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Cowboys news: Zack Martin ready for season opener, and so is Joe Looney

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Plus some camp battles and the rest of the news you need.

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NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Dallas Cowboys
Zack’s back.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Scout’s Notebook: Lineup Shuffles; More - Bryan Broaddus, DallasCowboys.com
Btoaddus' notes from the last practice of the preseason has some good news and some bad news about the offensive line. (Sorry, Chaz.)

Zack Martin was back at practice and it wasn’t in a limited role. On his first play out of the blocks, Martin was asked to work to the second level, pivot on his left knee and peel back inside to seal the edge while Tavon Austin ran a reverse. Martin appeared to move with no limitations throughout the practice and as he predicted should be a go for the opening game against the Panthers.

Chaz Green and Cameron Fleming split snaps at left tackle as Tyron Smith continues to rest his hamstring. I have to admit that it was a bit of a surprise that Fleming didn’t take all the snaps with the first unit, which tells me that the staff is still looking at Green as a possibility for a roster spot.

Cowboys Zack Martin and Travis Frederick prep the O-line in their own ways - Mike Fisher, 247 Sports
More confirmation that Zack Martin will be ready for the regular season opener.

Martin again left no doubt -- not only in words, but in practice performance -- that he's fully ready to play in the Sept. 9 regular-season opener at the Carolina Panthers.

"I don’t really want to go an extended period of time without being out there,” Martin said. “You get in such a routine with training camp and if you’re out a certain amount of time you can lose it pretty quickly, so I wanted to make sure I got out there and get the reps to stay sharp for the opener.”

That "stay sharp'' issue doesn't include Thursday's virtually meaningless preseason closer at Houston; even if Martin no longer is suffering from the after-effects of a bruised and hyperextended knee -- and he swears he is not, waving away any suggestion that while practicing he wear a knee brace or even a sleeve -- he looks fully prepared to reclaim his position as the NFL's best guard.

Joe Looney goes from comic relief to indispensable - Todd Archer, ESPN
Who would have guessed that re-signing backup OL Joe Looney would turn out to be one of the most important moves the Cowboys made in the offseason?

Things change fast in the NFL.

At the start of training camp, Looney found himself in a potential fight to make the roster after the Cowboys signed Marcus Martin in free agency. In the first preseason game, Martin suffered a toe injury that landed him on injured reserve.

Frederick thought he was dealing with stingers until he was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre, an autoimmune disease that affects the nervous system, putting his availability for the season in question.

Antwaun Woods Strong Play at DT Allowing Cowboys Defensive Line to Take Form ✭ Sean Martin, Inside the Star
A nice little look at how the 1 tech position, once a fairly serious concern for the Cowboys, is now in pretty good shape. (If you follow the link, you'll see how our own OCC provided the basis for the post.)

The Cowboys rotation at defensive end could be one of the league's best at full strength. The same might be said about their defensive tackles should David Irving return to form after serving another four game suspension. For now, the team is getting by at DT thanks in large part to the 6'1", 318 pound Antwaun Woods.

Woods has absolutely embraced the Cowboys lone weakness on the defensive line, turning the 1T position into a strength so far this preseason. Between the first-year player in Woods and second-year Cowboy Brian Price, the Cowboys have legitimate options at nose tackle to allow a player like Maliek Collins to line up at 3T again.

Michael Gallup can prove to be Cowboys top wide receiver in 2018 - Kevin Modisette, Cowboys Wire
Wide receiver continues to be a topic of heated discussion for the Cowboys. But there are many (raises hand) who think Michael Gallup is going to be a big part of making things work.

If Gallup is ever going to fill the role though, he is going to have to prove he can make big plays downfield. In order to be that kind of play maker Gallup will have to gain chemistry with Prescott. The importance of that can not be overstated, as it was the lack of chemistry between Prescott and Bryant on the deep ball that helped push the Cowboys’ all-time leading receiving touchdowns leader out the door this offseason.

Gallup made sure to work hard with Prescott in the offseason, and judging by his first catch in preseason it appears that chemistry is coming along well.

