions are a little out of practice as well, which could be to blame for the very obvious interior line troubles.
Most of these injuries do not appear to be anything long term. The Cowboys are not at 100 percent and, though it is not an excuse by any means, that should be taken with a grain of salt when considering the subpar performance the Cowboys displayed on Monday Night Football.