ARLINGTON — The Cowboys lost another preseason game. That shouldn’t be much of a concern, though. If you’re going to worry, worry about Zack Martin. We’ll get to that in a minute.
Dallas fell to 0-2 in the preseason by losing 21-13 to the Bengals on Saturday night at AT&T Stadium. More important, when the starters were on the field — in the first half — the Cowboys outscored Cincy 10-0.
Here are my thoughts on what I saw Saturday night.
1) First-team offense moves the ball
The first-team offense continued to impress. That group has now played four series through two preseason games. They’ve scored two touchdowns and a field goal. Pretty good total. Dak Prescott during that stretch: 13 of 18 passing, 125 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 128.2 passer rating. Prescott was 10 of 15 passing for 86 yards and one touchdown on a nice rollout to his left, finding Terrance Williams in the front of the endzone Saturday night. Ezekiel Elliott did not play, as expected, but Rod Smith performed well as the starting back. Smith only averaged 3.8 yards per carry, but he had an impressive 16-yard run to go along with a 19-yard reception, the longest passing play for the first team.
That group is expected to play most of the first half in their regular season dress rehearsal against Arizona on Aug. 26.
“I think we did a good job moving the ball,” Williams said. “Dak did a good job taking what the defense was giving him. The first drive stalled, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t play good football because we still kept the ball, and Dak managed to move the offense down the field. I thought Rod did a good job of running and we all came out there blocking. The more that we got in the groove of the game, the more we felt what the defense was doing.”
2) Martin’s knee injury most concerning
After about an hour it appeared this one was going to be all about survival. Several injuries occurred throughout the game, the most concerning being suffered by All-Pro right guard Zack Martin. The 2014 first-round pick was slow to come off the field and immediately went to the medical tent once he reached the sideline after taking a shot to his left knee. After about 10 minutes of evaluation in the tent, Martin headed to the locker room for further testing. The good news is that Martin returned to the sideline in street clothes in the fourth quarter. He appeared to be in good spirits, joking with teammates, Sean Lee, Cole Beasley and Jeff Heath for a while. Jerry Jones and Dak Prescott felt optimistic about the injury Martin suffered. “I’ll sleep good tonight,” Jones said. Rookie RB Bo Scarbrough exited with a hip injury. Veteran DT Datone Jones (left knee) and second-year safety Xavier Woods (hamstring) both exited early as well. Safety Jameill Showers is believed to have suffered a serious knee injury.
3) Gregory gets first-team snaps
The coaching staff planned to get Randy Gregory roughly 10 snaps Saturday night. He finished with just that, working in pass-rushing situations with the first-team. Gregory looked fresh and athletic but a little unpolished as he rushed from the right end. When Gregory would come on the field, Tyrone Crawford would move inside to tackle with DeMarcus Lawrence remaining at left end. It was a good start for Gregory, who the Cowboys will use in a similar role during the season as long as he can avoid any problems off the field. Jerry Jones spoke highly of seeing Gregory back on the field for the first time since Jan. 1, 2017, but the Cowboys owner added: “his road is still ahead of him and we got to be cautious about how we get excited about him. It sure is good to see him getting to this particular point, but he’s involved in the kind of challenge that’s a day to day thing.”
“It felt good,” Gregory said. “It felt like being at home, where I belong. I had fun in my short time out there, but I expect more from myself. I wasn’t gassed at all. It’s an experience I’ve been looking forward to for a while. I had fun.”
4) Awuzie’s pick the play of the game
Chidobe Awuzie had the defensive play of the night, intercepting a pass right before halftime. Last-year’s second-round pick tipped the ball with his right hand at the top of his vertical jump, knocking it to himself as he hit the turf. It’s probably the most impressive interception by a Dallas defensive back in the last five-plus years. It’s only preseason, but it’s one example of why I think Awuzie will lead this year’s team in interception.
“I think we did an amazing job,” Awuzie said. “All credit goes to our coaches and our group. Really the mental part of the games. I think we were prepared for every single route that they did, and I think that (is credit) to Coach Richard, Coach Jackson, Coach Marinelli and Coach Bloom for getting us ready for this game.”
5) Charlton continues to show improvement
Taco Charlton made several nice plays. Last-year’s first-round pick forced a fumble, recorded a sack and finished with three tackles while playing roughly three quarters. Charlton, who continues to work with the second-team at left end, had one pass deflection and one quarterback hit in the preseason opener. He finished his rookie season with 19 tackles and three sacks in 16 games. He’s expected to get a significant amount of snaps this season playing behind DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford in Rod Marinelli’s defensive line rotation.
“Me personally, I know how good I am,” Charlton said. “My confidence never wavered. I know how good I can be and I know how hard I work. I’m going to keep working hard and see where it gets me.”