Finally, A Sean Lee Injury Won't Cause Panic Amongst Cowboys Nation ✭ Kevin Brady, Inside the Star
While there are still serious questions for the Cowboys to answer about wide receiver, tight end, offensive line depth, and safety, one place the team seems to have found real answers is linebacker. Joe Thomas may be the most underrated addition to the team this season.

With Sean Lee missing the entire preseason, Joe Thomas got his opportunity to prove what he is worth. And, through the first three (and the only somewhat meaningful) preseason games, Thomas has been the star.

Beginning with his interception during the opener in San Francisco, and ending with multiple splash plays on defense and special teams against the Cardinals last week, Joe Thomas has been all over the field for the Cowboys.

Not only will Thomas be an immediate contributor on special teams this season, but he can start at WILL over multiple games if Sean Lee must miss time with injury. And, based on his history, there's probably a good chance that Lee will face some injury troubles this season.

Will RB Darius Jackson Stick With Cowboys Second Time Around? ✭ Brian Martin, Inside the Star
Here's one vote for Darius Jackson to win the RB3 job (with Bo Scarbrough winding up on the practice squad).

Darius Jackson and Bo Scarbrough have both made some splash plays already in the first three preseason games, but it is the third-year RB who I believe has a slight leg up on the competition. Don't get me wrong, I like Scarbrough. But, I think Jackson can help the team in more ways, which could give him the edge he needs to stick around when cuts are being finalized.

I know it's just preseason, but Darius Jackson has not only been explosive when given the opportunity, he's making it look easy. He's really showing the Cowboys and the rest the NFL just what kind of weapon he can be. He has looked excellent as both a runner and as a receiver out of the backfield. But, it's his ability/willingness to play special teams that he gives him the advantage, however slight, over Scarbrough.

Has Mike White shown the Cowboys enough to win the backup QB job? – Bob Sturm, The Athletic
Count Sturm as one who thinks the Cowboys need to hang onto Mike White. It's behind a paywall, but this kinda sums up things.

I watched him in camp and saw some similarities to Cooper Rush. Rush was a player who dazzled some last year in camp, but I have never been convinced Rush has the ability to make NFL throws and I believe that is verified on both the practice field and these preseason games. He also is not very athletic so he doesn’t have that advantage over White. He definitely has a very good head on his shoulders and stays out of trouble, but when his draft comparable was Kellen Moore, things all seemed to make sense.

I have no problem with Rush and his great story, but I also think the Cowboys are smart to look for an upgrade when the chance comes along. That is why after a few moments of seeing the two guys throw the ball, it is evident that White can go places on the field that Rush cannot and will not. You may have noticed how many times Rush dumps it into the flats. He also will fire deep down the sideline with the looping throws, but he knows that is where he can get away with it (like Moore).

With White, you do see that when he needs to reach back and fire a ball into traffic, he can do it.

Jerry Jones outlines what an 18-game NFL season would look like | Mark Lane, wfaa.com
Jerry Jones floated his idea for an 18 game season - but the reviews of the idea are not positive.

In sharing Jerry's plan with some former folks who used to be a part of the NFL, the unanimous response was that it was a bad idea.

One former player simply rejected the notion.

Another former player objected because it would cause more injuries, which would shorten players' careers and make the contracts smaller.

A former head coach agreed four preseason games may be too many, but adding two regular season games would be too much physical stress on the players.

The football therapy your NFL team needs this season - Bill Connely, SBNation
The SBN NFL preview is out, and there is so much to dig into. Here is what is seen as the Cowboys' biggest strength going into the season.

Goal line offense

Elliott is a 228-pound monster running behind one of the league’s best offensive lines, so it’s no surprise the offense was as good at winning short-yardage situations as the defense was at losing them.

Even with Elliott suspended for six games, Dallas was successful with 87 percent of its plays on third-and-short and 68.4 percent in goal line situations; each mark ranked second in the NFL in 2017.

The question now is whether the Cowboys can overcome the loss of former stalwarts Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, who combined for 11 total touchdowns in each of the past two seasons.