The Cowboys ended the 2022 preseason on a high note, winning Friday night’s game against the Seahawks by a score of 27-26.
Now, we wait until Dallas’ regular season kicks off on Sept. 11 at home against the Buccaneers on Sunday Night Football.
But before we turn the page on the preseason, let’s reflect back on the victory over Seattle and see what we learned from the matchup:
Jalen Tolbert was underwhelming….again
The 6’3, 190-pound receiver out of South Alabama will be leaned on a lot to start his rookie campaign. He’s going to have more responsibility than any third round draft pick should, and that’s a result of how the Cowboys have constructed their wide receiver depth chart.
But Tolbert didn’t perform well in any of the three preseason games. Here’s Tolbert’s combined stat line from each game: six receptions, 44 yards and no touchdowns. That averages out to two receptions and 14 receiving yards per game.
That’s surely not what Dallas’ coaching staff was hoping to see from the player currently listed at WR2 behind CeeDee Lamb on the depth chart.
But don’t worry, we’ve seen plenty of rookies struggle in the preseason before productive regular seasons.
Just last year, Bengals receiver Ja’Marr Chase had just one reception for 16 yards in the preseason. The former LSU Tiger’s 81 receptions for 1,455 yards and 13 touchdowns earned him Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
While it’s unlikely Tolbert touches those regular season numbers from Chase, it does set a precedent that preseason struggles don’t always transfer to the regular season.
Finally, some positivity about left tackle
Last week, it was announced Tyron Smith will miss an extended period of time due to a torn hamstring suffered during practice.
This drew immediate concern because Dallas’ swing tackle Josh Ball hasn’t played well in the preseason, and things didn’t change in the Seahawks game. From watching Ball, it’s clear the second-year tackle isn’t ready to fill the role of swing tackle, let alone full-time starting duties.
But rookie Matt Waletzko made his first game appearance Friday night, and he looked solid. The fifth round draft pick has missed most of Dallas’ practices after sustaining a shoulder injury early in training camp.
It remains unclear who will start at left tackle Week 1, but it’s safe to narrow it down to two players: Waletzko and fellow rookie Tyler Smith. One thing Jerry Jones has made very clear is he believes the best options to start at LT are already in the building, meaning the Cowboys have no plans to sign a free agent or make a trade for a player to anchor the left side of the offensive line.
Jones relying on inexperienced players to fill large roles could come back to haunt him, as he’s opted to take that route at both left tackle and wide receiver.
Nerves about Brett Maher are settling
The Cowboys made a shocking move early last week when they waived kicker Lirim Hajrullahu, making Brett Maher Dallas’ starter going into the regular season.
The move was surprising because neither player had clearly gained an upper hand in the first two preseason games. But Mike McCarthy said Maher has a more powerful leg and did a better job than Hajrullahu on kickoffs.
While it’s nice to know who Dallas’ starter will be, this competition was never the most glamorous. Maher previously played for the Cowboys but was cut in 2019 after posting a field goal percentage of 66.7.
But Maher looked good against Seattle, going 3/3 on extra points and 2/3 on field goals. His lone miss was from 61 yards out, so an excusable mistake.
Time will tell if Maher can ride the momentum into the regular season, but his performance on Friday night was certainly encouraging.