With the seven Hall of Fame candidates already inducted it was time for the traditional Hall of Fame game. The Cowboys had the privilege to take on the Cincinnati Bengals. With some familiar faces on the opposite sideline the Cowboys wanted to get a quick look at their starters and a good long look at some of the depth that they have. In the end the score favored the Cowboys, not that it really matters. While head coach Wade Phillips will be happy with the win, it is the opportunity to watch the young guys that the Cowboys coaching staff was after.
The game started well with CFL standout Titus Ryan returning the opening kickoff 38 yards. The Cowboys 1st team offence then drove down the field for what would end up being a field goal. Romo and crew picked up right where they left off last season, having no problem getting to the redzone, and then just like last year, stalling out. Felix Jones had a fumble that was erased thanks to an offside penalty on the Bengals. The Cowboys then ran three straight pass plays from the 5-yard line which yielded nothing. Left-Tackle Doug Free had a great drive mauling pass rush specialist Antwan Odom. Romo looked sharp when he had time. The biggest surprise of the first quarter had to be the play of backup TE John Phillips. Phillips had two great catches that led to first down. He also did what he does best and that is block. He had a couple of great blocks spring Tashard Choice for a couple of decent runs.
While the first team only played one series on both sides of the ball, the defence dominated the bengals allowing only one first down one a 12-yard completion to former Cowboy Terrell Owens.
Once the second team entered the game, the execution for both teams dropped off. The Cowboys defense was very tough for the entire second half. DE Stephen Bowen stood out for the Cowboys getting pressure consistently on both Bengal quarterbacks. OLB Victor Butler also showed his great speed racing down a Bengal running-back after coming all the way across the line.
Tashard Choice looked really good running the ball for the Cowboys breaking off a couple of really good runs. Third-string quarterback Stephen McGee took over after Jon Kitna was largely ineffective through 4 series. McGee showed flashes of potential but also his inexperience.
The first half ended with K David Buehler being the difference with two field-goals, and the Cowboys defence shutting out the Bengals.
The third quarter started off with some promise after the Cowboys held the Bengals to a three and out to begin the half, Stephen McGee took the team on a decent drive that ended with a missed 49-yard field-goal from Buehler. The Cowboys caught a break when LB Brandon Williams, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, picked off Bengals quarterback Jordan Palmer and returned the ball to the Bengals 9 yard-line. McGee perpetuated the Cowboys struggles by not capitalizing in the redzone. Buehler came in and finished the drive with a 23-yard field-goal.
The game got a little sloppy with some penalties and with the young players eager to make an impression losing their discipline. The game slowed down even more and seemed to crawl until free agent rookie LB Brandon Sharpe picked off Jordan Palmer and ran the ball 11 yards into the endzone for the game’s only touchdown.
The Bengals scored a late touchdown, but for the most part the game was over. It was not the prettiest of games but the Cowboys staff should get a good read on some of the unknown players on the roster.
Players Who Stood Out To Me:
John Phillips – The 3rd string TE had a great game both catching and blocking. He did leave with a minor knee injury and will be re-examined on Monday.
Tashard Choice – The 3rd part of the Cowboys “three headed monster” at running-back had a solid game and a couple of really impressive runs with the ball.
Stephen Bowen – Marcus Spears’ backup had a great game putting a lot of pressure on the Bengals first and second team players.
Linebacking Core – The entire Cowboys linebacking core had a great game. From the starters all through the backups, they all played very well.
Players Who Failed To Impress:
Alex Barron – Trying to compete for the starting LT spot, Barron was schooled by the Bengals backup DE Fanene.
2nd & 3rd Sting Offensive Line – This whole unit seemed to struggle against the Bengals backups.
Jamar Wall – While it sounds like he is having a decent camp, the rookie CB got picked on quite a bit during the game and did not step up once.C