Observation Deck: Dallas Cowboys

August, 23, 2014
Aug 23
10:21
PM ET

MIAMI -- After not getting hit in his 16 snaps of work during his preseason debut against the Baltimore Ravens last week, Tony Romo was sacked three times and hit once more in a half of work in the Dallas Cowboys' 25-20 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Saturday. It was a shaky performance by an offensive line that is supposed to be the strength of the team. Right tackle Doug Free struggled with Cameron Wake, who had two of the sacks. Olivier Vernon came from behind to drop Romo on the first sack, knocking the ball free, but the Cowboys recovered. Keeping the quarterback clean is a must for the Cowboys, considering Romo's back surgeries and age (34). He was sacked more than three times in just two of his 15 full games in 2013. In 32 first-half plays, Romo completed 10 of 18 passes for 87 yards. In his two preseason games, Romo completed 14 of 23 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown. Here are some other thoughts on the Cowboys' third preseason game of the year:
  • For all of the worry about the pass defense, the Cowboys' run defense has been abysmal in the preseason. In three games they have allowed 503 on the ground. Considering their lack playmakers on pass defense, the run defense has to at least make it hard for opposing offenses. Miami had 45 yards rushing on its first series of the game, settling for a field goal. They allowed 93 yards in the first half. In a division with LeSean McCoy and Alfred Morris, the Cowboys must be tighter against the run.
  • Cornerback Brandon Carr played 17 snaps in his first preseason action, making a good third-down tackle on Lamar Miller on the first series. He gave up a 14-yard catch to Mike Wallace before his night ended after the first quarter. Orlando Scandrick played only outside cornerback, which allowed Sterling Moore to work the slot. With Scandrick to miss the first four games because of a suspension, Moore will need all the work he can get inside. Morris Claiborne did not play because of a shoulder injury but could see some action in the preseason finale against the Denver Broncos on Thursday.
  • The Cowboys continue to search for their linebacker trio. Rookie Anthony Hitchens was the first-team middle linebacker on base defense. Rolando McClain took over in the second quarter. With Hitchens on the field, Justin Durant moved to the weak side and Bruce Carter played the strong side. In the second quarter, Hitchens and Carter were the linebackers in the nickel defense and Durant went to the sideline.
  • Tyler Patmon earned an invite to Cowboys' training camp after a strong showing in the rookie minicamp. He might have earned a spot on the Cowboys' 53-man roster Saturday. Patmon had two interceptions and forced a fumble. Taking over for Carr in the second quarter, Patmon poked the ball free from Dion Sims that Barry Church recovered. He picked off Dolphins' starter Ryan Tannehill on the first drive of the third quarter. He might have solidified his spot with a 9-yard interception return for a touchdown of Matt Moore in the fourth quarter.
  • The Cowboys close the preseason Thursday against the Denver Broncos at AT&T Stadium.

Todd Archer

ESPN Dallas Cowboys reporter

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