By Zach Walker
I’d first like to start by apologizing for my bad prediction, I assumed that the Cardinals were going to get into the endzone, but the Cowboys defense weren’t having that happen. And if it weren’t for a set of buttery footballs, perhaps the first stringers could have got in the endzone. That’s not completely unbiased, the Cardinals made some plays. The Dunbar fumble was crazy though, the contortion of his body throughout that process of him wiping out was unreal. Kyle Orton looked not good, people really might need to check their thoughts of “if he has to, he can possibly win us a couple.” No, he’ll possibly keep the game competitive for the game he’ll step into, but beyond that… Let’s just say no one’s going to bet their farm on the Orton led team. The highlight of the game, on offense, was the 25-yard Dez Bryant catch on Patrick Peterson in seriously tight coverage. If Peterson was working on a player less physical than Dez, he more than likely could have jarred the ball loose, but when you get to see two of the young superstar studs go one-on-one like that, it’s a treat to watch. The game was played impressively by the Cowboys’ defense, I couldn’t help but get the feeling that the defense, as a unit, was really just waiting for the offense to show up and win the game.
The Cincinnati Bengals roll into AT&T Stadium carrying an HBO film crew and sporting a 2-0 preseason record, having beaten the Falcons and Titans. The Bengals have the number 1 (preseason) rushing offense and the number one overall offense. And with a stable of young running backs, Andy Dalton should benefit from a balanced offense and make solid downfield decisions. Dalton isn’t exactly known for just throwing errant passes, he’s more of a leader, taking what the defense is giving up. I’ve always seen Dalton as a Troy Aikman type of quarterback, his numbers aren’t going to light up the stats sheets, but he knows when to get the ball where it needs to go, and if the Bengals can continue their ground game on its current path, the Bengals could be an easy consideration for AFC North champions. Their defense was a top-10 squad a year ago, and they took a player from a division rival in James Harrison, adding a veteran presence to a mostly young front-7. Leon Hall is one of the league’s most-underrated cornerbacks, having 22 interceptions in six seasons. The Bengals know that this is their year to step up and take the division, and I think they will.
What to look for from the Bengals: Look for the Bengals to strike off of play-action, as I mentioned earlier, their run game is quite stout. Second year back Dan Herron is eyeing solid playing time and rookie Giovanni Bernard has looked like a solid draft pick. The Bengals front-4 on defense is really quite impressive: Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson, Geno Atkins, and Domata Peko are a big group and probably licking their collective chops to get after the Cowboys shuffling offensive line.
Bengals’ rookies to look for: Tyler Eifert is more of a pass-catching tight end option for Dalton than Jermaine Gresham, but with the two on the field at the same time is a potent combo. If you think kicking a field goal is a safe bet, SMU’s Margus Hunt would say otherwise, blocking 17 total attempts with 10 being field goals, the man is man, having seen him manhandle Fresno State in the Hawaii bowl, I’ll say that Hunt has possibly the most potential on the entire Bengals team (maybe A.J. Green being the exception). Gio Bernard has the moves and vision to be “the” guy for Cincinnati, but with all rookies, finding a rhythm is going to be key for him to push BenJarvis Green-Ellis for the starting job.
What to look for from the Cowboys: Two words, “Ball Security.” Interceptions really hurt, but fumbles are killers. Three fumbles, three interceptions, that’s awful. This being the dress rehearsal game, I’m expecting the first team defense to get a turnover. The Cowboys will probably try and run the ball more than they have in the last two games because the first team offense will be out there for the first half, so they’ll have time to establish a rhythm. Keep an eye out for Doug Free at guard at some point in the game, he’s played a lot better so far this preseason but he’s never played guard, we’ll see how it goes… For the second week in a row, Brandon Carr is going to have to cover a top-5 wide receiver, this time being A.J. Green.
Cowboys’ rookies to look for: Travis Frederick, just keep doing what you’re doing. Gavin Escobar had an excellent drive that he capped off with a touchdown; he needs to build off that performance. Terrance Williams can accept the blame for that play, but it was just a genuine miscommunication and Romo just over shot him, that’s preseason football, chin up and catch the next one. It’ll be great to have JJ Wilcox back, he looked sharp his last game out against the Raiders. B.W. Webb will get another shot to tighten his game up. I’d really like to see Joseph Randle get some premium reps to see what he can do when he doesn’t have to try and create his own holes, and with Dunbar out, my wish might be granted. DeVonte “that’s my ball” Holloman has shown he has the speed and knowledge to be right in the middle of the action, I might just call him “Dibs” from now on, and if he gets his hands on another ball, he might just go from a fan favorite to a down-right sensation.
Last Game’s stars: Offense: Tony Romo Defense: DeVonte Holloman Special Teams: Chris Jones
Last Game’s MVP: Tony Romo. The offense hasn’t reached the endzone yet, but Romo has moved the ball downfield with authority. His chemistry with Dez is excellent. I have no doubt that the offense is getting in the endzone versus the Bengals.
Prediction: Dallas 20 – Cincinnati 16
August 24 – 7PM – CBS