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Why the Cowboys should play their starters against the Raiders

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The Cowboys are trying to build a winning football team and they do that by just hanging out on the sideline.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

During my junior year of college, my mechanical engineering design class competed in a double elimination tournament. In teams of four, we were tasked to build a small AA battery-operated vehicle that would race around the stage in a figure eight pattern. We would go head-to-head against another team, with the winner advancing. The winner was determined based not only on speed, but how close we could come to our finish mark. My team had built such an awesome car. It wasn’t pleasing to the eye as we didn’t waste time being creative with appearance, but it was light and very precise, landing just a couple inches from the mark. The only trouble we ran into was that our car would build up so much speed that by the time it started into the last figure eight turn, it would lose traction and flip. We made several adjustments to no avail, but then something magical happened. The battery started wearing down. This slowed down our car just enough to make the turn and wallah - success! With still a couple days left before the race, we had ourselves a great car.

The tournament was great. Our car was beating other cars left and right. Some cars didn’t come close to the mark. Other cars were much slower. Our car was breezing through the tournament. When we got to the final race, we finally met our match as our opponent’s car was just as accurate, but finished just a half a second faster than ours. We still had another chance as that was only our first loss (double elimination), but we knew that if we ran the race again, the same thing would happen. There was no mystery in that. So our team make a collective decision to roll the dice and put in a newer battery in hopes it would provide enough extra speed to win. Well, much to the chagrin of our team members, the call flipped during the second figure eight. We took second place.

I learned an important lesson that day. We worked hard to make something great, but then we got to a point where we felt it was good enough. Had we made more adjustments and testing maybe we would end up breaking something? Even with more time available to get better, we all decided - why bother? We had ourselves a nice car, but just not a championship car.

So whenever I hear people talking about the Cowboys resting players as if there is nothing to gain, the first thing I ask myself is - are they a championship team right now?

Recently, my colleague R.J. Ochoa raised the question of whether or not the Cowboys should shelf the starters to preserve their health. This came on the heels of injuries the New York Giants suffered in their preseason game last week. R.J. ponders what the Cowboys would have to gain after such an impressive showing on Saturday.

Their starters have looked fantastic, they’ve avoided any disastrous-type injury, and they’ve already played a third preseason game so they can shake things up how they want to.

Their starters did indeed look fantastic. I can’t remember watching an offense come on the field and play with such efficiency. They only had to go to third down once in those first two drives.

And it’s this efficiency that has me thirsting for more. Not because I want to see more great football action (don’t get me wrong, it’s exhilarating), but rather because this team is as good as it is because of all the work they’ve put into it. They are on to something good here in Dallas, so let’s not kick our feet up and get comfortable.

With each new rep, Dak Prescott is going to keep getting more comfortable with his teammates. With each new snap, the two new guys on the offensive line will become more and more in sync with their fellow blockers. What a player does against the guy he’s been practicing against in camp isn’t always going to be the same as the competition he’ll face from another team. Let them test their skills against guys that don’t already know what they’re doing, correct their mistakes, and get their body acclimated to playing tired.

This type of debate always comes up in preseason and in recent years where the season finale had no playoff implication for the Cowboys. Yet, time and time again, Jason Garrett gets his troops ready and has them on the field fighting. I completely understand there's a risk and you certainly want to try to minimize it, but you got to be smart about it. Each case has to be assessed differently, but for most of these players - every new snap provides an opportunity for them to grow.

That’s just another thing I love about Garrett. He really understands the value of being on the field playing and isn't going to let the fear of getting hurt obstruct the bigger goal - creating a championship team.