I know preseason games are boring for most fans. I don't usually find them to be boring because I love to watch the young players and learn who can make an impact for the team in the upcoming season. But the preseason game against the Raiders was tough to watch. It wasn't just that the score was 3-0. It was tough because you can't learn much about your players on offense when the offensive line is a mess.
My #1 concern heading into the game Saturday night is the play of the offensive line. I always hold me breath any time a key player takes a big hit in a preseason game. Jason Witten's injury just proves that I am right to worry. And now Jason Garrett has stated that we should see more of Tony Romo this week than the 11 snaps he played last week. I really hope the line can do a better job protecting him this week. We couldn't get a good feel for the running game or the passing game because the offensive line was so ineffective. And it wasn't just one guy. It was one or two different guys on every play outside of Tyron Smith. I know people are injured but the backups can't possibly be as bad as they looked against the Raiders, right? And Doug Free has got to play better.
There was some debate in the comments on my post on Tuesday about whether Romo is to blame for the offensive struggles. Let's be real here. Tony Romo is a top 10 quarterback and possibly even a top 5 quarterback. Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, or Drew Brees couldn't make the offense go last week given the blocking Romo received. I am scared to think what would happen if Romo were hurt and Kyle Orton became the starting quarterback. I'm not going to mention it again because it makes me sick to my stomach to think about it.
I would like to see Morris Claiborne get a lot of playing time. He has missed a week of practice due to a minor knee injury and some extra reps in the game could help make up for the missed practice time. I'm excited to see what the defense can do with Claiborne, Carr, and Scandrick on the field. San Diego always has a good passing game so I hope Phillip Rivers gets a lot of playing time so the defense can get some experience against a top quarterback.
I want to see more of Bruce Carter. He got a lot of snaps last week and he looked pretty comfortable. I want to see him attacking the ball and becoming a disruptive force like Sean Lee is. I wouldn't mind seeing more of the 4-3 defense that Rob Ryan rolled out last week either with Dan Connor on the field with Lee and Carter. I don't think the Cowboys need to go overboard on the 4-3 look but it is nice to be able to throw different looks at the opposing offense.
The search for the #3 receiver is still pretty wide open. Andre Holmes has the clear advantage right now but his route running doesn't impress me much. And Holmes seems to be strictly an outside receiver which means that if he is on the field then Miles Austin has to be in the slot when he come back and the Cowboys go 3 wide. I would prefer to see someone with more versatility win the #3 spot simply because it allows the Cowboys to move Miles Austin around on the field so the defense doesn't know what to expect.
I hope to see Barry Church continue to assert himself at safety. He seems to have the starting spot wrapped up already but I want to see consistency from him before I feel comfortable with him as a starter. Like I said earlier, I hope Rivers is on the field so he can challenge Church with a few passes.
Hopefully Adrian Hamilton will get some meaningful playing time with better competition. I really think we have a diamond in the rough with him based on what I saw in the Raider game. His pass rush moves are impressive, at least against the lesser competition he has played against.
Witten is out but John Phillips is back. Hopefully Phillips can start flashing the pass catching ability that he showed 2 years ago in the preseason before he tore his ACL. I would also like to see James Hanna continue to show that he has the ability to play meaningful snaps in the regular season this year. As a worst case scenario with the Witten injury both of these guys need to be ready to play against the Giants game in the season opener.
I'm not expecting an exciting game. The score is meaningless and I know that. I just want the play to be at a level where we can actually judge the ability of some of the new players. Hopefully we'll see that Saturday night.