For the first time that I can recall, I felt really sorry for Oakland Raiders fans.

A large number of them paid full ticket price to watch that vague facsimile of a football game. They'd have been better off dumping that money into the nearby Pacific Ocean, unless they have a soft spot in their heart for 3-0 football games.

From a Cowboys perspective, the only positive thing to come out of the game is that Tony Romo didn't get injured or killed - despite his offensive line's best efforts.

It's only one silly preseason game, but watching this game gave me nightmarish flashbacks to last season.

First and foremost, the interior of the offensive line isn't very good at blocking. This is an acute problem since they're not allowed to catch passes, per NFL rules.  They put up very little resistance against the Raiders first-team pass rush, giving up wide open lanes for the Raiders to have uncontested runs at Romo. Much like last year, Romo would catch the shotgun snap, look up, and have to immediately give up on finding a receiver and start running for his life.

The sight of Romo docking and dodging rushers ten yards behind the line of scrimmage is an all-too-familiar one, and one we absolutely have to see less of if the Cowboys have any chance this year.


Cowboys starting center Phil Costa was injured for this game.  His agent should march directly into Jerry Jones' office and demand Costa get an immediate raise.  He has the ultimate in leverage: Jerry, give Costa a raise or you'll be watching David Arkin try to protect your star quarterback all season.  Sure, you might be able to call that blackmail, but if you're Jerry, can you afford to call the bluff?

Beyond the offensive line, the team was in mid-season form as far as looking confused.  They committed horrendous 4th down penalties that gave the Raiders extra possessions, and defenders would run onto the field during substitute changes as the snap was happening.

Normally, that kind of sloppiness can be attributed to this being the first game of the preseason.  We expect the wheels to be a bit wobbly.  But given that these are the exact problems that plagued the Cowboys throughout the season last year, I think it's reasonable to be concerned until they show that they're not one of the dumbest teams in the league.  The preseason is the time to sort out the basic problems of penalties and preparation -  but so far, the Cowboys haven't shown that they're learning the lessons.

On the bright side, the defense did pitch a shutout - against a Raiders team that played its full first-team less than the Cowboys while being cautious with running back Darren McFadden.  Barry Church looked like he might be a real player at safety, something the Cowboys have sorely lacked since the days of Darren Woodson.

It's not time to panic yet.  It's only one preseason game.  But I don't see this as a knee-jerk reaction - rather, it's an extension of the reaction to last year's failure.  There's still time to iron things out - but the clock is ticking.  The Cowboys can't afford to spend half the season in remedial training camp again if they want to keep Tony Romo in one piece and have a chance at the playoffs.


Andrew Kaufmann is a Dallas-based writer for 1340 The Fan.  Follow him on Twitter at @andrewk

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