On Saturday night, the Dallas Cowboys picked up right where they left off against the 49ers in the playoffs last season, committing an abundance of penalties, as in 17. Granted, there were quite a few questionable calls, but the Cowboys didn’t do themselves any favors in the discipline department.
Although the Cowboys lost to the Broncos in their preseason opener, several bright spots were encouraging to see. Let’s dive into the three standouts that popped off the screen for Dallas as the competition for roster spots heats up.
1. DaRon Bland, CB
This is a special one to see, considering I mentioned him being a sleeper pick for the Cowboys when he was selected, and wrote about how his skill set fits what defensive coordinator Dan Quinn likes.
DaRon Bland, the Cowboys’ fifth-round pick, showed his versatility by playing on the outside and in the slot, making him a depth piece at multiple positions.
Bland was not only sticky in coverage but he came up and made plays against the run. The former Fresno State Bulldog proved he can make tackles in the open field and deliver a good hit as he did on the first defensive series for the Cowboys against the Broncos.
Trevon Diggs, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis have the inside track to be the Cowboys’ top three cornerbacks. However, quality depth positions behind them are up for grabs, and Bland got off to a great start in the first preseason battle.
2. Quinton Bohanna, DT
Is that you, Big Bo?
Another welcomed and much-needed standout here. When defensive tackle Quinton Bohanna was taken in the sixth round in the 2021 NFL draft, the hope was that his 330+ plus pounds attached to a 6-foot-4 frame could serve as a gap clogger against the run. He did log 223 snaps and one start, but he couldn’t consistently make an impact.
Against the Broncos, Bohanna was active on the first series, showing his quick punch off of the line of scrimmage and power to stop a run for no gain. A series later, he showed his athleticism even for such a big man by shedding a block and chasing a running play down the line for another tackle. The Cowboys need Bohanna to be another run-stopper, which they lacked last season on the interior regularly, so his second-year jump is vital for the 2022 campaign.
3. Running Backs
The Cowboys have their top-two rushers, Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, one of the best combinations in the NFL. However, no player has seized the RB3 role, but on Saturday night, several guys played well enough to attract some eyes.
Two undrafted free agents, Malik Davis, and Aaron Shampklin showed that all you need is a chance, and not being drafted can light a fire. The former ran for 51 yards on eight carries (6.4 yards per rush), and the latter amassed 32 yards on seven attempts (4.6 yards per rush). Rico Dowdle, the man with the lead in securing a spot behind Elliott and Pollard, picked 36 yards on nine carries (4.0 yards per rush).
If this is any indication of what this position battle will be like over the next several weeks, get your popcorn ready.
Featured image via Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports