CANTON, OH - AUGUST 4: Running back Kendial Lawrence #28 of the Dallas Cowboys runs in a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Fawcett Stadium on August 4, 2013 in Canton, Ohio. The Cowboys defeated the Dolphins 24-20. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
As much as the Cowboys were dominant on the ground in the Hall of Fame Game, they were that inept on Friday night in Oakland. DeMarco Murray, Lance Dunbar, Phillip Tanner, and Joseph Randle totaled just 70 yards rushing on 20 attempts—3.5 YPC. The good news is that Murray and Randle combined for 29 yards on just five carries, and the first-team offensive line looked okay. Here are seven other thoughts from last night’s game.
- Tony Romo was able to get hot early, completing six of his eight passes for 88 yards. Dez Bryant caught three of those passes for 55 yards, including one on a busted sight adjustment. The Cowboys were actually supposed to run the ball, but Romo pulled up to throw hot to Bryant, who was covered. Bryant snuck behind the cornerback and Romo hit him, so the play ended up looking like a sluggo route.
- If I were defending Bryant, I’d almost never play in a press position. He’s so good at attacking the football that Romo should target him any time the cornerback is up in his face and has to turn his back to the ball. Bryant is also sneaky good at slipping off of press coverage.
- Jason Witten was called for an early holding penalty. He’s still a good blocker, but his in-line play has deteriorated over the past few seasons. Martellus Bennett was far superior in the running game when he was here. Last year, defenses sacked Romo on 5.2 percent of his dropbacks, but 7.1 percent of them when Witten stayed in to block.
- We saw more screens for Dallas, and that’s a welcome sight. Remember, the Cowboys ran eight (yes, eight!) total screens to running backs in 2012. That’s probably the easiest way to take pressure off of the offensive line.
- After the 2012 season, I published an article called “Cowboys Rarely Ran Outside Tackles in 2012”—pretty self-explanatory. Dallas ran inside the tackles 237 times in 2012, but only 89 of their runs were outside. It’s much different this year with Bill Callahan calling the plays, as it should be. The rate of five, 10, and 20-yard runs has always been much higher for Dallas when they get the ball to the perimeter.
- The Cowboys decided to kick a field goal on fourth-and-1 at the Raiders’ eight-yard line. I’d be pretty upset about that call if this were a regular season game, so I really hope the Cowboys would have kept their offense on the field. Just by going for a field goal, the ‘Boys lost more than one expected point and their chances of winning decreased by four percent. That’s just from the decision to kick the field goal, not the fact that it ended up being blocked. In normal game situations, an average NFL offenses should go for it up until fourth-and-five in that range.
- J.J. Wilcox was on his game, making five tackles and a beautiful interception in the end zone. That’s the kind of instinctual play I liked when I posted my pre-draft Wilcox scouting report. It was great to see him play well after being called out by Jason Garrett earlier this week.
Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.
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