The first week of preseason is almost a wrap for the NFL and after tonight’s match-up between the Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders week one will officially be in the books. Several things have transpired over the past week in football. Andrew Luck and RG III both displayed nice poise in the pocket while Luck played much longer than RG III. Just as Manning had done with his first NFL pass in preseason Luck mimicked the future hall of famer by tossing his first NFL pass for a 63 touchdown to running back Donald Brown.
Chad Johnson was arrested on a domestic assault charge and subsequently released by the Dolphins. (Queue the Johnson to Dallas speculation) The New York Jets QB situation could be shaping up into a controversy of sorts with the winner likely leading a stagnant looking offense to a mediocre season finish. Yet, with all the excitement of the NFL finally being back and the fandom finally having their rebid appetite extinguished for the time being, Cowboys fans have had to sit idly by and wait for America’s team match-up on Monday with the Oakland Raiders.
The anticipation for Cowboys fans lulled because the time is finally at hand and with being said let’s discuss five topics within the match-up that Cowboys fans will and should take an eagle eye approach too. The scrutiny, even at this stage of the season, after the Cowboys put this game in the rear view will be undaunted by fans, bloggers and media personnel alike unless the Cowboys exhibit a dominating performance.
5. Rookie defensive end Tyrone Crawford from Boise State.
Drafted 81st overall, Crawford was regarded as the second best lineman on last seasons Boise State team behind first-rounder Shea McClellin who was drafted by the Chicago Bears, drafted 19th overall. McClellin had a sack, three solo tackles one of those being a tackle for a loss against the Denver Broncos’ second-team offense. These two will be closely compared for the next few years to come.
“We may have hit big on him,” Cowboys executive VP Stephen Jones recently said. The former Boise State standout is over a recent calf strain and should participate in tonight’s contest. Crawford is pushing Marcus Spears for reps. Between Crawford, Marcus Spears, Jason Hatcher and Kenyon Coleman one of these defensive ends figure to be the odd man out for the 53-man roster.
4. The Center/Quarterback exchange
The offensive line play as a whole unit will be a key battle within the battle that many an astute eye will be surveying, most importantly the center/quarterback exchange. While second year player Tyron Smith is being praised as a future number one left tackle in the NFL, second year back-up guard David Arkin will be starting at center tonight for the Dallas Cowboys.
Basically red-shirted his whole rookie season, Arkin has struggled to learn the center position in practice and has consistently launched snaps over the quarterback’s head or bumbled the snap onto the ground. After Phil Costa’s recent back injury and after tonight’s game look for the Cowboys to address the center position once team cuts begin to be made.
Head coach Jason Garrett and the Dallas Cowboys hierarchy are well aware of the issues at interior line. If QB Tony Romo plays for more than a series, if playing at all, let us hope that the offensive line doesn’t land Romo on IR before the real season even begins. Last season the Cowboys allowed 39 sacks for 15th worst in the NFL, the Cowboys could stand to improve on that number and former Cowboy Andre Gurode is on a very short list of available free agent centers Dallas is thinking of bringing in due to recent injuries.
3. Linebacker Depth
It’s no secret that coming into 2012 the Dallas Cowboys has great depth at inside and outside linebacker. The Cowboys spent two of this year’s draft selections on linebackers. As both Kyle Wilber and Caleb McSurdy look to make the 53-man roster you have a talented UFA in Adrian Hamilton making a push as a pass rushing specialist nipping at the heals of Wilber for what could be a fourth and final spot on the roster unless of course the Boys roll into the season toting five outside linebackers.
At inside backer Bruce Carter seems to be putting it all together this off season, the second year player has tremendous lateral speed, couple that with the free agent acquisition of Dan Connor and the Cowboys could have a formidable three headed monster at inside linebacker for the entire 2012 season.
2. The 3rd wide receiver position
The fight for the number three wide receiver spot has been well chronicled and tonight is the first chance for many of the young wide receivers on the team to get a shot to stand up and lay claim to starting position in three wide receiver sets.
At yesterdays game walk-through Dewayne Harris was with the first team when in wide receiver sets so it is likely last years sixth round pick from East Carolinawill get the first opportunity to put his name in the hat for the position. Danny Coale was recently taken off of the PUP list, the rookie along with Tim Benford, Andre Holmes, Raymond Radway, and Cole Beasley will all be competing for snaps while Miles Austin and likely Dez Bryant will sit due to hamstring issues.
Which ever of the young guns shine tonight you can bet they will get the call for the 3rd spot when in three wide receiver sets next week against the San Diego Chargers.
1. The Cowboys defensive secondary
18th last season in team interceptions and in 2010 the Dallas Cowboys had the second worst passing defense in the NFL. While the secondary did improve in 2011 coming in 23rd for passing yards allowed the Cowboys added Brandon Carr through free agency and Mo Claiborne via the draft. The Cowboys should have a much improved secondary in 2012 which should lead to more sacks as well this season. How much more improved remains to be seen but tonight fans will get a glimpse of what some expect could be a return to the past days of the Doomsday Defense.
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