With Camp Hamstring (Clarence Hill's line, not mine) fading into the past, the Dallas Cowboys are in San Diego to face the Chargers. The latest hammy victim is likely future Hall of Fame inductee, OLB DeMarcus Ware. He is being held out strictly as a precaution, and all indications are that the tightness he felt would not have kept him out of a regular season game.
The team that the Cowboys will put on the field at Qualcomm Stadium will once again bear only scant resemblance to the team they hope to have to start the regular season. In addition to Ware, the known or in some cases very possible MIA players will include Jason Witten, Jay Ratliff, Jason Hatcher, Anthony Spencer, Miles Austin, Kyle Wilber, Orie Lemon and Phil Costa. Plus the team is watching Dez Bryant closely, and will certainly not leave him on the field for long.
But with each starter or likely roster player that sits, there are more snaps for other players trying to prove themselves. This could well lead to a very sloppy game, particularly in the early going against the Chargers' first team. It looks like their only real injury concern is at running back, which could make for a very strong test against Philip Rivers and the passing game. And we cannot forget the turmoil the Cowboys have on the offensive line.
I am not expecting a win for Dallas, but I do have renewed hope that they can show something promising on both sides of the line. In this game, the most important thing will be evaluating the players fighting to prove themselves.
Five names I will be watching for after the jump.
After reading what seems like hundreds of articles about the event, loosely termed a football game, involving the Oakland Raiders, I am not sure just how good or bad Arkin is. Given the frequent and lingering injury situations in the interior of the offensive line, the odds are very high that he is going to be called on at some point in the regular season, and the team needs him to step up. He is struggling with the center position. He ought to, given that he never played it before. Having undergone his baptism by fire, so to speak, it will be interesting to see how he does in his second game. If he just looks reasonably competent, it could bode well for the Cowboys down the road.
Can he put two good games together? Can someone finally start to show up as the Cowboys' third wide receiver? Will we see Shay riding a unicorn first? Holmes is the right size, and has started to show some of the skills needed. I don't think Danny Coale will shine in his first action, if he makes the field. Cole Beasley, despite his excellent showing so far, still has issues with his size against NFL competition. If there is another name I will be watching along with Holmes, it is likely Dwayne Harris, who may quietly be making a move to make the team.
One of the names that has suddenly come out of nowhere. He is making plays and the competition at safety is now very interesting, with Danny McCray likely the most important competition for him. He may be a big argument for going with five safeties, given the rather flexible way Rob Ryan uses the defensive backs. Given the way players seem to be dropping like flies, he may also be an option if the team decides Matt Johnson is not ready to go and opts for PUP or IR for him (I am not sure about the PUP rules on that, I will admit.) And in the case of an injury to one of the other safeties, he becomes a good insurance policy. I hate to even talk that way, but you have to consider the disaster situations this year.
A month ago, I was thinking that he was not going to be able to hang on to his roster spot. Now, I think he is becoming a swiss army knife of a player, able to play ILB, OLB, and maybe tight end, plus contribute on special teams. What is more important, he seems to be quite competent in both linebacker roles. With Orie Lemon missing some time lately, Albright may have the same kind of opportunity opening up for him that Hamilton has. If Dallas goes with nine linebackers, Albright becomes an almost perfect choice, giving them backups at two (or maybe even three if you consider SOLB and WOLB) positions. Multiplicity rules.
The real sleeper of the five. Bass has started to show up recently in practice, and looked pretty good against the twos and threes in Oakland. He may be what a lot thought Clifton Geathers was, a big, strong force on the line that can play on the nose or in a five technique, and may be able to handle tackle or end when Rob Ryan throws a 4-3 look onto the field. At the least, he may be the one to challenge Marcus Spears (who has risen to the challenge lately) or Kenyon Coleman rather than Geathers. If he breaks through and claims a spot, he and perhaps Hamilton could join Albright as real UDFA finds on the defense.
Those are five names I plan to watch for, mainly because they would be building on something they have already started. I had wanted to put Adrian Hamilton in, but word is he may be limited by another of the seemingly endless string of injuries. His status for the game is uncertain, but since he may not play, I did not go with him in the top five. There are some others, like Mario Butler, and James Hanna, but those five are the most intriguing for me. This week. Lord knows what me and my big sombrero will be looking for in the following game.