SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Football returns tonight as the Dallas Cowboys take on the San Francisco 49ers in the first pre-season game at Levis Stadium in Santa Clara, California. The Cowboys and 49ers have met 15 times in the pre-season, with Dallas in the lead winning 9 of the 15 games. The Cowboys have averaged 373 scrimmage yards-per-game in 29 regular season games against the 49ers, the second most by any NFL team in history. Tonight, the Cowboys have a lot to showcase since last year’s failed 9-7 season.
Positions to focus on in tonight’s game: wide receiver, quarterback, tight end, guard, defensive end, and cornerback.
Wide Receiver: The Cowboys main issue last season was the passing game. QB Dak Prescott had issues with intangibles inside the pocket and he released the ball too late. There was no connection with receivers and during the off-season the Cowboys made that one of its top priorities, adding depth to the receiver position.
The Cowboys are the only team in the NFL heading into the 2018 season with three wide recivers who have averaged at least five yards after the catch, since the start of 2014 with Tavon Austin, Cole Beasley, and Allen Hurns. All three of those men have looked great in practice at camp, along with Michael Gallup and his ability to high-point the football. There is a lot of discussion on who will be the No.1 receiver this season. In an interview, Dak Prescott stated that his “go to guy in a critical situation” is Cole Beasley. Beasley normally plays slot on the inside but now they are moving him around as an X and Y receiver, and he will play wide as well, to help accommodate Prescott’s QB style. Pay attention to these receivers throughout pre-season, they will be weapons in the offensive scheme.
Quarterback: There is competition between Mike White and Cooper Rush for the back-up quarterback role. During pre-season will be the time to watch these two and see how they deal with pressure in a live game atmosphere. The Cowboys probably will not have Prescott on the field for long periods of time, to protect him from injury. After all, they lost Tony Romo to an injury in pre-season, however Prescott still needs to form bonds and chemistry with the new receivers and needs to at least play a series each quarter or half. He is still learning each receiver’s speed and tendencies on the field, to gauge the speed and length of his throws. He has over thrown several receivers during camp and needs the practice to learn. He is still a young QB, but is continuing to grow with experience and gaining more confidence and ease in the pocket.
Tight End: With Witten’s retirement, there is an open starting tight end position in the lineup for the first time in many years. Fourth round draft pick Dalton Schultz missed several days of practice due to the birth of his son, and Geoff Swaim and Blake Jarwin took advantage of his absence.