The Dallas Cowboys defense was hit hard due to the suspensions of Rolando McClain, Randy Gregory, and probably most importantly DeMarcus Lawrence. All three of these players were more than likely starters and now the Cowboys coaching staff is left trying to find out who will replace them.
It's understandable that nearly every Cowboys fan will be paying very close attention to how all the players perform as a unit, as well as individually.
Despite the fact that preseason games have little meaning, we still want to see the defense perform well overall and that means that everyone has to play as a cohesive unit. But, these players are also competing against one another for roster spots, so they want to stand out as much as possible individually in a positive way.
Yesterday, I shared with you the players that I will personally be watching on the offensive side of the ball against the Los Angeles Rams, and now I will follow that up with the players to watch on the defensive side of the ball.
There are endless amounts of defensive players to watch, but below are the ones I will personally be keeping a close watchful eye on.
It is very unlikely we will see the Dallas Cowboys prized free-agent signing Cedric Thornton very much against the Los Angeles Rams, or Tyrone Crawford for that matter. So, I'm going to be paying particularly close attention to the backups.
One player in particular I want to see in action again is #95 David Irving. Now, he could be in the mix to start at one of the defensive end positions to kick off the 2016 season, but I personally believe he is at his best when playing along the interior of the defensive line.
Irving's length and ability to quickly fire off at the snap of the ball really puts offensive lineman on their heels and they usually have a hard time recovering. He was one of the Cowboys better disruptive players along the defensive line in 2015 and I fully expect him to be even more disruptive this season.
Would it be a cop out to say that I'm watching every single player that lines up at defensive end very closely?
Of course it would. What would be the fun in that?
I'm really anxious to see how much second year DE Ryan Russell has progressed in his development, but the player I think I'll be focusing on even more is rookie Charles Tapper.
Tapper has rare size/speed for a defensive end in the NFL, but played out of position in college at Oklahoma causing him to fall to the Dallas Cowboys in the fourth round. His natural athletic ability could help him find the field early and often in 2016, but he will have to show something in these preseason games to convince the coaching staff he's ready.
Oddly enough, there are two Cowboys players wearing the #79 (Charles Tapper & Chaz Green), but luckily they play on opposite sides of the ball.
I can't begin to tell you how disappointed I am with Rolando McClain. I was really looking forward to seeing what he could do with a full off-season with the Dallas Cowboys. I even thought he could be the key for defensive success, but I was way off on that assumption.
Now, the Dallas Cowboys have to find another starting middle linebacker and so far it looks like Anthony Hitchens will get every opportunity to be that player.
I however think that #53 Mark Nzeocha has a really good chance to give Hitchens a run for his money and that's why I will be watching him very closely against the LA Rams.
Nzeocha has all the tools required to be a successful linebacker in the NFL, but lacks the experience. These preseason games could go a really long way in proving to the coaching staff that he is ready for a larger role on defense.
The Cowboys starting corners are pretty much set, but Brown could be a valuable backup. This is especially true when you consider how much Morris Claiborne has struggled with injuries thus far in his NFL career.
Anthony Brown will receive a large amount of playing time against the Los Angeles Rams and I for one will be keeping a close watchful eye on how #30 performs.
Brown may be the CB that I'm looking forward to watching the most, but I also want to see how #29 Deji Olatoye has developed in his second year with the Dallas Cowboys. He kind of came out of nowhere at the end of last year and has intriguing size for the position (6'1″).
Kavon Frazier's name hasn't been mentioned much thus far in training camp and I find that somewhat surprising.
It might just be me, but I had high hopes for Frazier when the Dallas Cowboys drafted him in the sixth round. I thought for sure he would make enough plays to push the disappointing JJ Wilcox off the roster, but now I'm not so sure.
I'm actually going to be keeping a close eye on #27 JJ Wilcox and #35 Kavon Frazier, because I think it will come down to one or the other when the Dallas Cowboys get down to their final 53 man roster.
What Dallas Cowboys defensive players will you be watching closely?
Please feel free to use the comment section below to share with us who you will be watching closely against the Los Angeles Rams and why.