After sitting at home watching other teams play in the 2012 postseason and after a miserably long offseason and after two weeks of training camp, Cowboys Nation will finally see the Dallas Cowboys take the field again on Sunday in the annual Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio vs. the Miami Dolphins.
Although preseason drags on longer than anyone wishes, it is certainly good to have football back even if it lacks the drama of a regular season game. However, this game will prove very important for some players looking to gain a better position on the depth chart or on the roster at all.
Here are the four main things I’ll be watching for in Sunday’s game against the Dolphins.
1. Draft Picks. Of course an obvious thing to watch for is how the team’s draft picks and younger players are progressing. This game is a big opportunity for players like Gavin Escobar, Joseph Randle and J.J. Wilcox to name a few. With the Cowboys using more two tight end sets this season, Escobar is expected to be a contributor this season, especially in the passing game where he has shown a tendency at making very athletic catches for a tight end. Randle really needs to play well and show that he can contribute in the red zone. Wilcox has his eye set on a starting safety spot. I see Will Allen taking the other starting safety position, but Wilcox’s drive is admirable and who’s to say he might not start if he impresses everyone in preseason. Unfortunately, Cowboys fans will most likely not get a look at rookie receiver Terrance Williams due to a concussion he suffered earlier this week.
2. Defensive and Offensive lines. Depth is the big issue here. Defensively, I’ll be watching Kyle Wilbur, Jason Hatcher and the new guy, George Selvie. With Tyrone Crawford out for the season, Dallas needs players to step up at defensive end because as good as Demarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer are, they cannot play an entire game. Another defensive lineman that has been impressive is Ben Bass. Coaches expect him to contribute this season so watch how he plays Sunday as well. On the offensive line, expect to see a lot of different combinations. Aside from Tyron Smith starting at left tackle, starters have not been determined yet. First round draft pick Travis Frederick will get work at both center and guard, and the same can probably be said of Phil Costa. Doug Free will likely start at right tackle if he continues to play as well as he has during training camp. Also, watch the left guard position because Nate Livings and Ronald Leary have been competing for the starting job.
3. New defensive and offensive coordinators. It has been a long time since the Dallas Cowboys have played a four-three defensive scheme, but this is what fans will be seeing all year. Monte Kiffin’s defense is much simpler than Rob Ryan’s, but it will be interesting to see how quickly the defense is catching on to the new scheme. Offensively, it has been well documented that Bill Callahan is taking over play calling this season. The Cowboys are expected to use more two tight end, single back, sets. This Sunday we will get our first real good look at what the Cowboys hope to do this year offensively, and how Callahan calls plays in the red zone will be something on which fans will focus.
4. Alex Tanney. The undrafted rookie quarterback out of Monmouth College in Illinois, has shown great promise through two weeks of training camp. Now obviously the quarterback decision is not one that the Cowboys organization is worried about because they just signed Tony Romo to a blockbuster contract. However, several years down the road, it will be time for the Cowboys to find a new quarterback. Tanney has good size, good footwork and good arm strength. Right now he’s competing for a roster spot, but I expect he will make the team and believe the Cowboys will work on developing this young QB in hopes that he can take over down the road. By the way, Romo was an undrafted quarterback that played his college ball in Illinois as well.
In conclusion, I would like to offer congratulations to one of the greatest Cowboys ever. Larry Allen is now a member of the pro football hall of fame and he is definitely deserving of such an honor. Without Allen, other Cowboy greats like Emmit Smith and Troy Aikman would have found their jobs much more difficult.