The VRR: Gameday is Upon Us

It may just be preseason, but it's gameday!

There will be tackling. There will be a scoreboard. There will be a winner, and there will be a loser. And tonight, we get to see it all.

Tonight, we get to see the quiet violence of Marion Barber, the smiling speed of Felix Jones running from guys who are actually trying to bring him to the ground, the accuracy of Romo and his receivers against players with different logos on their helmets.

On defense, we get to see some new starters in their shiny new Cowboys colors. We get to see Keith Brooking's savvy, Gerald Sensabaugh's coverage skills, and if we listen closely, we may get to hear a band of Coliseum Cowboys fans renewing the old Chargers fans' chants of "Igor! Igor! Igor!" whenever Olshansky makes a play. Surely, the Raiders have heard that before.

After the starters leave around the first quarter, it will still feel as if we have much left to watch. We've got 9.5 draft picks to watch (minus Robert Brewster, Stephen Hodge, and maybe Brandon Williams). Most of them make up much of the reserve defense and the special teams units.

We also have three new quarterbacks, a plethora of athletic linebackers, David Buehler's leg, a rotation at long snapper, a 4th and Long winner, and a ton of hopeful concern for the guys playing behind Flozell Adams and Jay Ratliff. With so much for Cowboys fans to watch, tonight's game in Oakland should have enough intriguing subplots to keep us entertained, even though it is just the 2009 preseason opener.

More VRR after the jump.

In Wade Phillips' press conference after yesterday's walk through, the Cowboys head coach said the starters would play "somewhere around a quarter, or so" depending on how "sharp" they are.

Phillips sounded interested in seeing how different players run with the sub units on defense, and how the running game contributes to the offense.

The seven players he has ruled out of the game are:

CBs Terence Newman (groin), Mike Jenkins (ankle), and Michael Hawkins (knee)

RB Alonzo Coleman (quad) and FB Deon Anderson (knee)

LBs Steve Octavian (groin) and Stephen Hodge (knee). Brandon Williams (shoulder) is a game-time decision.

Here's what the SBReport expects the Cowboys to do in tonight's game.

On offense:

Dallas will try to pound away at the Raiders front seven with their ground game. And when Romo does drop back to pass, expect him to move around in the pocket and find targets down the field, as they want to stretch the field to prove that this offense will be better without Terrell Owens.

On defense:

Attack, attack, attack… the Cowboys want to suffocate the Raider offense and plug every gap on running downs. They want to play fast this season, and with Phillips’ job on the line and many big name head coaches available next off-season, his work with this defense will determine whether he is employed in Dallas in 2010.

Some other previews of tonight's game are here and here.

Bradie James is looking forward to seeing Greg Ellis again so soon in the season.

"It will be a good chance to see Greg, I don't know how much he will play but it will be good to see him," Cowboys linebacker Bradie James said. "It will definitely be tough to see him in a different color jersey. We'll get a chance to 'chop it up' with him as we say. In other words, talk to him and it will be fine."

A California native, rookie linebacker Victor Butler, used his family members to help him study the Cowboys' playbook.

This spring, Butler wasn't able to practice with the team for more than a month because his class at Oregon State had yet to graduate.

So after the Cowboys' rookie minicamp in May, Butler went home to Rialto, convinced he still had some catching up to do.

Armed with the Cowboys' defensive playbook, he assembled members of his family at Carter High School for a series of workouts. Sometimes, twice a day.

His brothers and his sisters. Even his mother.

"I had them play tight end and receiver, run a route or two so I could practice my drops in man coverage and zone," Butler said. "They were pretty cooperative."

Butler hasn't looked back since. He impressed coaches in the team's minicamp in Carrollton in June and has continued to do so during training camp at the Alamodome.

Running team or passing team? What is the identity of the Dallas offense? This news story says that it depends on the offensive line.

Marc Colombo on being held accountable for miscues.

"I think it’s [helping]," Colombo said. "You don’t want to jump offside; you don’t want to have a missed assignment. It holds you accountable each play. The whole entire team sees you go off for one play and you don’t want to be part of that.

"So you work harder to do the right thing. Is it like being put in timeout? It is, like a little kid in the corner. But, you know, it worked then and it works now."

Nate Newton expressed his concerns with the O-line depth to the Star-T's Jennifer Floyd Engel.

"I am a Cowboy fan for life, have been one all my life and I am so hoping I am wrong, but I am telling you, Miss Jennifer, we are a half of a tackle away from disaster," Big Nate said.

[snip]

The Cowboys’ backup plan at left tackle is the starting right guard. And Big Nate is not exactly convinced Bigg is the answer if Flo gets hurt, this opinion coming after watching him in drills on the outside. Let’s just say it was not pretty.

"He’s vulnerable out there," Big Nate said. "He likes to body-squash folks. Out there, you are not body-squashing anybody. You have to move your feet and make it happen."

Which leaves Doug Free, who has the distinction of being the one backup lineman the Cowboys think might be able to develop into a starter. And how do you see his first rodeo going against Osi Umenyiora? Or Brian Orakpo? Or Trent Cole?

"The Eagles, Giants and Redskins have proven time and time again they can beat you with the front seven. They don’t need a safety to beat you," Big Nate said. "People say 'Nate, you are crazy,’ but the NFC East is where the front seven can just take over a game, and you have to have the linemen up for the job." So what Big Nate wants to see tonight in Oakland, and what he now has me looking for, is how Free and Pat McQuistan do.

Sam Hurd practices at full speed in every drill. He sure has had a nice camp.

Locked in a heated competition with Miles Austin for the No. 3 receiver role, Hurd has dispelled any worries the high ankle sprain that limited him to three games last season would be a problem. He has been the team's fastest receiver off the ball, has run crisp routes and consistently catches anything that comes his way.

"I'm very confident for the games because you build it up right here in practice," Hurd said. "You work hard and try to make as many plays as you can and get comfortable with the quarterbacks. Every chance you get, if you go hard, then when it's game time, you'll be able to do the same."

Cowboys Stadium is already almost sold out!

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