cowboys vs. Broncos score, takeaway: Josh Johnson throws 2 TDs as Dallas penalty troubles linger from 2021

Joint practices ensured that the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos had a majority of the starters in Saturday’s preseason opener, giving the second teamers a chance to show why they can contribute in 2022. Josh Johnson stated that he still belongs in the league even if the Broncos are the 14th team he has played for in his career.

Johnson started in place of Russell Wilson (half-time) and threw two touchdown passes in the first half to lead Denver to a 17-7 victory, which was not as close as the final score indicated. Johnson’s highlight pass was a 40-yard attack on Brandon Johnson, the son of former MLB catcher Charles Johnson, when the receiver shoved the pass down the left sideline to get Denver’s attack moving. Johnson then found Seth Williams for a 1-yard touchdown three games later to put the Broncos at 7-0, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Johnson also found Kendall Hinton for a 24-yard score on a rainbow touch pass to give Denver a 14-0 lead. He went 16 of 24 for 172 yards and two touchdowns in the first half (120.2 rating) before Brett Rypien relieved him for the rest of the game.

Cooper Rush started for the Cowboys instead of Dak Prescott (half-time). He finished 12 of 20 for 84 yards with an interception that came on a fourth-down pass in the first quarter in Denver territory. The Cowboys didn’t get on the board until the fourth quarter with a 12-yard pass from Ben Dinucci to Simi Fehoko with 4:56 remaining. Dinucci went 9 of 16 for 112 yards and a touchdown in the loss.

While many starters didn’t play, some storylines emerged from the game. Below are some takeaways from Saturday’s preseason clash.

A non-starter

The Cowboys had 20 starters in Saturday’s game, including Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, CeeDee Lamb, Trevon Diggs, Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence. Russell Wilson also didn’t make his debut for the Broncos, as Denver also rested the majority of their starters in the opener.

The Cowboys and Broncos participated in joint practices this week, which is why the starters didn’t play this week.

Major Broncos Injury

One of the starters who did play for the Broncos was indoor linebacker Jonas Griffith, who left the game in the first minute with a left elbow injury. Just two plays in, Griffith was out when trainers held his elbow as he walked away on his own.

Griffith thought he was playing in the Broncos’ defense plans, but this injury appears to be significant. Alex Singleton, who signed with Denver this season, is getting a chance with an uncertain injury diagnosis from Griffith.

Penalties remain in Dallas

It doesn’t matter if the Cowboys are playing the first or second team, Mike McCarthy’s team still has huge penalty problems. The Cowboys were penalized nine times in the first half for 65 yards — after leading the NFL with 127 last season (7.47 per game). Dallas was also second in the league in penalty yards with 1,103.

The Cowboys showed signs that they are still undisciplined, taking a whopping 17 penalties for 129 yards on the night. Pre-season opener or not, that’s unacceptable.

Who is the number 2 QB?

Cooper Rush started instead of Prescott and his performance was below par. Rush entered the third quarter, finishing 12 of 20 for 84 yards with an interception as Dallas failed to score in his seven possessions. The Cowboys didn’t drive more than 34 yards and didn’t make it past Denver’s 38-yard line when Rush played.

Ben Dinucci wasn’t much better, although he threw a touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter to get Dallas on the board. What does Dallas do when the backup quarterback game remains lackluster? Do the Cowboys want to advance or roll with Rush? Does it even matter if Dak Prescott goes down?

Rush has two games left to improve on this uninspiring feat.

The Josh Johnson Show

Starting for Russell Wilson, Johnson was impressive in the first half as the No. 2 quarterback. The Broncos are Johnson’s 14th team in the NFL, but at least the veteran signal caller looked like someone who wants to stay.

Johnson went 16 of 24 for 172 yards and two touchdowns in the first half (120.2 rating), showcasing zip on his passes and excellent lead from his receivers. There are better options for a backup quarterback in the league, but Johnson fills the role well.

The 36-year-old should be on an NFL roster in 2022. Whether the Broncos choose Johnson or Brett Rypien as the No. 2 quarterback will be decided in the next two weeks.

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