The Dallas Cowboys appeared to be in midseason form in their preseason opener -- at least when it comes to the penalty department. A year after leading the NFL with 127 penalties (7.48 per game), the Cowboys committed 17 penalties in Saturday's loss to the Denver Broncos.
Penalties hurt Dallas throughout last season, an aspect head coach Mike McCarthy vowed to clean up after his team committed 14 in the wild card playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Saturday's penalties didn't showcase Dallas improved in that department, whether it was a preseason game or not.
"I think we all recognize that isn't the regular season...This is really the starting point that you go through every year," McCarthy said. "This is preseason and I don't think this has anything to do with last year, obviously you guys can write whatever you want but it's a starting point.
"I don't like the number of penalties. To be clear, I talked about it at halftime and talked about it briefly in there, we'll take care of it and we'll all look at it. I am excited about the fact that, we came here and ran a lot of plays. I liked the way we ran the ball and stopped the run. So that's a good starting point for us, a bigger emphasis this year."
McCarthy did view the number of penalties the Cowboys received as a positive, a number to improve on in the weeks ahead. Dallas did play mostly second and third team players throughout the game due to having joint camp practices with Denver earlier in the week, which contributed to the high number.
"I was a little surprised they called that many penalties in a preseason game, but you need to go through that," McCarthy said. "This will help us get ready. You need to draft and develop. This is what it looks like unfortunately sometimes, but we will be better fundamentally, and I have great confidence in that.
"I've done this my whole coaching career, I have always played a lot of young guys, unfortunately it starts like this."
The Cowboys also had 129 penalty yards, another concern after finishing second in the league with 1,103 last year. Dallas had 89 penalty yards in the wild card playoff loss to San Francisco. This is all part of the process in Dallas as the Cowboys seek to improve in eliminating penalties.
The early results aren't encouraging, but there's plenty of games left in the preseason to show improvement.
"The great thing about it is it's preseason, so it doesn't necessarily count toward anything, but it counts a whole lot to our development," said Cowboys defensive tackle NeVille Gallimore. "I just feel like the great thing we have in this room is that a lot of these guys are a lot harder on themselves then we need to [be], which is good because it allows us to get after the little things and attack the small details to make sure we don't make those same mistakes or try our best that it doesn't happen."