By Zach Walker
You can’t win them all. So they lost, big deal. It pointed out what they need to work on, eliminating bone head penalties that derail drives or prevents them from getting started. Getting out of the in-field of O.co is the main goal of teams visiting the Raiders home. It’s a serious injury waiting to happen. Luckily the Cowboys got out pretty much unscathed, Cole Beasley being the only one injured, which really is unfortunate because he had a hell of a game and was really starting to pull away from the other wide receiver competition. The defense looked very solid, forced a turnover on their first opportunity, Sean Lee looks like an absolute star and the rest of the first team looked good, allowing only small fries with the only blemish being when Matt Flynn picked on rookie B.W. Webb for a 17 yard gain. The second drive by the offense was more up to par with what we should expect but even that drive had two false start penalties. The best part of the game though, was the way Romo got the ball to Dez Bryant. It’s something to truly marvel at.
The Arizona Cardinals are coming off a shut-out of the Packers, if that means anything. Carson Palmer hopes to bring the same thing that Kurt Warner brought to the table, a stable, journeyman presence to help a team get to a competitive level. The difference is that Warner had skins on the walls and Palmer is possibly the most traded quarterback of all-time, which is a mystery to me because as far as I can tell Palmer has never done anything in his professional career. The Cards are still searching for a running back they can rely on. And a wide receiver that can take some heat off of Larry Fitzgerald. This offseason, the Cardinals landed a head coach who can face adverse situations and come out holding his head up. Bruce Arians did an absolutely unbelievable job last year, filling in for Chuck Pagano while he battled leukemia, what the Colts achieved was just awesome, winning nine games whilst their coach was in the hospital. Inspiring the group of young offensive players to perform the way that they did, it’s easy to see what the Cardinals saw in the potential in Arians.
What to look for from the Cardinals: Like I previously mentioned, the Cardinals have a void to fill at running back, so look for Rashard Mendenhall and rookie Stepfan Taylor to fight for starters reps for the regular season. Of course, Larry Fitzgerald is going to get targeted by Carson Palmer, but his wing-mates Andre Roberts and last year’s first round pick Michael Floyd are going to battle for the second receiver spot. The last time Patrick Peterson faced Dez Bryant, to be honest, Peterson had performed better on a play-to-play basis; and in this meaningless game for both of them, this is going to be a very tasty benchmark to stay glued to the tube for.
Arizona’s rookies to look for: Many Cowboys’ fans will remember that back in early April, Jonathan Cooper was on their short list for the Cowboys’ first round pick, in reality Cooper came off the board early. Kevin Minter is an undersized linebacker that plays big and likes to pop running backs for little to no gain. Tyrann Mathieu had a supreme showing against Green Bay and will look to jump routes against the Cowboys. As mentioned, Stepfan Taylor, out of Stanford will look to push Mendenhall for good carries. I thought Taylor was the best running back in the draft.
What to look for from the Cowboys: Penalties crippled the Cowboys first team offense, as it has before and, be serious, will happen again. The first team will get slightly more rep work, my guess is that a stronger dose of DeMarco Murray is on tap, but as long as Tony Romo is in the game, don’t expect a hand-off/dink-and-dunk fest, he is the life blood of this engine. The linebackers should get a good showing with the Cardinals looking to sort out their running backs and with handling tight end Rob Housler.
Dallas’ rookies to look for: Travis Frederick has been as solid as a rookie can look through two preseason games. I’m underselling him; actually, he’s been great. Gavin Escobar has not made a single impact through two games, but with Cole Beasley out, maybe Kyle Orton will go through him to pick up a couple of first downs. B.W. Webb needs a bounce-back performance, he wasn’t terrible in coverage, just bad, but when you muff a punt, you better hope for a redemption opportunity. JJ Wilcox had a shinning performance that capped off with an interception in the endzone; I’d like to see him start to stack solid outings. Joseph Randle needs to start going north-and-south. DeVonte Holloman had a solid showing and should look to continue on path. Undrafted Linebackers Taylor Reed and Brandon Magee have each showed they can plug up, but Reed has shown more.
Last Game’s Stars: Offense: Lance Dunbar; Defense: JJ Wilcox; Special Teams: Dan Bailey
Last Game’s MVP: Kicker – Dan Bailey: Not just for the straight down the middle field goal, but for the true most valuable player fact of: When Bailey hit the ground and was getting up slowly and gingerly, the “no, no, NO!” yelling and scared butt clinching and isn’t that the true meaning of most valuable player?
Prediction: Dallas 17 Arizona 18 – A late two-point conversion puts the Red Birds up to finish the game.
August 17 – 3:30 CST – CBS
U of Phoenix Stadium