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Some Fairly Obvious Observations From The Cowboys' First Preseason Loss

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1. Phew, it doesn't appear that Dallas suffered any additional serious injuries. After losing a key offensive player Sunday and entering the game missing about a fifth of the roster, a Mike Hamlin neck issue appeared to be the most serious injury. Tony Romo did not return to the field after halftime for most of the third quarter, and there was conjecture that he was feeling one of his four sacks, but the Cowboys denied that he had suffered an injury.

2. The Cowboys can't afford to dump Patrick Crayton. Sam Hurd and Kevin Ogletree are NFL receivers, but Dallas needs Crayton. There is no evidence that Hurd or Ogletree can constently get open or handle physical defenders, so the real depth at receiver is essentially four - and that's counting Roy Williams and a rookie. John Phillips' injury takes away a budding possession option, and Tony Romo does not appear to trust Martellus Bennett just yet. I don't consider Crayton a game breaker, but he is a playmaker in the third receiver role. With one injury to Miles Austin, Williams or Dez Bryant - and Bryant is already missing most of camp - things would get pretty scary without Crayton

3. Jerry Jones said on the radio before the game that unless something big happens (a string of misses?), David Buehler will be the team's kicker in Washington on September 12, and his performance tonight was worthy. He made all three field goals, and his 42 yard long was right down the middle. And boy can he kick off.

4. I'm no expert on offensive line play, but I would be terrified of a scenario that sees Robert Brewster on the field at tackle this season. He's essentially a rookie, so maybe there is development potential in him, but he would be a useless member of the 53-man roster this season. And on a similar note, I'm not sure how you can warrant Pat McQuistan making the roster once again. Give me Sam Young.

5. I will be curious to see how the Cowboys handle the nose tackle position to start the season. Josh Brent can play. His most impressive play tonight was running down Rock Cartwright on a screen 20 yards down field and making a solo tackle, and he made a few other nice plays. What I wonder, though, is whether he has enough junk in his trunk or pure skill to anchor a line this season and give Jay Ratliff some rest. The Raiders were able to turn him several times and really pushed him off of the ball on the 4th down QB sneak. Marcus Spears is an option for NT snaps, but he would have the same issue. Given what the team would like to do at some other positions, it is hard to see them keep three NTs. Siavii was pretty good tonight, himself, with a nice sack and a couple of run stops. He doesn't appear to want to go away quietly, but Brent needs to make this team one way or another. Maybe he can play some end as well?

6. Victor Butler made some plays, including getting to Kyle Boller's arm on a third down, but the young outside linebackers were largely neutralized tonight. Brandon Williams didn't have his name called all night. Leon Williams will want to forget this game. He failed to make an open field tackle in the red zone that would have resulted in a first down, except for Bryan McCann's hustle, and his dropped easy interception late in the game would have iced it.

7. I've got more to say on this later in the week, but I'm just not seeing it with Stephen McGee. If heart, guts, athleticism and care for the ball were the only key ingredients for an NFL QB, he's a great one. And he has delivered some balls this summer, which is good to see. But NFL defenses play at 500 mph, and the talent to handle that pace can't be taught. Better footwork can be, and I have to remind myself that he's still very early in the process and playing behind a line that would make anyone jumpy. But I suspect that he's missing a couple of elements - namely the type of brain that slows the game to a manageable pace and an innate feel for touch - that he will struggle to compensate for, at least on the scale of a starting or high quality backup QB.

8. I was honed in on him when he was in the game, but I did like what Chris Gronkowski did in the game, aside from a dropped pass. One can argue that he should have turned away from the sideline late in the game when the offense was looking to run out the clock on a lead, but there were about five minutes left, and his momentum was all toward the sideline. He made two nice lead blocks that I noted and showed a touch of burst on a five yard run.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.