There will be much to glean from Thursday's Raiders game, provided you don't obsess over the first team.
Tony Romo and the first team offense and Demarcus Ware and the first team defense will get two series, if other preseason games are any guide. This means they'll get somewhere between six to fifteen snaps, depending on their effectiveness or ineffectiveness.
This also means that by 9:20 pm CT Thursday night, the starters will have lost their pads and will be sipping gatorade on the sideline. Unless you're planning on bailing on the broadcast, or don't want a letdown, get ready to watch these guys, because the 2nd and 3rd quarters will belong to them:
- QB: Jon Kitna, 3
- RBs: Felix Jones, 28/Tashard Choice, 23
- FB: Deon Anderson, 34
- TEs: Martellus Bennett, 80/John Phillips, 89
- LT: Doug Free, 68
- LG: Montrae Holland, 64
- C: Cory Proctor, 71
- RG: Greg Isander, 62
- RT: Pat McQuistan, 77
- WRs: Sam Hurd, 17/Miles Austin, 19/Isaiah Stanback, 86
We all have plenty to study with this group. Kitna has much better arm strength than the departed Brad Johnson, but how accurate will he be? He looked out of sync with his new receivers much of the time. How well does John Phillips block when leading a running back up the gut? Deon Anderson has been dinged up,so Phillips may get lots of lead blocking chances. If he can neutralze ILBs the Cowboys have themselves a 7th round find.
How well does Doug Free block unaided on pass plays? Is Montrae Holland more than big? Can he create movement on DTs? Has Pat McQuistan improved at all or is he a placeholder until Robert Brewster returns?
Can Sam Hurd and Miles Austin translate their promising camp performances into a real game? Can Isaiah Stanback continue to make plays, as he was this past weekend, and secure the 5th receiver spot?
- DE -- Stephen Bowen, 72
- NT -- Junior Siavii, 78
- DE -- Jason Hatcher, 97
- OLB -- Victor Butler, 57
- ILB -- Bobby Carpenter, 54
- ILB -- Jason Williams, 58
- OLB -- Brandon Williams, 59
- CB -- D'Angelo Smith, 31
- SS -- Michael Hamlin, 36
- FS -- Alan Ball
- CB -- Mike Mickens, 33
- Nickel CB -- Ball, 20
The corners on this list may have to wait a bit later than the rest to play. WIth Mike Jenkins and Terence Newman sitting out the game, backups Courtney Brown and Orlando Scandrick will start. The coaches may want to work those two more than two series.
Their groupmates have plenty of questions to address. Can Junior Siavii anchor the line? Can Bobby Carpenter play the run as well as he has played the pass this camp? Can any of the three rookie linebackers step forward? The two ends have run hot and cold. Jason Williams seemed to be getting a feel for the pro game, but he's still an erratic rookie.
Can any of the Brown/Mickens/Smith corner trio show something? When all the corners were healthy, Scandrick and the two starters looked ready for real games. No other CB distinguished himself, though Ball started to make plays late last week once he was given some reps in the slot. (He played FS exclusvely the first ten days or so.)
Ignore the score folks. I don't think Wade Phillips will call a blitz-free game, but the objective is to assess playing ability. If you go blitz crazy, or go too deep into your offensive playbook, you're putting scheme above ability. All you get is confirmation that your schemes can confuse 1st and 2nd year players, but no evidence whether those guys can actually play.