Sure, it was just the preseason opener for the Cowboys on Thursday night against the Denver Broncos at Cowboys Stadium. But there’s always something to brag about. Other than the 24-23 victory in the final seconds, here are five things to brag to your co-workers about today around the water cooler:
1. How about that Jason Hatcher? The defensive end looked great in the Cowboys’ new defensive scheme. After only recording 17 tackles and one sack last season, the Cowboys brought the unrestricted free agent back with a three-year contract. Hatcher was active all night, breaking through the offensive line and constantly pressuring the Broncos’ quarterback. He had four tackles in the first half and has seemed much quicker throughout training camp than he was a year ago.
2. Hey, who is this Victor Butler ? The linebacker was one of the best players throughout the team’s first two weeks of training camp practices in San Antonio, often getting in the backfield for would-be sacks. He carried that over to the Denver preseason opener, recording five tackles (one for loss). He should have had a sack but whiffed on Tim Tebow before Clifton Geathers cleaned it up. Butler appears to be coming into his own and is pushing for more playing time.
3. Felix Jones looks faster than last year. The running back is being asked to be the featured back for the first time in his career. He appears ready. In San Antonio, Jones had a great final week, making several long runs and taking screen passes for big gains. Against Denver, he showed his elusiveness and speed in the open field on runs and screens. He won’t carry the ball 25 times a game very often, but he’s shown he can be trusted with the bulk of the load.
4. Stephen McGee is starting to grow on me. The third-string quarterback out-played backup veteran Jon Kitna throughout training camp. He’s been more accurate and his deep balls have been spot on. McGee had a great first preseason game and has shown the Cowboys he’s here to stay. A year ago at this time, the Cowboys didn’t know what they had in the former Texas A&M quarterback and whether he fit into their long-term plans. McGee is way ahead of where he was a year ago and looks like the team’s backup of the future. Kitna won’t likely be back next season.
5. Man, those young wide receivers can play a little. Rookie sixth-round draft pick Dwayne Harris from East Carolina showed why the Cowboys like him so much as their slot receiver. He had five catches for 127 yards and two touchdowns. He read the blitz well and stopped short over the middle, taking a 5-yard slant route 76 yards for a touchdown down the left side. Don’t forget about Raymond Radway, the undrafted rookie free agent who opened eyes the first two weeks of training camp with his speed and athleticism. He, too, was impressive. Radway knows he has to have impact on special teams to make the Cowboys’ final 53-man roster and he had two good kickoff returns, the final one going for 40 yards. His speed on kickoff returns is a good fit for the Cowboys. Harris also had a 32-yard kickoff return. Harris could push Kevin Ogletree for the team’s No. 3 wide receiver spot if he continues to perform like he did Thursday night.
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