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Dallas Cowboys offense sputters in preseason opener without ailing Dak Prescott

·3 min read

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott didn’t make the trip to Canton for the preseason opener, a sloppy and mistake-filled 16-3 loss Thursday against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game.

The Cowboys wanted Prescott to stay behind in Oxnard, California, and continue to get treatment on a strained right shoulder.

Per Fox Sports, the Cowboys reached out to the Texas Rangers about Prescott’s shoulder that they compare to a baseball injury.

The team still hopes he can return to practice and resume throwing next week and be ready for the season opener Sept. 9 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

But there are no promises about Prescott playing at all in the preseason.

“You want to make sure to get enough rest there to make sure it’s not an issue very long,” owner Jerry Jones said. ”It would be penny wise and pound foolish to step him out there when we don’t need to. We will see how [the preseason] goes. We weren’t going to play him much anyway.”

Whether Prescott gets snaps in the preseason or not, the focus was always going to be on evaluating backup quarterback Garrett Gilbert.

It is notable that the offense scored no touchdowns in the game and had just three points to show for its efforts.

In addition to Prescott, the Cowboys played without tackle Tyron Smith, guard Zack Martin, running back Ezekiel Elliott and receivers CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup.

On paper, Gilbert, who played in college at SMU and Texas, had a solid outing against the Steelers.

He completed 9 of 13 passes for 104 yards and led the Cowboys to field goal attempts on both his drives before giving way to Cooper Rush midway through the second quarter.

But the devil is in the details.

He had first down completions to tight end Dalton Schultz, receiver Noah Brown and running back Rico Dowdle on the opening drive.

He was saved from a points-killing interception on third-and-goal from the 11 when receiver Malik Turner batted down a pass headed for Pittsburgh defensive back Tre Norwood.

His second drive was highlighted by a 21-yard pass to receiver Cedrick Wilson, a 13-yard completion to tight end Sean McKeon on third-and-12 and 17-yard connection with former TCU running back Sewo Olonilua.

But disaster nearly struck on third-and-3 from the Pittsburgh 7 when Gilbert held the ball too long and took a sack. He fumbled the ball and it was luckily recovered by guard Brandon Knight.

Punter Hunter Niswander, who is handling the kicker duties for an injured Greg Zuerlein, made a 29-yard field goal on the first drive but had a 29-yarder blocked the second time by Norwood.

“We have to finish drives,” Gilbert said. “We did good on third downs, up until we got into the red zone. Both times we got down into the red zone, on third down, we stalled out. That’s on me as the quarterback. I have to keep us going and find a way to make a play.”

Rush completed 8 of 13 passes for 70 yards over the final eight minutes of the second quarter.

His best play was a 20-yard completion to Turner on fourth-and-15. But the Cowboys got nothing to show for it, as Turner fumbled.

Niswander badly missed a 52-yard field goal attempt at the end of the half.

Ben DiNucci, a 2020 seventh-round pick, played the entire second half that included an interception, a failed fourth-down conversion attempt deep in their own territory and a fumbled punt by Reggie Davis.

They were turned into a field goal and a touchdown.

DiNucci completed 7 of 17 passes for 89 yards.

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