NFL Nation: 2014 NFL Preseason Week 4 DAL at MIA Observation Deck

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.

Observation Deck: Miami Dolphins

August, 23, 2014
Aug 23
10:20
PM ET

MIAMI -- Until Saturday night, the Miami Dolphins were left to wonder what their running game looks like at full strength under new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. Miami had gone without Knowshon Moreno, a key free-agent pickup, the entire preseason due to knee surgery.

But Moreno made an impressive 2014 debut in Saturday's 25-20 win over the Dallas Cowboys. Moreno rushed for 64 yards on 10 carries (good for a 6.4-yard average) in his Dolphins debut. Moreno ran strong between the tackles and added a new dimension to the Dolphins' offense. He showed good vision, burst through the hole, and wasn't afraid to punish defenders at the end of runs.

Moreno is competing with incumbent starter Lamar Miller (34 rushing yards) and perhaps closed the distance with this preseason performance. Miami hopes Moreno's output Saturday is a taste of things to come in the regular season.

Here are some other thoughts on the Dolphins' third preseason game:
  • It was a mixed bag from Miami starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who completed 13-of-21 passes for 119 yards and one interception in the dress rehearsal game. The third-year quarterback did a decent job of moving the Dolphins' offense down the field, but sloppy play kept points off the board. Tannehill threw his interception into double coverage while Miami was driving down the field in the third quarter on his final throw of the night. Tannehill also completed a pass to tight end Dion Sims, who fumbled the ball in the first half to stall another drive.
  • The Dolphins’ starting defense held up well against a talented and dangerous Cowboys’ offense. Miami held Dallas’ offense to just six points in the first half when starters were on the field. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo looked befuddled at times by Miami’s defense. Romo was 10-of-18 passing for 87 yards in the game and was sacked three times. Dolphins starting defensive ends Cameron Wake (two sacks) and Olivier Vernon (one sack) got to Romo.
  • In addition to Moreno, Dolphins starting tight end Charles Clay also made his 2014 debut. Clay tweaked his knee during Miami's team scrimmage earlier this month and missed the first two preseason games. Clay played in the first quarter and recorded one reception for 18 yards.
  • The Dolphins still have a lot of work to do on special teams. Dallas reeled off big returns Saturday, including a 50-yard kickoff return from Cowboys receiver Dwayne Harris in the first quarter. Miami rookie receiver Jarvis Landry also fumbled a punt return that he later recovered. The Dolphins also had a punt blocked, but it was called back due to a Dallas penalty. On top of that, Miami kicker John Potter also injured his hip in the first half and didn't finish the game. Punter Brandon Fields performed kickoffs in the second half. It was a rough night for Dolphins special teams coach Darren Rizzi, who certainly has a lot to talk about with his group next week.
  • Miami starting middle linebacker Koa Misi was a late scratch Saturday night with a shoulder injury. He practiced during the week but was held out against Dallas. The Dolphins started backup linebacker Jason Trusnik in place of Misi. Dolphins kick returner Marcus Thigpen, kicker Caleb Sturgis and running backs Daniel Thomas and Mike Gillislee were also among the key players who didn’t suit up for Miami Saturday night.

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