It may not be Week 1 of the regular season, but real live action football is back. This Sunday's Hall Of Fame game marks the first time we get to see our Dallas Cowboys take the field against another team. They've been beating each other up for the past few weeks, so it's time to see what they can do against competition and talent that doesn't line up across from them on a daily basis.
Dallas enters this game without quarterback Tony Romo and injuries along the interior of their offensive line and the entire defensive line. Terrance Williams recently suffered a concussion and will miss at least two pre-season games. That is probably the most disappointing news entering this game as the talented receiver really needs all the NFL experience he can get.
Without further ado, here are a few Cowboys to watch for this Sunday.
Injuries have opened the door for Leary to possibly win a starting job at left guard. Leary would be my ideal replacement for the right guard position, replacing Mackenzy Bernadeau, but that's a topic for another day. The Cowboys spent serious money to secure Leary's rights as an undrafted free agent last year, but he failed to make much of an impression during his rookie season.
Leary wasn't expected to come in and contribute immediately. He was a project the team was willing to take their time with and mold into a starting player. His strengths are power and size, something that could translate nicely to the left guard position. Even though Dallas probably wants to run more zone blocking, it's not a bad thing to have as many road-graders on the offensive line as you can.
Where he has improved this offseason and in training camp has been pass protection. The Miami Dolphins have a legit defensive line and Leary will face some quality players. If he has a strong performance Sunday, it would go a long way in feeling comfortable with him in the starting lineup this regular season.
This is probably too obvious, but I am very curious to see what Frederick can do. With injuries on the line, he could see time at his natural position of center but also at guard. Frederick did play some guard during his time at Wisconsin. His immense strength and physicality should help open up running lanes for two others of importance in Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar.
This game is on national television and will probably be watched by a lot of fans because it will be their first taste of football in a long time. Many were critical of the Frederick selection and a strong performance would help in quieting some of those critics. If he can stop the interior pass rush and solidify the pocket, then it will be a successful outing for the rookie.
It's time to see what his kid is all about. After struggling with injuries during his rookie season, Johnson never got on the field last year and we have seen very little of the free safety. This defense needs a safety with range and ball skills. Johnson displayed those abilities in college and his playmaking ability interested the Cowboys front office enough to take a chance on him in the draft.
Johnson will need to cut it loose and show the team what he can do on the field. I really don't have anything else to say about him because I haven't seen much of him in a Cowboys uniform.
Johnson and Wilcox will run the second team unit together. Wilcox was selected in the third round to end some of the concerns at safety and is also very much a work in progress. His inexperience and limited time at the position could be a gift or a curse, it all depends on how he adjusts and takes the coaching.
This is an important game for Wilcox because it will show if he can actually contribute early on in his rookie season or he is not ready to be counted on. Clearly we shouldn't expect him to make the transition from a small school to a NFL starter in his rookie season, but he does need to contribute in packages and special teams.
The athleticism and talent are there, he just needs to get the mental part down. Akwasi Owusu-Ansah never could do that and it showed nearly his entire time in Dallas. If Wilcox can do the opposite, then he will have a promising NFL career and that all starts on Sunday night.
Believe it or not, there is a good battle heating up at wide receiver. This year's group is better than last year and the competition is fierce. Dwayne Harris hasn't had a good camp so far, but I believe that Harris isn't a player that practices well and just performs at a high level when the lights go on in a real game. If the Cowboys even consider cutting him at the end of the pre-season then they are making a big mistake.
Where they will need to make a difficult decision will be the fifth spot, if they decide to keep that many. Naturally it make sense to go five deep there, with injuries being the way they are the Cowboys should go with five receivers on the roster.
That is where Cole Beasley, Eric Rogers and Jared Green come in. Green is another guy to watch for because of his athleticism and quickness, but Rogers has been making plays in camp and has an interesting combination of size and speed.
It will be hard to knock Beasley off the roster because he can be an effective space player, but in the NFL you need to effectively stretch the field deep. Rogers has the size to do that and he can battle physical defenders where Beasley cannot. If the quarterback can get him the ball against the Dolphins, Rogers could capitalize on a big opportunity to impress the coaching staff.