The VRR: Previewing Dallas @ Oakland

Finally, some football. The preseason matchup between the Cowboys and the Raiders this Thursday at 9:00 PM (Central) is the first time we get to see our 'Boys hit jerseys other than their own.

The Silver and Black will face the silver and blue with a new head coach, Tom Cable. The last time the two teams played in the regular season was in 2005 when Randy Moss caught a 79-yard pass from Kerry Collins on their second offensive play to help Oakland to a 19-13 win. The Raiders lead the series 6-3, but the Cowboys won the last preseason game 21-20 in 2004.

How unbelievable is this? The last time the Cowboys beat the Raiders in the regular season was back in November of 1995. Hopefully, that streak will come to an end this Thanksgiving.

In April, the Raiders surprised the NFL world by making Darrius Heyward-Bey their first-round pick and the first wide receiver taken overall. Heyward-Bey, who has been battling a hamstring injury this offseason, looks iffy for this week's matchup.

Just as rookie wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey emerged from his slow start, he sustained a toe injury that prevented him from practicing much Sunday.

More VRR after the jump.

Oakland TE Zach Miller is excited about playing with WRs Heyward-Bey, Louis Murphy, and Johnnie Lee Higgens, to go along with the healthy return of Javon Walker.

As for who will be throwing the ball for the Raiders:

Cable said he intends to announce Tuesday the playing time for his quarterbacks in the exhibition opener against the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night.

JaMarcus Russell is expected to start. Jeff Garcia will be the primary backup if his right calf strain heals in time.

Bruce Gradkowski and Charlie Frye are competing for the No. 3 spot. Gradkowski has received more reps in practice of late, so he figures to relieve Russell or Garcia, if he plays.

Left guard Robert Gallery will not play Thursday because he is still recovering from an emergency appendectomy. Here's a laundry list of Oakland's walking wounded:

-Javon Walker (knee), Khalif Barnes (ankle), Mark Wilson (back), Justin Fargas (hip), Jeff Garcia (calf), John Bowie (groin), Greg Ellis (back), Michael Huff (ribs), Jon Alston (foot) and Jonathan Holland (knee) did not practice due to injury, though Cable said none were really serious. Still, Walker, Barnes, Wilson and Garcia will not play against the Cowboys. Plus, Cornell Green and Cooper Carlisle were given the day off.

-Cable said the first-stringers will play the first quarter Thursday against the Cowboys.

Some Cowboys players' connections with the Raiders include former Dallas OLB Greg Ellis, who will be playing DE for Oakland; Pat McQuistan's twin brother, Paul, is a backup guard for the silver and black; and, Felix Jones gets to reunite with his backfield buddy from Arkansas, Darren McFadden

Martellus Bennett joked about the twisted knee he suffered Monday.

"I didn't have my moon rock in my sock," Bennett said. "I think that was the main reason I was aching."

[snip]

Bennett said the injury also wouldn't prevent him from playing in Thursday's preseason opener at Oakland.

"My knees are better than Tim Duncan's," Bennett said.

Don't expect to see much (if any) of Mike Jenkins, Terence Newman, and Felix Jones in Oakland.

Cornerback Mike Jenkins (sprained right ankle) isn't as sturdy. Injured Saturday, Jenkins said he won't return until next week after his leg twisted while his foot was pinned down.

"It could have been way worse, so I'm cool," said Jenkins, who is competing with fellow second-year player Orlando Scandrick for the starting job opposite Terence Newman.

Phillips has all but ruled out Newman (groin) for the game.

The Cowboys will also be cautious with running back/kick returner Felix Jones. Stiffness in his surgically repaired left toe forced him to sit out team drills in the morning, but he returned in the afternoon and looked OK.

Randy Galloway at the Star-T details how special Marty B could be to the Dallas offense.

Rookie DeAngelo Smith has been working at the free safety and cornerback positions during training camp. It will be interesting to see where the team plays him on Thursday.

"We've had to play him a little bit more at corner than we normally would, but he's got the ability to play both," (Dave) Campo said. "It's good for him from the standpoint that the more things he can do, that makes his stock higher."

While Smith's jack-of-all-trades approach is admirable, it could actually become a hindrance in his effort to make the team. Campo said he likes what Smith is doing and that the fifth-round pick is making progress — but only slowly.

"He's got a lot of things to process in his mind," Campo said. "That's why I say he's coming along slowly. But he's making progress. When he gets zeroed into one position, I think that'll be a little bit easier for him."

WRs Patrick Crayton, Miles Austin, and Sam Hurd have all turned out nice camps. Tony Romo and the rest of the organization look set to count on this group to take their success into the preseason.

Tony Romo insists it's not as bad as that suggests. The front office is so confident in Patrick Crayton, Miles Austin and Sam Hurd that the Cowboys didn't sign any free agents and spent only one draft pick on a receiver — their last one.

"We're a lot deeper than people think," Romo said.

Crayton has the best hands of the group and Austin the most speed, but there's not much difference among the three in any category. They are versatile enough that all three can play any of the receiver slots. Those similarities have made the depth chart moot, too. While Crayton will start opposite Williams, it doesn't really matter whether Austin or Hurd is considered No. 3 or No. 4.

"We're just having fun, teaching each other, learning from each other," Hurd said.

Todd Archer speaks with ESPN about the "relative calm" in this year's Cowboys training camp.

While DeMarcus Ware wants to add some more pass-rushing moves to his arsenal, Coach Phillips thinks differently.

"I've told DeMarcus if he does too much (tinkering) he hurts himself," Phillips said. "The moves he has now, that we've identified, we tell him, 'These are the ones we want you to use because these are the ones that are best for you.'"

Phillips formed his less-is-more philosophy over 32 years in the NFL, many spent as a defensive coach working with Hall of Fame pass rushers like Reggie White, Bruce Smith and Elvin Bethea.

"They didn't have many moves," Phillips said. "They had a great move that nobody could stop or, if they could stop it, they had a counter off it."

Phillips compares an effective pass rusher's repertoire to that of a baseball pitcher. A guy with a blazing fastball doesn't need many more pitches, probably just a change-up, which comes in looking the same but slower, and a breaking ball, which moves a lot.

Ware's arsenal is pretty similar. His best moves are a speed rush (the fastball), a start-and-stop move that Phillips calls the "stutter" and Ware calls his "shake and bake" (the change-up) and a crossover similar to what basketball players use (the breaking ball).

NT Jay Ratliff wants to build on a great '08 season.

While we're in preview mode, let's keep an eye on these two stories for the regular season opener in Tampa Bay.

Starting WR Antonio Bryant's knee surgery will force him to miss the entire preseason. Head coach, Raheem Morris, hopes to have Bryant ready for the opener.

"(It’s) not as big an issue as you would think," said Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris, regarding the swelling in Bryant’s knee. "It’s his meniscus, if you want to get technical with it. They’re going to go clean up a little chunk of meniscus or whatever.

"It goes away and it swells up, it goes away and it swells up, so now we thought it’s just not worth it," Morris said. "Let’s go ahead and fix it up and get him ready for Dallas. He’s had a pretty good training camp so far."

Luke McCown is listed as the Bucs starting quarterback.

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