DALLAS — The Dallas Cowboys put forth a strong performance in winning their third and final exhibition game over the Seattle Seahawks 27-26. With the win, the Cowboys finished the preseason at 2-1, while looking more prepared for the regular season than they have in recent summers.
The preseason record is meaningless but doesn’t mean that the game held no importance. There were jobs on the line in the preseason finale and the Cowboys had some impressive outings in the win.
Here are four key observations from a close win over the Seahawks:
Will Grier looks like QB No. 2
The Cowboys came into training camp with veteran quarterback Cooper Rush as the leading candidate to resume his spot behind starting quarterback Dak Prescott. Rush’s grip on the job seemed firm after last season when he led the Cowboys to a win on the road with Prescott shelved.
That hold on the backup job appears to have vanished, and Grier looked like the better option in Week 3 of the preseason. Grier threw for just 88 yards behind the makeshift offensive line trying to sort out their issues, but also had two impressive touchdown passes.
The first score was on a play fake where Grier fooled the Seattle defense and hit wide open receiver Simi Fehoko in the back of the end zone. It’s a staple play in Kellen Moore’s offense and Grier executed it perfectly.
Grier’s second touchdown pass came while escaping pressure in the pocket, rolling to his left, and throwing a strike to wide receiver Brandon Smith near the sideline. The pass had to be flawless to give Smith a chance and it was on the money.
The two scores emphasized Grier’s ability to move outside the pocket, something he does much better than Rush. It’s also likely going to be a necessity this year behind rebuilding the offensive line.
Grier looks like he’s done enough to win the backup gig, but there’s always the possibility that the Cowboys keep three quarterbacks which could help Rush retain his roster spot.
Sam Williams is the real deal
After losing out on re-signing defensive end Randy Gregory, the Cowboys used a second-round pick on pass rusher Sam Williams. The rookie has looked solid in training camp, but he had his best preseason game against the Seahawks.
Williams got his first NFL sack and was constantly pressuring the Seahawks quarterbacks, adding a QB hit in the game. The strength of Williams’ game is his power, which was how he picked up the sack, but his speed off the ball was on display as well.
The edge rusher out of Mississippi was also stout in the run game, adding two tackles for a loss.
Williams played most of the game, a sign that the team wanted to see what he was capable of, and the rookie came through with flying colors.
It appears that the defense will be counting on Williams more than anticipated, and he looked like a real contributor against the Seahawks, who played their starting offensive line.
Cowboys have some serious safety depth
Dallas has been looking for quality safety play for some time and has rarely had much depth since the days of Darren Woodson and Roy Williams lining up as the last line of defense. The final exhibition game proved that the Cowboys have the best group of safeties that they’ve had in years.
Safety Israel Mukuamu continued his strong camp and preseason with an interception in his second straight game. Mukuamu has been turning heads in his second year and his break on the ball to get the pick was an impressive play. There should be no doubt that Mukuamu has earned his way onto the 53-man roster and might be earning a larger role.
Another solid performer in the game was undrafted free agent Markquese Bell, who also added an interception. Bell had four tackles and a pass defense to cap off a good night as well.
With Bell and Mukuamu making strong impacts in their final showcase, the Cowboys have five safeties who could make the roster. That’s not usually the case in Dallas.
Offensive line remains a work in progress
This isn’t a shock for anyone who has been paying attention, but the Cowboys are thin along the offensive line. The team used their second and third-string linemen exclusively to try and find the best options against the Seahawks, and they came away with uneven results.
Swing tackle candidate Josh Ball had his best preseason game, but he was far from perfect. If the Cowboys were forced to play Ball, he looked more comfortable on the right side than he did at left tackle, but he still needs more work.
Backup center and guard Matt Farniok remains the best backup offensive lineman on the interior and the offense wouldn’t suffer much if he was forced into duty.
However, the rest of the unit wasn’t nearly good enough. Tackle Aviante Collins left much to be desired in his final bid to squeak his way onto the roster, while guards Braylon Jones and Isaac Alarcon both struggled. The Cowboys quarterbacks were scrambling too much to execute plays and sustain drives and were ultimately sacked three times.
Though they came away with the win, the contest showed more than ever that the Cowboys need to find help on the offensive line before the season begins.
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