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Five Things To Watch For: Dallas Versus Miami

As we enter the third preseason game of 2014, here are five things Cowboys fans should watch for.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

As O.C.C. pointed out, the third preseason game generally carries more weight than the others because it serves as a kind of "dress rehearsal" for the starters. So when I was first planning this article, my main thing to watch was Tony Romo.  How much would he play? On Twitter Bryan Broadus said that Romo should play two quarters, which sounded about right. But now the team has come out and said that Romo will probably just play a couple of series. So if we can't watch our star quarterback, what should we be watching?

1.  Everyone Else's Snap Count: I'm going to pay careful attention to two things; how Dallas treats players coming back from injury, and how many snaps our other offensive stars, (Witten, Dez, Murray), receive. If players like Claiborne, Carr, and other recent returnees play fairly limited snaps, then we know that Dallas is still playing it safe concerning injuries. If Dallas keeps a limited snap count on the offensive skill positions, we know that they're not really worried about their starting offense. But what if both of these groups play major snaps? That tells me that the team is still worried about Romo; either his conditioning isn't completely back, or he's still experiencing soreness. Neither one is cause for panic, but it should be a good indicator of exactly where Romo is in his rehab.

2.  Who Starts at Linebacker: Despite the heartbreaking loss of DeVonte Holloman, linebacker is still our healthiest unit on defense. Which means who comes out as the starters will probably be a good indication of who will start when games actually matter. My best guess; Justin Durant at MIKE, Bruce Carter at WILL, and Kyle Wilber at SAM. But expect some early mixing and matching, especially on passing downs. One wrinkle I think we'll see; both Wilber and Carter playing rush end on passing downs.

3.  Finishing: One negative constant over the past two games has been a lack of finishing. I have consistently seen our linebackers have good position on a play and fill a hole, only to fail to make the actual play. Same with the defensive line; which has done a good job of getting pressure, but are having problems turning that into actual sacks. Our secondary is no different; on the two big plays he gave up last week rookie Terrance Mitchell had fairly decent coverage, but couldn't make the play. Can the defense step up and turn potential into productivity?

4.  Run Defense: It's been a constant mantra of Marinelli's "rushmen". They play the run on the way to the quarterback. And while that's good in theory, it's not something we've seen much of in reality. While I think our defensive line has done a decent job at getting a good push, and playing on the other side of the line of scrimmage they really need to do a better job against the run. Far too often they have relied on the linebackers to "clean up", and with our depleted linebacking core that's a pretty tall order. The pressure is there, now it's time for the rushmen to add the second level to their game.

5.  Offensive Production: Last week showed just how impressive our offense can be. This week the offense needs to show they can be that impressive consistently. I'd also like to see more from our second and third string. They've had some flashes, but the offense really bogs down, especially behind the second-string line.

Well there you go BTB, those are the five things I'll be watching for when we play Miami. How about you?

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