Five thoughts on Cowboys' preseason win over Dolphins
Most of the Cowboys' starters weren't on the field for Sunday night's preseason opener, so evaluating the team's depth was the focus against the Miami Dolphins.
Here are my five thoughts on the Cowboys' 24-20 victory in the Hall of Fame game.
1. The story of the night was the Cowboys' defense. In the first showing of Monte Kiffin's new 4-3 scheme, there were sacks, turnovers, a defensive touchdown and only three points allowed during the first half.
"It's been fun to watch," Tony Dungy, the man who Kiffin coached under in Tampa Bay, said at halftime. "It's paying off for them." During a halftime interview, Dungy said the Tampa-2 scheme needs three things: Pass-rushing up front, linebackers who can create takeaways and corners who can be sound, all-around players.
The big names weren't out there but the scheme looked pretty solid for a team that hasn't had much time to transition over from the 3-4 alignment they had run under Rob Ryan.
2. Defensive ends Kyle Wilber and Ben Bass each looked good at times, but the most impressive player on the Cowboys defensive line was George Selvie. Dallas needed depth at defensive end after Tyrone Crawford tore his Achilles tendon during the first practice of training camp, so the team added Selvie, a seventh-round draft pick in 2010. The former South Florida standout routinely had his way with Dolphins tackle Dallas Thomas, the 77th overall pick in this year's draft. Selvie had a pair of sacks on Sunday, looking a lot like he did during his sophomore season of college when he finished with 14 sacks. The 6-4, 270-pounder has three career NFL sacks and played two years in Jacksonville, one year in Carolina and one year in St. Louis.
3. The biggest individual play of the game was made in the second quarter by Cowboys outside linebacker DeVonte Holloman. The sixth-round pick in this year's draft intercepted Dolphins backup quarterback Matt Moore near the Cowboys 25-yard-line and returned it for a 75-yard score. Not a bad first preseason game for a guy trying to make the team as a special teams contributor. Moore has started 25 NFL games over his six-year career, so it's not like Holloman picked-off a practice squad QB with no NFL experience.
4. Bill Callahan seemed focused on establishing the running game Sunday night. That was to be expected from Callahan in his first season as the Cowboys' play-caller. There also isn't much by way of the passing game when you're without Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Jason Witten. But the group performed well, rushing for 97 yards in the first half. Pretty good for a team that averaged 79.1 rushing yards per game last season. More important, Lance Dunbar, Phillip Tanner, Joseph Randle and Kendial Lawrence all looked good at times.
5. For the most part, there didn't seem to be many new injuries. Safety Matt Johnson, who missed all of last season with multiple hamstring injuries, exited in the second half to have X-rays on his left ankle. NBC reported that Johnson was expected to return. However, I never saw the second-year safety back on the field. Bass appeared to injure his knee while colliding with Wilber in the first half but Bass returned a few plays later and seemed to be fine.
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