The third game of the pre-season is the most important for the starting players on an NFL team. The first-team offense and defense will see more playing time in the third game than any other game during the pre-season. This "dress rehearsal" allows NFL teams to get a better feel for what they have in their starters, but the added playing time also helps the players fine tune some aspects of football before the regular season starts.
Quarterback Tony Romo has been playing behind a makeshift offensive line. Center Phil Costa will probably miss the game, and you have to start wondering if he will be available for the season opener against the New York Giants.
Romo will also enter the Rams game without starting wide receivers Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, and also Romo's safety blanket Jason Witten. The major components of the offense will be missing, but it does offer players like Kevin Ogletree, Dwayne Harris, Cole Beasley and James Hanna the opportunity to show the coaching staff and front office that they can play at a high level in the NFL.
On the defensive side of the football, the Cowboys have been very impressive, especially considering that they have played the first two games without a lot of their key players. Anthony Spencer, Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher are probably going to see some time in the Rams game.
But what about the Cowboys' opponent for the game, the St. Louis Rams? The Cowboys were firing on all cylinders in last year's meeting, winning the game 34-7. DeMarco Murray had his breakout game, rushing for 253 yards, which was impressive considering he didn't technically start the game. What about the 2012 St. Louis Rams, do they offer a better match up?
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The Rams are in the midst of rebuilding a football team that was the pinnacle of success when Kurt Warner led the "The Greatest Show On Turf", but the Rams have fallen on hard times since. After a horrible season in 2011 where they finished 2-14, it was time for the front office to make some changes.
The Rams fired Steve Spagnuolo and brought in former Tennessee Titans head coach Jeff Fisher to takeover the team. Fisher is a coach that I have always admired, and I believe that the Rams are taking a step in the right direction with Fisher.
When you actually sit down and look at the Rams, you will notice that there is some history associated with the Dallas Cowboys. When free agency started, the Cowboys were linked to Brandon Carr and Cortland Finnegan. Finnegan chose to sign with the Rams, while the Cowboys got their man in Carr.
Of course there is the huge trade that went down this past April in the 2012 NFL Draft. The Rams held the 6th overall pick, which the Cowboys acquired to select Morris Claiborne. With the 14th overall pick, the Rams selected LSU defensive end Michael Brockers, a player who was linked to the Cowboys for months. Either way, each team selected a LSU player, which is also pretty interesting.
Believe It Or Not, The Rams Have Young Talent
There are going to be people out there who underestimate the Rams, but I want to make one thing clear. The St. Louis Rams are a team that is rebuilding, but they do have a lot of young talent.
Start with the quarterback position, which is one of the hardest positions to fill in all of sports. Sam Bradford has battled injuries and a lack of dynamic weapons at wide receiver during his career in St. Louis, but he is a former number one pick with immense talent. We didn't get to face him last October, so it will be nice to see him go up against our defense tomorrow night.
Also on offense are rookies Isaiah Pead and Brian Quick. Pead was a great running back in college for Cincinnati, but he was a major sleeper entering the 2012 NFL Draft. Quick comes from tiny Appalachian State, but he is a dynamic athlete that has reminded some of Brandon Marshall when he came out of Central Florida.
Former Dallas Cowboy Danny Amendola is in the battle for his life against the young wide receivers on the Rams roster. It burns to watch Amendola in another uniform other than the Cowboys, but he is another storyline related to the Cowboys.
Then there is former New York Giant and Philadelphia Eagle Steve Smith, who is attempting to revive his career in St. Louis. Smith suffered a torn ACL, which required the dreaded microfracture surgery. Just a few years ago, Smith was a very good possession receiver who made huge plays for the Giants. Hopefully his career can rebound in St. Louis.
On defense, the Rams also boast a lot of young talent. Former UNC standout Robert Quinn is still adjusting to the NFL, but he is a dangerous young pass rusher. The Rams also drafted two very talented cornerbacks in Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson.
The Rams may lack superstar power, but they have plenty of younger players who could develop into very good football players. Facing competition that is young and talented will be a good test for the Dallas Cowboys.
Steven Jackson Or Julius Jones?
Bill Parcells made a lot of great decisions for the Cowboys when he was in charge in Big D, but there were also a few questionable moves during his reign in Dallas. Perhaps the most bizarre move Parcells made was trading out of the first round in 2004, therefore passing on Oregon State running back Steven Jackson.
The Cowboys later took Notre Dame running back Julius Jones with the 43rd overall selection. We all know the disappointing story of Julius Jones. He shined early in his career, but he was held back by injuries and the coaching staff not knowing how to properly use Jones in the running game.
Even though Jackson has battled injuries throughout his career, he has been excellent when he manages to stay on the field.
The Cowboys may be superior to the Rams on paper, but we shouldn't underestimate any opponent. The NFL is a league where a team can change drastically in one offseason, just take a look at what a new coaching change did for the San Francisco 49ers. The Rams will be a good challenge for us as we inch closer towards the regular season.