The VRR: Cowboys Counting on Alex Barron, Sean Lee, and Mike Hamlin to Start at Houston

The string of injuries during this preseason has forced the Dallas Cowboys to adjust their roster accordingly. At the strong safety position, they have young backup options ready to play. At tight end, they have had to bring in new players including three at the position in one week. On the offensive line, they have some players they need to take a look at--a couple are vets that need to prove they can fill in adequately for starters.

At right tackle, Alex Barron's return to practice yesterday was a welcome one. While second-year man Robert Brewster held his own Saturday night against the Chargers, the team expects to start Barron this week in Houston. Barron's presence is needed, seeing that starting RT Marc Colombo (knee) is not expected back until the regular season.

"He practiced a little bit today, but he should practice (fully) tomorrow," Wade Phillips said. "We expect to play Alex Barron this week. Right now he'll start at right tackle."

More VRR after the jump.

Starting left guard Kyle Kosier, who sprained his MCL last week, expects to be back for the regular season opener at Washington. There's no guarantee in that though. He could possibly miss two or three of the regular season games, which means the line will depend on  Montrae Holland to anchor the LG spot between LT Doug Free and C Andre Gurode. Fortunately, Coach Phillips is quite encouraged with Holland's play against the Chargers.

He was so happy with Holland's work that he had the veteran break down the team at the close of practice and the team erupted into a Florida State war chant. "

You don't have to qualify it at all," Phillips said. "He played well." Holland is likely to start the season opener at Washington with Kyle Kosier recovering from a knee injury.

After three games, Tashard Choice leads the Cowboys in rushing with 18 carries for 69 yards. That's an average of 3.8 YPC. Cause for concern regarding the Dallas rushing attack? Coach Phillips doesn't think so.

"Preseason is not a direct indicator of how you are going to do in the season," Phillips said. "So the things I look at are different than what other people look at. I see the running backs running well. I think we are going to be able to block for them well. Would we like to do in the preseaosn game like the Saints last week and make 198 yards? That would be nice but we haven't done that. I still think the running game is going to be good and those guys are going to be good."

Mike Hamlin will replace the injured Gerald Sensabaugh (shoulder) as the starting strong safety. Hamlin just made his return to practice yesterday after having suffered a concussion/neck strain at home against the Raiders.

This is good timing for Hamlin seeing that UDFA safeties Danny McCray and Barry Church have each been doing all they can in practice and in games to earn themselves legitimate shots at making the team. While McCray is more of a free safety and Church is more of a strong safety, Hamlin offers Dave Campo the versatility to play both positions; plus, he has a little more experience than the newbies.

Hamlin played in only six games last year, due in part to a broken wrist. But the Cowboys like his instincts and playmaking ability. At Clemson, he ranked second in school history with 18 takeaways (14 interceptions, four forced fumbles).

"Other than being out, he's done a nice job," Campo said. "I feel comfortable with him because he played some last year."

Bryan Broaddus with his practice observations on McCray and Church.

It was interesting to me that Phillips and the defensive staff had safety Danny McCray working the first dime group. McCray was a special teams ace in the San Diego game but did a poor job in coverage along with Cletis Gordon that allowed a big throw and catch by the Chargers on a misplayed coverage.

McCray and Barry Church have both been impressive enough to consider them potential 53-man roster candidates. Early in camp, McCray appeared to be the better of the two coverage wise. Not just because of McCray’s mistake, but Church has gained some ground some on McCray in that area.

The Cowboys certainly have some UDFAs that will make them think twice when trimming down the roster, including center Phil Costa.

Phil Costa He went undrafted out of Maryland because he has short arms. But he is smart and he is a fighter. He impresses the Cowboys because he refuses to back down from All-Pro nose tackle Jay Ratliff. The Cowboys definitely have a need for the position with guard and backup center Kyle Kosier out through at least the first two games of the season.

2010 Roster Cut Dates: Down from 80 to 75 by August 31, and then down to 53 by September 4.

Sean Lee will replace Keith Brooking, who suffered a shoulder sprain Saturday night. Lee has taken over at first-team ILB and will start the next two preseason games.

Nick Eatman debates the backup NT position. With Josh Brent and Junior Siavii vying for the spot, the Cowboys have some real competition behind Jay Ratliff this season.

Junior Siavii has played well in these last two games, showing some strength to not only push the pile in the second half but make a big tackle for loss.

Josh Brent has also showed some flashes as well, and he’s doing so with a broken hand. It’s hard to push the pile without full strength in both hands. Yet, Bryant made a nice play in the fourth-quarter on a key fourth-down stand.

Dez Bryant was working on routes after practice yesterday with Stephen McGee and Jason Garrett. Apparently, Bryant has lost 10 pounds during his rehab work.

Dez Bryant said he has lost 10 pounds since then, down to 213, while rehabbing with associate athletic trainer Britt Brown.

"It's hell, but at the same time, I know he's trying to get me right, trying to get me better," Bryant said of his time with Brown. "I appreciate that."

It sounds as if Sam Hurd has heard his name being mentioned in trade talks.

"It's what I know. It would be tough to play somewhere else," Hurd said after Monday's practice. "You know your role here, but they know I want to have a bigger role on the offense, and I hope that happens."

[snip]

When asked if Hurd is on the bubble, Phillips said, "We got a lot of good receivers. A lot of good players. I think it's a competition every year, and really at that position, where he is, it's always going to be competitive. If he's a starter, that's a different thing. But right now he's not."

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