Any anxiety over missing Ezekiel Elliott for the first part of the regular season may have been quelled on Saturday in Dallas. Dak Prescott and Dez Bryant looked to be in mid-season form in their first preseason action as the Cowboys knocked off the Indianapolis Colts 24-19. Linebacker Jaylon Smith also made his highly anticipated debut for the Cowboys after missing all of his rookie season with a knee injury.
Dak Prescott And Dez Bryant Shine In First Cowboys Preseason Action
On the opening possession, Prescott marched the Cowboys right down the field, with a 32-yard pitch-and-catch to Bryant capping a 7-play, 95-yard scoring drive. A beautiful pass in between defenders that Bryant hauled in up the far sideline and pinballed into the end zone. Prescott also found 15-year veteran tight end Jason Witten for a pair of receptions for a total of 24 yards on the drive.
“Dez is a guy you just give him a chance one-on-one,” Prescott said in an interview seen on dallascowboys.com. “Those film studies help, but more importantly the reps we’ve had at practice have been more valuable to us.”
The Cowboys offense was on the move again on its ensuing possession before a turnover in the Colts red zone put a stop to it. Darren McFadden looked capable filling in for Elliott on his nine carries for 54 yards, despite fumbling on the Colts 10-yard line to halt the Cowboys from adding onto their lead.
Jaylon Smith Looks Healthy in First Game
After tearing his ACL and LCL in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl, his final game at Notre Dame, several teams feared Smith would never play again. Once thought of as a top ten pick, nerve damage in his knee saw Smith fall out of the first round. Yet the Cowboys were still confident drafting Smith in the second on a recommendation from team doctor Dan Cooper, who performed the surgery.
“We had the doctor who did the work that told me all along that he could get there, so I think that you kind of expect it,” Owner and General Manager Jerry Jones said. “The way he was moving around out there, I thought maybe we could get ten more plays out of him.”
Smith got the nod to start at middle linebacker in favor of Sean Lee, who sat out with a bum hamstring. On third-and-nine, Colts backup quarterback Scott Tolzien found tight end Jack Doyle underneath and Smith closed to emphatically make the tackle, well short of the first-down yardage.
“The moment I’ve waited for a long time, there’s many more to come,” Smith said. …”I felt like Jaylon Smith.”
Can Cooper Rush Challenge For Second-String QB?
Kellen Moore struggled again in his performance as Prescott’s backup. On Moore’s first snap he was stripped by Barkevious Mingo and it was scooped up for a touchdown by Lavar Edwards. Moore did lead a drive that culminated in a Dan Bailey-field goal but finished just 10-of-21 passing for 121 yards.
Enter rookie Cooper Rush late in the third quarter, who promptly led back-to-back touchdown drives to put the Cowboys on top for good. He led a 6-play, 76-yard effort ending in a touchdown pass to Noah Brown in the corner for the 19-yard score. Rush then led the offense on a 10-play, 74-yard drive to start the fourth quarter. Lance Lenoir caught a 3-yard touchdown pass from Rush on a quick slant that increased the Cowboys advantage to 24-13. Rush finished with 92 yards through the air on 8-of-9 passing and the two touchdowns. Rod Smith (7 carries for 53 yards), brother of Jaylon, helped move the chains on the drive with runs of 12 and 20 yards on the possession.
The Cowboys host the Raiders on August 26, where starters should get a bulk of playing time. Elliott’s suspension appeal will be heard the day before and the team will have a better idea what his availability will be early this season.