For the first time since Earl Thomas ran down Jason Garrett in it, AT&T Stadium will host a Dallas Cowboys football game this Saturday.
What will happen? What will go down? Obviously the most important thing is
that the Cowboys win the game to see players progress and walk away with no injuries. Within that there’s a lot to look for. Let’s discuss.
Randy Gregory because, well, reasons
The comeback story of the season for the Cowboys (so far) is without question Randy Gregory. The pass rusher has gotten to practice and even do so while wearing pads through the portion of camp in Oxnard, but will he play in the second week of the preseason?
A smiling and excited Randy Gregory credited himself with 4 sacks in practice Wednesday and he expects to play against Bengals. He can't wait— Clarence Hill Jr (@clarencehilljr) August 16, 2018
If Randy is expecting to play he wouldn’t necessarily be doing so without just cause. Let’s cross our fingers.
How much, if any, will we see of Ezekiel Elliott and/or Sean Lee?
Neither Ezekiel Elliott nor Sean Lee played during the second preseason game last year (not counting the HOF game). They’re both critical to the success of the Cowboys as a whole, and we’ve seen Dallas be cautious with both of them during exhibition stretches.
The Cowboys may have been a bit spooked by the injury bug this week when Travis Frederick, Leighton Vander Esch, and Tavon Austin all had their names associated with the dreaded i-word. It makes sense for them to be smart.
We’re tight end hunting
Geoff Swaim and Blake Jarwin are the clubhouse leaders to be 1a and 1b for the Cowboys at tight end this season, but nobody wowed us in any capacity during the first preseason game.
Dalton Schultz is a rookie (who got toasted by Jaylon Smith this week, more on that later) so it’s not really fair to expect a lot from him, and Rico Gathers remains someone many believe in. The last time the Cowboys played the Bengals a tight end had a great move, see below, maybe it’ll happen again.
Can Dorance Armstrong continue on his progression to the Hall of Fame?
If you had to grade which Cowboys rookie is performing most impressively so far, you’d be hard-pressed not to say Dorance Armstrong.
The former Jayhawk defensive end (yes they exist) is doing impressive things so far. While he’s technically listed behind Kony Ealy on the team’s unofficial depth chart, he’s in line to be a legitimate contributor come regular season time.
Dorance needs a new jersey number, but other than that he’s on fire. We’re not in Kansas anymore.
Jaylon Smith continuing to progress
Brace yourselves, BTB. The godbacker might actually be a thing.
Jaylon Smith played a full season of NFL football last year, but he’s just now starting to be recognized by national outlets as far as his comeback. There’s no denying that Smith has looked outstanding thus far through camp and the first preseason game. More of the same will help those that are still on the fence to be convinced.
The end of the wide receiver spot
It’s started to become more accepted that Lance Lenoir is going to make the Cowboys 53-man roster. Deonte Thompson is right there with him barely inside the circle, and Noah Brown needs to rebound from the stock he lost with the time he missed.
So much of how the rest of the roster rounds out is going to help determine how many wide receivers the Cowboys carry. If Noah Brown impresses he could make things complicated, that remains to be seen.
Cooper Rush, Mike White, and whatever’s in between
The world saw Cooper Rush get off to a bit of a slow start last Thursday in San Francisco, but he rebounded after a little bit of settling (and perhaps some more back ups entering the game for the 49ers).
Cooper has fought off Mike White so far through training camp, and it really hasn’t been much of a fight at any point. Mike White has looked like a rookie, but a normal rookie not a Cowboys one. We’ve seen Dak Prescott and Cooper Rush play well so far in their rookie seasons, Mike White has fallen below that insane bar.
Can Mike White make this conversation interesting? Just a little?
The secondary’s hopeful rebound
Kris Richard has been one of the stories of training camp, but the Cowboys secondary didn’t exactly light the world on fire in San Francisco.
We know that Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie are solid, but we need to see more. We’re expecting a lot of depth at cornerback and Anthony Brown being in the slot is something that’s upset a lot of people because of the fact that Jourdan Lewis exists.
Let’s see some depth.