The Cowboys’ loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars marked an unsatisfying end of the pre-season, directly into what critics say will be an unsatisfying season to come.
Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence completed 11 of 12 passes for 139 yards and two scores in three possessions against Dallas backups, leading the Jaguars to a win of 34-14.
Lawrence went undefeated as a college freshman, leading Clemson to the 2019 National Championship game and defeating Alabama 44-16, their worst loss with legendary Nick Saban as coach.
The Cowboys, whose record is 0-4, planned to use this game to determine the player to back up Quarterback Dak Prescott.
The two candidates, Garrett Gilbert and Cooper Rush, played neck-in-neck, polarizing opinions on the ideal choice for Prescott.
“I’m proud of what I put on tape,” Gilbert said to ESPN after the game. “Those decisions are out of my hands. I’m just going to worry about what I can control.”
While the Cowboys add a fourth loss to their preseason standings, they’re just finishing up a 40-day training camp in prep for the Super Bowl.
Head coach Mike McCarthy hasn’t been shy about setting Super Bowl expectations for this year’s team.
Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence echoed the sentiment during a sideline TV interview.
“We need to complete the mission,” he said. “Get to the Super Bowl. That’s the goal.”
In the first quarter, the Cowboys started with mostly rookies, while the Jaguars took a gamble and played No. 1 draft pick Lawrence, gaining 14 points in a matter of minutes.
On Jacksonville’s first possession, rookie cornerbacks Kelvin Joseph and Nahshon Wright – Dallas’ top two corners taken in April’s draft – were burned for big plays.
Jaguars receiver Pharoh Cooper faked Wright to score an 18-yard touchdown.
Both defenders rallied on the Jaguars’ next series, with Joseph making a tackle and Wright breaking up a pass to force a punt.
By the second quarter, the score was 14-0 Jaguars.
Cowboys wide receiver Aaron Parker was able to squeeze in a 19-yard touchdown from QB candidate Gilbert, starting with a kick from veteran kicker Greg Zuerlein.
Zuerlein missed the majority of the training camp from a back injury; the game was his first since he was injured.
Third quarter was in the Jaguars’ favor, with another touchdown scored.
Jaguars second QB Jake Luton made a 19-yard pass to wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, with a kick from kicker Josh Lambo.
Lambo also made a field goal in the fourth quarter, and kicked for the Jags’ final touchdown made by running back Devine Ozigbo.
Although the Cowboys were also able to squeeze in a final touchdown, with an 8-yard pass from Ben DiNucci, the Jaguars still beat them 34-14.
Critics say that although Cowboys star QB Dak Prescott is more than warmed up for the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Cowboys’ season doesn’t look too good.
Sports Illustrated writer Richie Whitt called pre-season results “completely insignificant,” citing the Detroit Lions’ 2008 comeback in his report. However, that still wasn’t enough to convince him of the Cowboys’ possible success.
He was especially critical of Cowboys quarterback candidates Rush and Gilbert.
“While Rush was better last week, he stunk in his Sunday spotlight start. Gilbert flopped against the Houston Texans, but threw his only touchdown of the preseason against the Jags. Neither quarterback threw an interception this summer. But more importantly, neither instilled confidence that an injury to Prescott won’t doom Dallas’ season,” he said in his September report.
What does the Super Bowl look like for the Cowboys?
Whitt isn’t optimistic.
“The Cowboys are apparently ready to roll into Tampa with a No. 2 that has never won a game in the NFL.”