Three thoughts on the Cowboys' loss

August, 17, 2014
Aug 17
3:36
PM ET
IRVING -- Three thoughts on the Dallas Cowboys’ 37-30 loss to the Baltimore Ravens:

1. Play-caller Scott Linehan’s mission during the preseason is to show San Francisco as little as possible of the offense he plans to unveil in Week 1.

But you should like the little we've seen during the first two preseason games.

Linehan is making a concerted effort to run the ball -- the Cowboys starters ran on eight of 14 plays -- and he’s mixed in a liberal dose of play-action passes. He’s using screen passes to slow down the opponent’s pass rush, and it all looks good.

Obviously, you can’t get too carried away because there’s a difference between calling plays in the preseason and calling plays in games that count, but the philosophical approach Linehan is taking bodes well for the regular season.

2. Zach Minter has been with the Cowboys for only a few days, but he made quite an impact against Baltimore with two sacks, two tackles for loss and quarterback hit.

Yes, he did it against Baltimore’s second- and third-team, but that’s still a ton of production.

What it probably means for Minter, who played two games with the Bears last season, is he’ll get a chance against Miami’s starters next week to see if he can make the same type of impact. Whether he does or not, he showed every youngster on the roster how to get the coaching staff’s attention.

3. One of the intriguing questions in training camp revolves around the Cowboys’ long-term view of quarterback Dustin Vaughan.

Do they see the 6-5, 235-pounder as a career backup? A marginal starter? A frontline starter?

The Cowboys haven't kept a third quarterback on the active roster in years because each roster spot is too important to keep a developmental player who’s unlikely to play.

Vaughan, an undrafted free agent from West Texas A&M, turned in his second consecutive good performance during the fourth quarter. The Cowboys would love to add him to their practice squad, but they must first expose him to waivers to do so.

That means every club would have an opportunity to sign him. Based on what we’ve seen from him, thus far, some team would claim him because quarterbacks are hard to find.

Tony Romo, 34, has had two back surgeries in the past year. No one really knows whether his back will hold up for a year, two years or five years. If the Cowboys view Vaughan as a player with a long-term future, even if it’s as a quality backup, they should keep him.

Key number: 141

Detroit quarterback Matt Stafford threw 141 play-action passes last season. Tony Romo threw 73.

Romo was good at it -- he had a passer rating of 111.2 with six touchdowns and no interceptions on those passes. The Cowboys just didn’t give him enough opportunities.

That will change this year.

Player to Watch: Ahmad Dixon

Dixon, a seventh-round draft pick, turned in a terrific performance against San Diego in the Cowboys’ first preseason game with 12 tackles.

He didn’t record any tackles Saturday night because he didn’t play after being benched for missing a walk-through practice.

The first game created a margin of error for Dixon. Well, he’s used it. Now, Dixon needs a good week of practice and a strong game against Miami to sustain the momentum he created against San Diego.
Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

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