The lead story for the game, unfortunately, appears to be a potentially torn ACL for John Phillips. It's a real shame, as he has become an important member of the offense, both because he is such an excellent blocker and because he is so versatile. He improved dramatically as a receiver - he had 60 yards tonight before going out in the first half - and he also serves as an H-back and a backup fullback. We can only hope that initial fears aren't realized and that his knee injury is just a sprain. Kevin Brock, who would be next in line in front of Scott Sicko as the third tight end, also injured his ankle early in the game.
I wouldn't go so far as to say that this group dominated the Bengals line, but I don't think that this game did anything to dampen enthusiasm for Cowboys backup defensive ends Stephen Bowen and Jason Hatcher and backup outside linebackers Brandon Williams and Victor Butler. Bowen terrorized Cincy with his pass rush in the first half and Hatcher reached the QB twice himself in nickel formations. Butler and Williams gave Bengals backups trouble.
Williams and Brandon Sharpe both made fine plays in short coverage, picking off Jordan Palmer by jumping into zones. Their returns accounted for all ten Cowboys second half points.
Josh Brent didn't disappoint, either, as he gave the Bengals interior trouble most of the night. He was also the guy who jumped on the fumble. He looks more and more like a lock to make the roster.
The Cowboys may have finally drafted and developed a good tackle in Doug Free. That's obviously huge, but their other young offensive linemen struggled mightily. Pat McQuistan saw defenders blow right past him at right guard on two occasions, one resulting in a sack and the other in a premature throw ending a drive. Robert Brewster also had his struggles. Sam Young did make two nice run blocks for Tashard Choice early, but as a group they had a rough night.
I'm not sure how we can feel any better about David Buehler or Stephen McGee after this game.
Buehler made his three short field goals but missed badly left on a 49 yarder. And why in the world did Wade Phillips punt from the Bengals 31 with about ten minutes left? Is he really more interested in winning that game or working his punt coverage team than giving Buehler a second chance at something other than a chip shot? How many more chances will he get this preseason, and how could you pass that opportunity up? That was a big mistake in my book.
McGee, sigh. First off, it is not terribly fair to judge him behind an overmatched line, and he did make some nice throws. But he has glaring issues in his timing and footwork, and his greatest weakness, slow processing, was glaring again. He will get a lot of work this summer, and he needs it.
We saw more of Teddy Williams than I expected. He pushed the defender into Danny McCray negating what would have been an interference penalty and - if Dallas had been unlucky - could have led to a turnover. He was up and down defensively, looking a little lost on some occasions, trailing his man on others, but breaking hard on a couple of balls, including a nice breakup.
Barry Church had some problems in coverage. He broke slowly on one occasion and seeing an interception go through his hands on a deflection. He also received a butt chewing from Dave Campo after the Bengals touchdown.
I don't know if either actually had these assignments, but Choice and Chris Gronkowski both fanned on defenders running free in the backfield. Choice didn't catch a blitzer after swinging too wide, and Gronkowski couldn't get to a defender who stopped a run for a big loss late in the game.
Jesse Holley held his man on a punt return, but he also stood out in coverage. I don't think that Cletis Gordon offers a whole lot in the return game. Jordan Shipley, however, does.