The Cowboys are about to begin quite a preseason journey that consists of four games jammed into 16 days. Not only are the Cowboys and Raiders the last two teams to play a preseason game with their Aug. 13 openers on Monday Night Football, but the Cowboys and Giants start the regular season earlier than anyone else on Sept. 5.
Between now and then, the Cowboys will use the four games to evaluate as many players as possible. Fortunately, a lot of the question marks on this team center on the backup spots, but there are plenty of uncertainties that need to be resolved.
Questions to be answered in preseason:
Just how will the guard position shake out? The Cowboys signed veterans Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings to shore up the two guard spots. Not only has Bernadeau been out until this week because of hip surgery that sidelined him all summer, but Livings has been dealing with a hamstring injury that has him out a week. Backups Kevin Kowalski and Bill Nagy suffering ankle injuries that will keep them out most of camp. That forced the Cowboys to sign two veterans -- Derrick Dockery and Daniel Loper.David Arkin (2011 fourth-round pick) and this year’s undrafted rookies Harland Gunn and Ron Leary have been getting first-team reps. The Cowboys would prefer Livings and Bernadeau to become the starters, but at this point, the club just wants consistency to start building some continuity across the line.
Who emerges at backup WR? Miles Austin is again battling a hamstring injury, but when healthy, he’s the starter. A close second is Dez Bryant, who has had a nice camp. After that, it’s a crapshoot with fourth-year WR Kevin Ogletree as the only other player on the team with an NFL reception. It seems like every day one of the players makes a few nice catches to separate from the pack, but it continues to stay jumbled.
The Cowboys have been linked to every free-agent receiver out there, most recently Plaxico Burress, although owner Jerry Jones dismissed the notion this week. It sounds like the Cowboys want to give the young guys every chance to prove themselves. If no one has emerged by the start of the season, don’t be surprised if a veteran or two is added.
Will CB live up to the hype? The Cowboys made sure to address CB as much as any position this offseason. They got the No. 1 free-agent CB in Brandon Carr, who's had an impressive camp. They also drafted the No. 1 defensive player in LSU’s Morris Claiborne.
The Cowboys haven’t wavered on Mike Jenkins, who reportedly requested a trade in the offseason and isn’t ready to practice because of a lingering shoulder injury. But Jerry Jones has been adamant about keeping Jenkins in the mix despite it being his last season under contract. With Orlando Scandrick also in the fold, the Cowboys seemingly could be very good at CB this year.
But in camp we haven’t seen them all together. Claiborne has been banged up with a knee injury and Jenkins still has about two weeks before returning to action.
If everyone is healthy, it could be a team strength. If not, it could be a problematic area once again for this team.