The Arizona play their preseason home opener on Saturday, hosting the Dallas Cowboys. While it is just the preseason, it never hurts to find out about the opponent from the ones who know it best -- the guys that cover the team.
I got in touch with Dave Halprin from Blogging the Boys. I asked him some questions. Here is what he said.
ROTB: How long can we expect to see the starters, and who will be missing?
BTB: Based on what Jason Garrett said, we should see them for at least a quarter, maybe more. This is technically the Cowboys third preseason game, traditionally when they would play at least a half. But they'll be treating their fourth as the regular-season run through, and their fifth as the "last chance to make the roster" game. Cornerback Morris Claiborne won't play, along with guard Ron Leary, defensive end Anthony Spencer and defensive tackle Jay Ratliff. All the other starters should play
ROTB: What has been the biggest training camp story so far, good or bad, for Dallas?
BTB: Probably the offensive line. It's been a good and bad story so far. Left tackle Tyron Smith has been good as expected. Right tackle Doug Free has shown noticeable improvement over last year's debacle, so the tackle situation looks pretty good. Center also is improved with rookie Travis Frederick who is a smart player and has settled in well. But guard was a problem to start with and has been decimated by injury. Ron Leary had just recently elevated himself to starting left guard, but then hurt his knee and will miss 2-4 weeks. Right guard Mackenzy Bernadeau, who was injured to start camp, is now playing but generates no real confidence. The Cowboys though they had Brandon Moore signed but he retired, and they'll still looking at free agent Brian Waters. So some positions are solid, some are in constant flux.
ROTB: How are your draft picks doing so far?
BTB: It's shaping up to be a strong class. First-round pick Travis Frederick will start at either guard or center, likely center. His play has been solid. Second-round pick Gavin Escobar has yet to stand out at tight end, we're still waiting a bit on him. Third-round pick Terrance Williams has shown well in practice and should get plenty of playing time on Saturday at wide receiver. The Cowboys have big-time hopes for him and fellow third-rounder J.J. Wilcox at safety, who will miss the game because his mother just passed away. Fourth-round pick B.W.Webb has had his ups and downs at corner but should make the team. Running back Joseph Randle was a fifth-round pick and after a slow start because of injury has come on strong. He should definitely challenge for playing time this year. Sixth-round pick DeVotne Holloman made one of the highlight plays of the preseason (a long pick six) and has great tools, just needs more consistency. Overall Dallas looks like they did well.
ROTB: Looking back to the offseason, what was the biggest move, best story and biggest disappointment?
BTB: The biggest move was probably in firing Rob Ryan and hiring Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli to change the defense from a 3-4 base to a 4-3 base, specifically the Tampa-2 system. The Cowboys had been running the 3-4 for close to a decade and had drafted and built around that philosophy. So switching to a 4-3 was a big change, key players like DeMarcus Ware would be playing new positions. This was a huge change for Dallas, but they seem to have adapted well. The best story is probably the further emergence of Dez Bryant. On the field he looks unbelievable so far, picking up where he left off at the end of last year. Off the field, he really has shown a new-found maturity that says he finally understands everything he needs to do to be one of the best in the league. The biggest disappointment is the problems on the interior line that were highlighted above.
ROTB: Who at the back end of your roster should we watch out for?
We're all interested in seeing what WR Terrance Williams can do in some extended playing time. He's not exactly back-end of the roster, but we want to get a look at the rookie. Watch for 3rd and 4th string backs Phillip Tanner and Joseph Randle, both have been impressive so far in preseason. On defense, George Selvie had a big first game, and a so-so second game at defensive end. We'd like to see if he can put together another big game.
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