Last Thursday we saw the Cowboys vs Cardinals in the Hall of Fame game which gave us a chance to see live football for the first time in a long while. We are all keenly aware that preseason games don’t count. However, this venue provides at least a glimpse at how your targeted players perform in a semi-competitive environment. Limited sample sizes make it difficult to come to any hard and fast conclusions. However, there are certain things that are on display if you know what to watch for and how to place what you saw in the correct context. So, let’s review the game facts and see their impact on our fantasy player prospects.
Fact #1 Cardinals QB Blaine Gabbert looks at ease distributing the ball all over the field.
Hot Take: Blaine Gabbert stakes claim to backup QB role in Arizona
TFA Analysis: Dallas presented very little pass rush pressure on Gabbert’s first two series. Gabbert shredded the Dallas secondary as he easily marched the Cardinals down the field for two TDs on their first two drives. Gabbert made a strong case for staking his claim on at least the 3rd QB on the roster. Any statements that Drew Stanton’s backup role is in jeopardy are pure speculation at this point. We haven’t seen Stanton play this preseason so it’s too early to launch a written campaign about the backup QB battle in Arizona. Nevertheless, Blaine Gabbert did succeed in demonstrating a productive performance (against one of the worst secondary groups in the NFL).
Fantasy Impact: Carson Palmer owners can rest easy. If the injury bug strikes, redraft owners should still look elsewhere for a replacement QB. Whether it’s Stanton or Gabbert, neither makes a case for getting in your starting lineup.
Fact #2 Cowboys WR Brice Butler made two outstanding catches deep down the field.
Hot Take: Terrance Williams’ job is in jeopardy as Brice Butler wows at HOF game.
TFA Analysis: Brice Butler burned the cornerbacks on two deep routes along the sidelines. He’s fast. We know this. He’s a competent pass catcher. We know this. We also know the pecking order in Dallas, and Brice is working to maintain his hold as the Cowboys deep ball threat. He demonstrated that he can do this job well. Pump the brakes on proclaiming him as the number two WR in Dallas. Terrance Williams signed a 4 year, $17,000,000 contract with the Dallas Cowboys, including a $5,000,000 signing bonus, $9,500,000 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $4,250,000 (per spotrac.com). So, his job is secure.
Fantasy Impact: Dez Bryant is the WR1, Terrance Williams remains the WR2, Cole Beasley is the WR3 with upside, and Brice Butler is an afterthought. There’s just not enough passing volume to go around with Dallas leaning so heavily on the run. Nice game by Butler, though.
Fact #3 TE Rico Gathers made a spectacular touchdown catch
Hot Take: Cowboys have found their Jason Witten replacement in TE Rico Gathers.
TFA Analysis: Dallas’ experiment with the converted basketball player, Rico Gathers, is starting to show signs of viability. Gathers made a fine play in securing a difficult catch on a contested ball for the Cowboys touchdown. He also jumped the snap count on another play later in the game costing the Cowboys five yards for the false start infraction. He made three catches on four targets for 59 yards and a touchdown. Not bad work for limited action. While it’s too early to proclaim him as the heir apparent to the Cowboys #1 TE spot. It’s not hard to see that he may be productive if given the snaps and the targets. This is just the preseason and he was going against less than stellar defenders, but this is definitely something to watch.
Fantasy Impact: Jason Witten is the TE1 in Dallas but he is 35 years old and no one is invincible against father time. Rico Gathers should be on your watch list and does have the ability to provide adequate production in this Cowboys offense should the need arise.
Fact #4 The Dallas Defense was unable to stop the run or the pass and presented no pass rush.
Hot Take: Dallas Cowboys’ defense is a hot mess.
TFA Analysis: The Dallas defense was ineffective at stopping Blaine Gabbert’s passing game and showed no ability to stop the rushing attempts of Kerwynn Williams or Andre Ellington. No sacks were recorded by any Dallas D-line players. DE Taco Charlton did make line penetration on occasion but had difficulty separating from blocks in order to make tackles. LB Kyle Wilber showed some good sideline to sideline pursuit speed in chasing down plays. The secondary left receivers open all over the field, however, Chidobe Awuzie did have a nice pass breakup that was inches away from being a spectacular pick six. Bottom line is that these guys are all backup players and we still have not seen Jaylon Smith and Sean Lee together in run support. Depth at all positions is still an issue for Dallas as they can ill afford any injuries to their defensive starters.
Fantasy Impact: Nobody is planning to select or start the Dallas defense in 2017, nor should they. Dallas has drafted for the future, but are still a few years away from being a fantasy relevant defense.