The integral "dress rehearsal" game is almost here. Traditionally, this is the closest look fans get of their team until week one finally arrives. It’s a real treat. For the Cowboys, it won’t have quite the same appeal as a slew of their key starters aren’t likely to play. Both Dez Bryant and Tyrone Crawford are recovering from a concussion and Orlando Scandrick is nursing a groin injury. Not only that, but the team’s top draft pick, Ezekiel Elliott has been battling a hamstring injury and has missed the first two preseason games. While it is believed he’ll see action, it probably won’t be all that much.
So what do fans have to look forward to when the Cowboys travel to Seattle? Here are five things to keep an eye on Thursday night.
Slow out of the gate
If there was one thing that really bothersome about the great 2014 season it was that the Cowboys offense took a while to get warmed up. It’s like they needed a kick in the pants before they started in with their dominating ways. We'll probably see something similar against the Seahawks. Tony Romo should get about four series to work with. Eventually, it will start clicking, but the team likes to take its time. There are three things that drive me crazy about these slow starts:
Penalties – For as great as the offensive line plays, they have got their hand caught in the cookie jar far too often last year. And last week against the Dolphins, they were back at again on the opening drive.
Tony gives himself up – Understandable, it’s only preseason. At the first sign of danger, Romo should hit the dirt. Staying healthy is priority one and Tony doesn’t have any problem conceding the sack.
Pulling up short – There aren’t too many things more frustrating that completing an eight yard pass on 3rd and 10. The offense can get a little too conservative at times. Sure, you don’t want to make an errant pass, but these short dump offs give us fans 2015 flashbacks and we want no part of it.
Dak Prescott might be able to sneak in a rep with the starting unit toward the end of the first half. Will he make it count? Don't bet against him as the Cowboys have scored on nine of the ten possessions he’s played in.
Will Zeke find space?
The anticipation of watching Elliott take a hand-off for the first time is very exciting. We are all jacked to see what the kid can do, but lower your expectations quite a bit. Sure, we can’t wait for that defining moment where he gets into space and breaks off a big run. Cowboys fans everywhere will all come together in harmony as the front office’s decision to select him will appear validated. As great as that sounds, don’t expect that day to be on Thursday. Here are three reasons why the unveiling of Zeke’s awesome might have to wait:
Limited action – He may have the green light to play, but that doesn’t mean he’ll get a good dose of snaps. While getting in the game and seeing some NFL action is important, it is still preseason. The Cowboys will want to be very cautious with their prize draft pick.
Looks like a rookie – While Elliott has been out of action, the Cowboys offense has had some really good practices. As demonstrated so far in preseason, they look sharp. Now the question is – how long will it take for Zeke to catch up? There is certainly a cause to expect the youngster to be out of sync or make a mistake or two.
Not 100% - Even with limited action, it is still unknown as to just how well he can play. He might start off feeling good, but could tire easy or something may not feel right. No reasons to risk it.
If he does find space though, look out. It will be like watching Alfred Morris, only with the fast-forward on.
This will be a question many of us ask every week as the team searches for guys who can step up. Which defenders show up in this game?
DeMarcus Lawrence – If you’re a player that doesn’t get to play until week five of the regular season, you better take advantage of any opportunity you can get. Lawrence has been having a great camp and will give us a taste of what’s to come later. There is nothing like a sack/fumble to whet the appetite.
Cedric Thornton – Last week he didn’t start, but with Tyrone Crawford out, he could get some extra work. Thornton is still trying to prove himself and he’s off to a good start. He batted down a pass and scooped up a fumble last week, so what does he have in store for us this week?
Anthony Brown – My free agent pet cat delivered last week when Alfred Morris had a big game. This week I’m keeping my eye on my rookie, Anthony Brown. After being held out with a hamstring injury, the Cowboys sixth-round pick from Purdue is back practicing. With Scandrick unavailable, this opens the door for Brown to get his shot.
Fans should get their first look at Benson Mayowa on the edge, but it could take him a little while to get going.