Clarence Hill: Penalty-prone Dallas Cowboys remain their own worst enemy

·3 min read

Either you are coaching it or allowing it to happen.

It’s as simple as that.

A year after leading the NFL in penalties with 127 and committing an NFL-playoff record 14 penalties in a season-ending wildcard loss to the San Francisco 49ers, drawing ire of owner Jerry Jones, what do the Dallas Cowboys do the first we see them in 2022?

They committed 17 penalties in a 17-7 loss to the Denver Broncos in the preseason opener.

Sure it was just the first outing of the season in a meaningless preseason game that featured largely young players and backup.

The starters and key veterans on both sides of the ball sat for precautionary reasons. The Cowboys held out 30 players.

After an offseason and a training camp in which coach Mike McCarthy promised to emphasize penalties and do whatever he could to keep the Cowboys from being their own worst enemy in 2022, it was SOS against the Broncos.

That’s “Same Old Stuff” for those of you who don’t do respectable acronyms.

Of course, the Cowboys committed enough penalties Saturday to make a preacher curse, if not Jones.

The 17 penalties were the most by team in preseason since 2019.

McCarthy said the right things after the game.

“Penalties clearly were way too much,” McCarthy said. “We’ll look at those and keep going through those as far as the combative vs. disciplined. That’s clearly the biggest negative.”

But while he showed some anger at halftime after seeing his team commit nine penalties in the first half, he was a little more diplomatic after the game.

“I think we all recognize this isn’t the regular season,” McCarthy said. “I understand the question as far as last year is last year, but I think last year we were really trying to establish a play style and an identity, it took us a while to get to that. Once we did, we won a number of games. This is really the starting point you go through every year. This is the pre-season. I don’t think this has anything to do with last year.”

Based on the Cowboys track record, it has everything to do with last year.

Keep in mind that this wasn’t the regular season weekend for no team in the NFL. No team had as many penalties as the Cowboys had.

The Broncos had just eight.

McCarthy was more excited about his team’s ability to stop the run and the work the young players got.

“Trust me, no one is happy with the number of penalties in the game,” he said. “I just think that it’s the facts of the matter. It’s just kinda where we are today. This is training camp. It’s our first pre-season (game), and I think this is just how it goes. We played a lot of young players. I have great confidence they will improve from this opportunity.”

The problem is that this has proven to be the Cowboys identity, until proven otherwise.

Starters. Backups. Rookies. Young players. New vets in free agency.

They continue to be their own worst enemy.

McCarthy benched free agent defensive end Dante Fowler after a taunting penalty that helped the Broncos score their first touchdown.

“We can’t have that,” McCarthy said. “Those are the discipline penalties.”

Veteran defensive end Tarell Basham had a roughing the passing penalty after a third-down incompletion, extending a drive, resulting in a touchdown pass that gave the Broncos a 14-0 lead.

And an offside penalty by second-year cornerback Kelvin Joseph on a missed 57-yard field goal allowed the Broncos kicker Brandon McManus to hit a 52-yarder with no time on the clock to end the first half.

There were multiple holding calls on rookie left guard Tyler Smith as well as first-year tackle Josh Ball.

Some were ticky tack.

All were flags.

Until otherwise noted, it’s what the Cowboys do.

It’s who they are.