Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders are closer than you think

25 Oct 1992: General view of a game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Los Angeles Raiders at the Coliseum in Los Angeles, California. The Cowboys won the game, 28-13. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Dunn /Allsport
25 Oct 1992: General view of a game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Los Angeles Raiders at the Coliseum in Los Angeles, California. The Cowboys won the game, 28-13. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Dunn /Allsport /

The Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders seldom play against each other, but there’s more than meets the eye when these two teams face off in Saturday night’s preseason dress rehearsal in Arlington.

It’s been a long preseason for the Dallas Cowboys already, and it’s barely halfway over where meaningless football games are concerned. While all but two teams in the NFL play four preseason games each summer, America’s Team was tabbed to play in the Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio a couple of weeks ago against the Arizona Cardinals.

Yes, five of these glorified scrimmages this year.

But if any preseason game on this year’s schedule is beyond interesting and definitely worth watching, it’s this particular ‘dress rehearsal’ which takes place on Saturday night against the most intriguing opponent of the summer and regular season – the Oakland Raiders.

No, Saturday’s game won’t be exotic or intricate where playcalling and game planning is concerned, and the reasons for this extend beyond the fact that it’s just a summer friendly match and also  passed the realization that these two teams meet a week before Christmas up in the Bay Area.

In this case, there’s a wealth of interconnecting ingredients between these two teams that will make this game feel kind of like a big game in August, if there is such thing.

In 2016, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was leading the Raiders on a charge through the regular season that almost certainly would have landed this storied franchise in Super Bowl LI against the Atlanta Falcons before suffering a broken leg in December. As of last weekend’s game against the Los Angeles Rams, all looks well and good for the fourth-year veteran out of Fresno State.

Well, we all know what Dak Prescott looked like, both last year and last weekend in his first action of the preseason.

Thus, if there’s a regular-season collision to circle on the calendar, it’s that Sunday Night Football matchup in Oakland on December 17.

But first things first.

The NFL is a highly incestuous entity at this point in time as players and coaches find themselves moving from one franchise to another on an annual basis. Despite this well-known practice, there are sometimes greater-than-usual examples of cross pollination within professional football teams. The Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders fit this description.

Starting with Oakland head coach Jack Del Rio, there’s an obvious connection. Entering his third season leading the Men in Black, Del Rio played as many seasons for the Cowboys as a linebacker from 1989 through 1991. There are many other stops for Del Rio, both as a player and coach, but it’s hard to ignore this tie.

On the Cowboys coaching staff there’s quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson, a native of Greenville, Texas, who played a couple of seasons in Oakland in 1998 and 1999 to end his 19-year playing career. Just before that last stop with the Raiders, Wilson was Troy Aikman‘s backup from 1995 through 1997.

Also in the coaching ranks, Dallas Cowboys offensive line coach Frank Pollack spent a year with Oakland in the same role in 2012.

Then comes the players.

Before increasingly troubled running back Ezekiel Elliott was the fourth-overall selection of the Cowboys in the 2016 NFL Draft, current backup tailback Darren McFadden was chosen in the exact same spot in the 2008 NFL Draft by non other than Oakland. There could be tremendous irony surrounding D-Mac and his former team before this season ends.

Cowboys wide receiver Brice Butler and defensive end and 2016 team sack leader Benson Mayowa both spent time with the Raiders in 2014, which already makes you wonder why the Raiders would let both of these players get away. While neither player is of Pro Bowl thread, both will play key roles on their respective sides of the ball for Dallas in 2017.

When taking geography into consideration, Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree, a former standout at Texas Tech, is a native of Dallas, while Cowboys 2016 second-round pick Chidobe Awuzie began honing his skills as a future professional defensive back in high school in San Jose at the beginning of the decade.

You can dig even deeper into the intersquad ties between the Cowboys and Raiders by clicking here.

While this is all cosmetic regarding Saturday night’s game, it’s that big one in December that will probably be effected much more by the silver infection of both rosters, although there’s more former Raiders playing for the Cowboys than the other way around.

Each year there’s speculation of ‘Super Bowl Previews’ during the regular season. These don’t happen very often and the Cowboys have actually played in only two in their 56-year history. They played Denver

in the regular season finale of 1977 before beating the Broncos again in Super Bowl XII. Some 16 years later, 1993, Dallas would host Buffalo on Week 2, a second-straight loss to begin the season without Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith. But the Cowboys would right that issue with a second-straight championship over the Bills in Super Bowl XXVIII.

Next: Breaking down the Dallas Cowboys roster bubble

Who knows if December’s matchup between the Raiders and the Cowboys will mean anything come February 4 in Minneapolis, but if it does then it’s a safe bet that Saturday night’s preseason game at the venue formerly known as Cowboys Stadium will have some impact.