CANTON, Ohio – Finally, football season is back.
If anything the Dallas Cowboys will be back on the field tonight for the first of five preseason games. The Cowboys take on the Dolphins in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, following an emotional night of induction speeches, including ones from Larry Allen and Bill Parcells.
But now the focus shifts to the game. Don’t expect to see many of the starters play long, if at all.
Headline players such as Tony Romo, Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware and Dez Bryant are not expected to play. Other starters such as Miles Austin, DeMarco Murray, Brandon Carr and Sean Lee could be held out for precautionary reasons as well.
But there are plenty of other players this team can evaluate.
Joseph Randle, RB: The rookie very well might receive the most playing time of any of the backup running backs going behind DeMarco Murray. Randle has definitely caught some attention since he threw himself into padded practices. He shined on the goal line, and he’s shown good hands in the passing game. Thanks to the constant rotation between the Cowboys’ five backs in training camp, we have yet to see Randle develop any kind of rhythm. It should be fun to see how he operates with more opportunities, not to mention a chance to show how he holds up against real contact.
J.J. Wilcox, S: Wilcox is probably the non-starter on this team who excites me the most. We’ve seen him smack people in practice, and we’ve heard the Cowboys coaches talk about his aggressive tendencies. I don’t think it’s wise to expect some kind of revolutionary performance during his first NFL appearance, but it’s fun to see such an intriguing talent get an opportunity at a position of need for the defense. With the starters sure to see little to no playing time, Wilcox should get plenty of opportunity to show off. And I think he will.
David Arkin, G: He’s the only guard on this team that hasn’t had some kind of injury here in training camp. Not trying to jinx Arkin, but I’m anxious to see what he can do with this opportunity. I could see him playing the whole game and that is important because as much as we want to see him face the No. 1, I want to see him against Miami’s third-teamers, too. It’ll be a good way to gauge the progress Arkin has apparently made.
Matt Johnson, S: Of course it’s Matt Johnson. All we’ve heard for 15 months is how good he can be when healthy. He appears to be healthy now and I’m curious like everyone else to see how he performs. For his own sake, he needs to be able to play physical, make some plays and come out of this game healthy and ready to it again Friday.
Gavin Escobar, TE – At this point, it’s clear Escobar can catch the ball. But we don’t know how he’ll hold up on the line as a blocker or how explosive he’ll be off the line. He seems comfortable when the ball’s in the air, but I want to see if he has a knack for finding the open spot in a coverage and a feel for getting away from his man on his route. He needs to excel on passing plays and in the red zone to warrant the Cowboys’ pick.
B.W. Webb, CB – It’s unrealistic to assume any player can come up with a game-changing play every week. But Webb has the capability to change a game with his instincts and speed out of the nickel package. He’s come on in recent practices with more interceptions, and if he can transfer that to the game, that will help him find his way onto the field quickly in real games. I also want to see how he can contribute on special teams and whether he can be an option as a kick or punt returner.
Travis Frederick – The rookie center has been steady in camp with his calls and how he has managed the position. He has played comfortable and confident but this will be his first game action in the NFL so the nerves might be tested early. He should see plenty of action at both center and guard but I am especially interested how he fares at center which is his more natural position and should be where he is opening day.
DeVonte Holloman – In camp, he has been one of those players that is always around the ball, Of the young linebackers, the coaches have worked him at several different positions and combinations with the other linebackers. I have been impressed with his ability to not only defend the run physically at the point but he has also done a nice job as well in coverage. I am interested if he can show up as a situational player but also handle a steady diet of special teams work as a core guy. I believe he is one of those players that with experience can do several things for the squad.