It may be the pre-season, but real football is finally back. While the pre-season games primarily consists of players fighting for a roster spot, these games can be entertaining. We are all excited to finally see what the 2012 Dallas Cowboys will look like, but keep in mind there are a lot of injuries that will keep some players out of the first pre-season game.
The starters will only see a limited amount of snaps. The first-team offense will probably be off the field near the end of the first quarter, but there will still be plenty of action to watch for.
Our opponent will be the Oakland Raiders. These two teams last faced off in the pre-season back in 2010. The Cowboys lost that game 17-9, and the Raiders did look pretty good defensively in that game. This will be the first game for new head coach Dennis Allen. He takes over a talented Raiders team, but they are still in the process of rebuilding.
There are some connections between the two teams. Rob Ryan, Bill Callahan and Skip Peete all spent time on the Raiders coaching staff.
This will be an ESPN Monday Night Football game, so we will be fortunate enough to catch the game on the national broadcast. I know I can't wait to see our "Boys in action, but what should we be watching for?
Take the jump for more...
Will Tony Romo Play?
Believe it or not, this is a developing story that I think we should play close attention to. The Cowboys are really struggling with injuries on the offensive line, especially along the interior. Starting center Phil Costa will most likely miss the game due a back injury. Bill Nagy will be seeing a foot specialist next week, and if he needs surgery, he could miss the rest of the season. David Arkin is now our first-team center, and if we start Tony Romo on Monday night, it could become a disaster.
Romo needs reps, but I don't think it's smart to send him out there right now with an offensive line of this caliber. Mackenzy Bernadeau is just coming back from his hip injury, and while he is coming on strong, he isn't on top of his game yet. Derrick Dockery was just signed off of the streets, and he could be one of the starting guards on Monday.
This is why the Cowboys have Stephen McGee and Rudy Carpenter. Let Kyle Orton start the game, take him out early and send in McGee and Carpenter. It's just the first game of the pre-season, and Romo is far too important to this team to lose to an injury. The strategy the Cowboys may take is to put Romo in for one series. Don't be surprised if that one series consists of short passes and running plays.
The Orton signing was, in my opinion, one of the most underrated signings in all of football this past offseason. The Cowboys have struggled to find a reliable option behind Tony Romo, but I think Orton could start for a lot of teams. Just the other day I was talking to KD Drummond about all of the teams Orton could start for.
Orton will not have the best offensive line in front of him on Monday night. When healthy, the Cowboys can offer him better protection, but right now it just is what it is. Hopefully the offensive line gives him enough time to throw the football down the field.
Look for Orton to see who he is developing chemistry with. If I was a wide receiver trying to make this team, I would want to develop a chemistry with Orton because he will be playing most of the pre-season.
The Offensive Line
There are so many injuries on the line right now that I am really starting to get nervous. Phil Costa is not my favorite player, but he is a veteran with starter experience. He has actually played the center position most of his career, while David Arkin was an offensive tackle in college. Pay close attention to the center position and how well the ball is snapped.
At guard I am anxious to see undrafted free agent Ronald Leary. He started off slow, but he has been improving and learning from offensive line coach Bill Callahan.
Perhaps one situation flying under the radar is the tackle position. Doug Free and Tyron Smith are switching sides, but it has really stayed out of the news this summer. Jeremy Parnell continues to impress, and he really looks like another find by the scouting department. Even though he isn't well liked, it may be important to see how well Pat McQuistan performs against the Raiders.
The Wide Receivers
This is the big battle of the summer. One of these guys has to step up and seize the moment, and that all starts in Oakland this Monday. The Cowboys continue to sell us that Kevin Ogletree is the leader for the #3 WR, but he hasn't shown us anything since his rookie season in 2009. As much as I like his speed and athleticism, keeping Ogletree over one of the undrafted rookie receivers we have would be disappointing.
Cole Beasley has been the the talk of training camp. Even though he left the Cowboys, he came back and he has easily been the best story of camp. If he stays healthy, I think he is a lock to make the team. He really has me excited, and I cannot wait to see him in action.
Tim Benford has been showing up almost every day in practice. He is making a strong case to make the 53-man roster, but can he perform at a high level in the pre-season games? Bryan Broaddus reported that the Cowboys gave Benford a sixth round grade in the NFL Draft, so they are obviously high on his talent.
Dwayne Harris is another receiver who offers us versatility, but he must show up big in the pre-season games to make the team. Andre Holmes got off to an awful start when he failed his conditioning test. He is really behind the other wide receivers, so he may be a candidate for the practice squad unless he makes major strides over the next few weeks.
Raymond Radway would have made the team last year, but he suffered a horrible leg injury during the last seconds of the pre-season. Does Radway still have the athleticism he showed us last year? I really want to see him succeed, but that starts with a good performance on Monday night.
Tomorrow.....Part Two: What To Watch For On The Defense