Dallas Cowboys: Cause for Preseason Concern?
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With one more game remaining in the preseason, the Cowboys have been a hop topic for discussion since their horrible performance last Saturday in that 23-7 lost to the Houston Texans.
In that game, the Cowboys looked out of sync, discombobulated, and worn down as they were physically beaten by the Texans and raised some eye brows about the super bowl contender.
Will the red zone woes from last season carry over to this season? Can the offensive line hold up enough to keep Romo off his back? Or, can Alan Ball and Gerald Sensabaugh provide the consistent play at the safety positions this defense has desperately needed in past years.
So, here are four concerns for the Cowboys going into the last preseason game. More importantly, these are areas they need to address with the regular season right around the corner:
- Red Zone Offense
Last year, the Cowboys offense ranked second in total yards gained per game averaging 399.4. However, it did not transfer over to points as they were ranked 14th in points per game averaging 22.6.Most of the problems came from little to no production in the red zone, which has also been a problem for the Cowboys in this preseason. Coming into training camp, this one of the areas they wanted to address with the offense along with short yardage situations. So far and based off their production, they have not shown much progress.
In four preseason games, the first team offense has only scored one touchdown which came against the San Diego Chargers. Not exactly a sign of progression that you want to see if you’re a Cowboys fan.
What could be the problem? My answer would be the play selection by offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. Too many times, Garrett decides to pass out of a shotgun formation as was the case in the first preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Cowboys drove effectively down the field and stalled when they got to the red zone which happened so many times last year. They ended up going 0-for-3 with three straight pass plays out of the shotgun inside the 10-yard line and settled for a field goal.
It’s OK to be creative down in the red zone using different types of formations. However, I think the offense will be a lot more successful if Garrett calls plays more out of running formations because of the threat of all three running backs carrying the ball to go along with the plethora of talent Romo has to throw to.
If the Cowboys want to see their yards gained translate into points, Jason Garrett needs use the run more which will eventually set up play action pass opportunities in the red zone.
- Offensive Line
This group has been hit by injuries throughout the entire preseason including starters tackle Marc Colombo and guard Kyle Kosier. Also, off-season acquisition tackle Alex Barron was bothered by a sprained right ankle and missed crucial time to get acclimated to his new system.
Because of this, it gave some unproven guys an opportunity to show they can be called upon if needed in the regular season. Unfortunately for Romo, he hopes none of his starters get hurt when the season comes around because he took a pounding in the last three preseason games.
If the Cowboys want to have success this season, their number one priority should be protecting Romo because he is the most important player on this team.
- The Safety Spots
Both safety positions have been an area of concern for the Cowboys for what seems to have been an eternity. This year, they feel that free safety Alan Ball and strong safety Gerald Sensabaugh can finally provide some stability.Last season in his first year with the Cowboys, Sensabaugh showed he can be a mainstay at that position with his versatility in coverage along his hitting ability.
Ball, the cornerback turned safety, is felt that he can provide more playmaking ability on the football which has been an emphasis during training camp for the secondary. In the preseason, Ball had been playing good but did not look so well in the game against Houston. He was caught out of position with missed tackles while trying to the run and getting burned for a touchdown by wide receiver Jacoby Jones.
Behind Ball and Sensabaugh, are safeties Mike Hamlin, Barry Church, and Danny McCray. Do not expect Sensabaugh to get his spot taken by any of these guys. However, if Ball does not play up to par, expect Hamlin to get the nod at his position.
- Is David Buehler Ready?
Along with the uncertainty at the safety spots, the kicker position has been a mystery for the Cowboys in recent years. Last season, former kicker Nick Folk went from good to atrocious and was cut after the win against the New Orleans Saints in Week 15.Now, with kickoff specialist David Buehler handling all the kicking duties, the question is whether he can be an efficient and constant field goal kicker.
Well, in the preseason, Buehler has done a decent job going 6-of-7 making all of his attempts inside the 40-yard line. His lone miss was from 50 yards which sailed far left in the preseason opener. However, it’s going to be interesting to see how he performs in pressure situations when the games start to count for real.
Image Credit: Dallas News