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It’s a good thing preseason games don’t towards end of the year standings. The Dallas Cowboys fell 23-6 to the San Fransisco 49ers Sunday evening.

The loss dropped their preseason record to 0-2. But while the final score looked ugly there should be no panicking going on it Cowboys Nation.

We are just one year removed from a winless preseason in which the team looked like a complete mess. Admittedly this poor play did indeed carry into the first week of the regular season but the Cowboys quickly got things on track and finished the regular season 12-4.

The game certainly wasn’t pretty but there were some encouraging moments. Here are some quick thoughts on what the Cowboys did at Levi’s Stadium.

The Good

  • Randy Gregory jumped off the screen throughout the first half. Gregory picked up his second sack in as many games and forced a pair of holding penalties. In addition Gregory had multiple pressures that forced check down throws by the 49er quarterbacks.
  • The secondary had a strong game. The 49ers top two QBs Collin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert combined to go 8/11 for 34 yards. There were no passing plays over 10 yards and the secondary did a very nice job of wrapping up quickly.
  • The defensive line depth is scary. If there is one position group that the Cowboys could go long on it is the defensive line. Mainly because the cuts are going to be agonizingly difficult. Hardy, Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, Gregory, Mincey, Jack Crawford, Gardener, Coleman, Edwards, Russell and Bishop is an impressive group of guys. That’s not even including the presumed top two options at the 1-tech position Nick Hayden and Terrell McClain. Cowboys fans may finally get their wish as it’s becoming more and more possible that Hayden could lose his starting spot.
  • As a whole the defense played impressively. Last season the mantra of the defense was bend but don’t break. This was seen on the 49ers first drive. Starting from great field position the 49ers got a couple nice runs from Carlos Hyde, but the Cowboys held tight and forced a field goal try. Overall, the Cowboys defense did not yield a touchdown and gave up only nine points.

The Bad

  • The Cowboys leaky run defense. Much like last preseason the Cowboys were gashed by the opposing rushing attack. Hyde, Mike Davis and Jarryd Hayne all finished with a double digit rush and over 4 yards per carry. For as good as the passing defense was, the rushing defense was equally bad. Granted the Cowboys did not dress Sean Lee, Anthony Hitchens or Rolando McClain.
  • Dan Bailey misses his only field goal. You know things aren’t going well when Bailey misses a 43 yard field goal. That being said, it’s a good problem to have when a miss from that distance is a shocking occurrence.
  • Still no answer to the running back question. With the injuries along the offensive line the evaluation of the running backs becomes more difficult. Darren McFadden had three carries for four yards but he was met in the backfield a couple of times. Joseph Randle made some impressive cuts and finished with 30 yards on seven attempts.

The Ugly

  • First and foremost the special teams play was atrocious. The Cowboys gave up a ton of yards on punt coverage, Devin Street ran into Lucky Whitehead while he tried to call for a fair catch and Tom Hornsey had a punt blocked which ended up in a touchdown. Overall it was a terrible showing. However, most of the guys playing punt coverage are not going to be making the 53 man roster. The Cowboys special teams coach, Rich Bisaccia, is one of the best in the league and he will have his unit ready to go for week one. Keep in mind the special teams looked just as bad a year ago.
  • The quarterback play behind Tony Romo. If anything were to happen to Romo this season the Cowboys hopes will be crushed. Brandon Weeden was inaccurate and ineffective before heading to the locker room to be tested for a concussion. But the more alarming aspect was the play of Dustin Vaughan. Heading into camp there was hope that Vaughan could unseat Weeden as Romo’s backup. He was given plenty of opportunities to show what he could do and he came up flat. Less than 50 percent pass completion and two awful picks, including one that was brought back for a score, were the low lights of Vaughan’s night.

Overall, the preseason is a time to try players out in roles. This is why we should really only concentrate on the individual side of the game. The final score is irrelevant. What matters is that this coaching staff is learning a lot about the roster and what each player is capable of. I’ll take that knowledge over a meaningless W every week.

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    The coaches I hate in my life were the guys who allowed me to be as mediocre as mediocre can be. The guys I love to this very day – they rode my ass every day. They grinded me. It was hard. They made me better.

    — Jason Garrett