Tonight the Dallas Cowboys play the Seattle Seahawks in pre-season game number three, often referred to as the “dress rehearsal” game. The nickname was adopted due to starters for each team getting the most snaps they’ll be getting of the pre-season.
This means Tony Romo will be under center, Tyron Smith will be at left tackle and the 4th overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft, Ezekiel Elliott, will be behind Romo in the backfield. Usually you’ll see starters on the field for a half until giving way to backups and players fighting to avoid the first cuts coming on August 30th at 3pm. Of the aforementioned trio, Romo has seen the most action leading into tonight, but his time on the field has been limited. What better test to prepare than to face the Seahawks stout front and elite secondary?
That’s where Terrance Williams and Brice Butler enter the conversation. If you ask me this pair of pass catchers have the most to gain of any player not on the bubble for a roster spot. With Dez Bryant sidelined with a concussion, Williams and Butler will start with both likely to draw Richard Sherman at some point. Williams is in a contract year and Butler, while not having a ton of pressure from Cowboy fans, is expected to be a constant contributor from coaches. Romo and rookie Dak Prescott should be looking their way regularly this evening.
I still wonder how much Zeke will play tonight after being sidelined the first two games with a tweaked hamstring. It seems the Cowboys were just being extra cautious with Elliott. The conversation has floated around questioning whether Alfred Morris has earned a week 1 start vs. New York on Sept. 11 by being on the field and getting results during the pre-season. While we should all be pleased with the depth and insurance Morris offers to the backfield, the starting running back was named by commissioner Roger Goodell on April 28th when he announced, “with the 4th pick of the 2016 NFL Draft the Dallas Cowboys select….” Being out for about a month and just recently getting back into the practice routine I expect Zeke to have some nice runs, but you may not see any home runs and fireworks.
Here are five players I’ll have my eye on tonight:
OLB/DE Kyle Wilber.
Cowboys need pressure from the edge. Will Rod Marinelli call on Wilber to blitz from the SAM LB spot or put his hand on the ground as a DE?
OT Chaz Green.
Green missed all of last year with a hip injury and vastly improved from week 1 to week 2 of the pre-season. The Cowboys need a swing tackle and Green can win the spot tonight.
OG Joe Looney.
The Cowboys lost depth and versatility on the interior OL when Mackenzy Bernadeau departed for Jacksonville. The front office added Looney, who has starter experience and plays both guard positions and Center.
DE Maliek Collins.
Zeke will get all of the hype, but Collins is a rookie making his Cowboys debut tonight as well. A 3rd round pick out of Nebraska, Collins has been sidelined with a broken foot, but he’ll have the chance to start tonight and prove he deserves to be part of what’s shaping up to be a deep defensive tackle spot.
LB Damien Wilson.
Anthony Hitchens has all but wrapped up the starting MLB spot. SAM could be occupied by Wilber or the nickel package. Wilson’s value will come from his ability to fill in at either spot, even competing to increase his playing time on the strong side.