The Dallas Cowboys will open their preseason against the Oakland Raiders tonight on Monday Night Football (8 PM EST) with at least seven starters likely out for the game.
Dez Bryant's status for tonight's game is up in the air. After slightly tweaking his hamstring on Saturday, he was held out of the rest of practice, but did participate in Sunday's walkthrough. Bryant will likely be a game-time decision depending on how his hamstring feels tonight. Morris Claiborne started practicing again on Saturday after missing all previous practices this week with a sprained left knee. Coach Jason Garrett said he does not anticipate playing Claiborne tonight and that Claiborne's debut will likely be in the second preseason game against the Chargers on August 18.
Other starters who'll be out against the Raiders are Miles Austin (hamstring), Nate Livings (hamstring), Phil Costa (back), Jay Ratliff (foot), Jason Hatcher (groin) and Anthony Spencer (hamstring). And if you were to add Mike Jenkins (shoulder) to the list, you could have up to eight potential 2012 starters who won't suit up tonight.
But even if healthy, the starters wouldn't have seen much playing time anyway. Jason Garrett said on Friday that the playing time for the starters would be limited to eight to 12 snaps, or one or two series, which means that the injuries to the starters will give the backups extended opportunities in the game.
"You have a little bit of a next-man-up philosophy with your football team, and you want to see how guys respond when they are that next man up," Garrett said. "If they can respond accordingly and show us what they can do."
On a more positive note, outside of Nate Livings, all the Cowboys' free agent acquisitions (who are still with the team) are likely to see playing time tonight.
Mackenzy Bernadeau will likely make his debut for the Cowboys tonight after missing significant offseason and training camp time as he recovered from hip and knee surgeries.
Brandon Carr, Lawrence Vickers, Kyle Orton, Dan Connor, Pat McQuistan, Daniel Loper and Derrick Dockery are all healthy will all see playing time in accordance with their positions on the depth chart.