DENVER — The Dallas Cowboys decided to author a repeat performance of the playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers in their first preseason game of 2022. Penalties, penalties, everywhere.
After committing 14 penalties for 89 yards in that playoff loss to the Niners, the very next turn on an NFL game field saw the Cowboys out-do their January selves. 17 penalties in total, for 129 yards. Nine first half penalties. An utter lack of discipline across the board, for all four quarters, as the Cowboys lost to the Denver Broncos, 17-7.
It was, by and large, a bunch of guys who won't start for the Cowboys in 2022. And that matters a lot. But discipline is a team-wide thing. And 17 penalties in 60 minutes of football is a damning example of the lack of discipline on your football team, and doesn't provide much confidence that head coach Mike McCarthy has fixed the problem that did in his team late in the 2021 season.
But it wasn't all bad for the Cowboys in their first preseason game. Some of the positives to take away from 2022 preseason opener:
The rookie 5th-round pick out of Fresno State has been one of the darlings of camp, and showed a bit more promise in his first game action as a pro. Bland laid a big hit on Montrell Washington in the first quarter, to ensure an incompletion and a Broncos 3 & out on their first possession of the game. He also showed the ability to evade traffic inside, be decisive in getting downhill toward his man, and make a tackle for no gain, on a pass in the flat to Washington, early in the second quarter.
The Cowboys have used a mixture of Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard and Rico Dowdle with the first team offense throughout training camp, but Malik Davis showed some ability to run the football behind a Cowboys offensive line that was patched together, with their best players sitting out the preseason opener. Davis ran eight times for 51 yards, including a 16-yard run off right guard in the third quarter.
The Cowboys second-year wide receiver has been a focal point throughout camp, and was mentioned by McCarthy as a player who has blossomed during these last few weeks. He had the best play of the day for Dallas, hauling in a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, to ensure the Cowboys wouldn't get shutout.
The Cowboys first round pick in 2022 had all eyes on him throughout the night, and it was definitely a mixture of good and bad. Dallas needs Smith to earn the starting left guard position and help solidify the Dallas offensive line. He was called for a pair of holding penalties -- not a good start. But there were moments where it seemed Smith was beating the man in front of him, helping to wall off guys in pass protection, and showed some growth in his technique. There's still a long way to go for the first-year player out of Tulsa, but fortunately he's still got nearly a month to be ready for the real stuff.