The Dallas Cowboys will face the Miami Dolphins Wednesday night at Cowboys Stadium. The game will mark the final preseason game for both teams. Normally, this game is reserved for the reserves, meaning the starters will sit while the bench players on the roster bubble will have one last chance to shine. Most fans write this game off as a throw away. But here are five reasons why Cowboy fans might want to tune in for this final preseason matchup.
The Quarterback Battle: Stephen McGee vs. Rudy Carpenter
One lingering question before the Cowboy’s cut their roster to 53 players on Friday is will they actually keep three quarterbacks on the team. With newly acquired free agent Kyle Orton sitting behind Tony Romo this year, the quarterback position is all but solidified. Keeping a third quarterback may be superfluously at this point. Especially when you consider the other positions of need on the team.
Many have speculated that this is the final “hurrah” for former Aggie quarterback Stephen McGee in Dallas. The fourth year veteran back-up has show glimpses of greatness mixed with a lot of indecision. McGee’s performance in this game will go a long way in determining if he’ll be on the roster past the end of the week.
Rudy Carpenter might have a slight upper hand in this matchup. The former practice squad player has impressed in his brief appearances in the preseason. And the fact he is still practice squad eligible and McGee is not, could be the deciding factor if both players perform well Wednesday night.
Fading First Round Glory: Marcus Spears
Defensive end Marcus Spears, a former first round pick, is now heading into his eighth NFL season. His career totals include 201 tackles and nine sacks. Last year, he recorded a career low 16 tackles and one sack. Spears has been relegated to the second team for the past two seasons upon the arrival of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and the emergence of defensive end Jason Hatcher. With young talent like Sean Lissemore and Tyrone Crawford also vying for playing time, the clock on Spears may be running out. But the recent injury to defensive tackle Jay Ratliff and a solid performance on Wednesday may aid Spears in his quest to stay with the team another year.
The development of a superstar: Morris Claiborne
It’s been a pre-season of ups and downs for rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne. The Cowboys made a statement during this year’s NFL draft to move up eight spots to take the former LSU standout with the number six pick, sacrificing their second round pick in the process. After announcing to the world that Claiborne was graded as high as Deion Sanders, injuries slowed the young man’s progress through both OTAs and training camp. In his first game as a Cowboy, Claiborne was relatively quiet. In last week’s game against the St. Louis Rams, he started to make some noise. If he’s allowed to play Wednesday night, this might end being Claiborne’s official coming out party. It will be surprising if the Cowboy’s coaching staff decides to sit the young man. The one thing he has lacked all off-season is getting proper reps, and this is a perfect opportunity to do so. But with injuries piling up for the Boys and cornerback Mike Jenkins all but counted out in the regular season opener against the New York Giants, Claiborne may be riding the pine. But if not, he’ll definitely be worth watching.
Who is James Hanna?
Imagine a 6’4, 249 lb. tight end who could run a 4.49 in the 40. Those are the intangibles that James Hanna brings to the table. The former Sooner is a native of Flower Mound, TX and a life long Cowboy’s fan. The Boy’s sixth round pick struggle early in camp with drops. But as time has gone on the young man appears to be getting his legs underneath him. Hanna will be an important part of the Cowboy’s offense, especially if Jason Witten misses the season opener against the Giants. Much like Claiborne, I expect Hanna to also have a coming out party Wednesday night. If he can pull his game together, we may have just found our next great Cowboy’s tight end.
The final wide receiver spot: Andre Holmes
The favorite for the third wide receiver vacancy left by Laurent Robinson this off season was little known 6’5 Andre Holmes. In OTA’s and through training camp, Holmes received rave reviews. But the more this preseason has progressed, Holmes has seemed to digress. After a great three receptions for 40 yards performance in his first preseason game against the Oakland Raiders, Holmes recorded just three catches for 18 yards in the last two games.
The former Hillsdale College standout has suffered from inconsistent play aided by a lingering back injury. This has left the door open for wideouts Kevin Ogletree, Dwayne Harris and rookie Cole Beasley to overtake him on the depth chart. Still, his height and NFL body is keeping him in consideration for an active roster spot. Unfortunately, recent reports have indicated that fifth-round rookie Danny Coale is expected to move above Holmes on the roster. His performance on Wednesday could determine if he even makes the final cut on Friday. This should be a huge game for Andre Holmes.