The Cowboys’ first game is finally here! I’ve listed 19 (yeah, 19, wanna fight about it?) things for you to watch this Sunday night when the Cowboys take on the Bengals.
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1. How much will the starters play?
Coach Wade Phillips has said most of the starters will be out of the game quickly. Tony Romo & Co. will probably receive one series on offense, whether they score a touchdown or go three-and-out. The lone exceptions on offense could be left tackle Doug Free, who the coaches surely want to monitor closely, and fullback Deon Anderson due to the nature of his position.
On defense, free safety Alan Ball may stay in the ballgame a bit longer than the other starters, although he has at least racked up significant game film at his position (as opposed to Free, whose left tackle game tape is minimal).
2. Will the first-string offense score on their first drive?
I recently recapped the Cowboys’ 2009 woes on initial drives. It will be interesting to see how the offense starts (particularly if they are aggressive) against a much improved Bengals defense.
3. How will new Bengal Terrell Owens be treated by his former Dallas teammates?
T.O. left Dallas on somewhat bitter terms, but don’t think for a second that he doesn’t still have a lot of friends in this locker room. Owens figures to be greeted warmly by most of the roster, particularly because it is just a preseason game. Let’s see how Owens and Romo interact if they cross paths after the game.
4. How will Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins perform against “Batman” (T.O.) and “Robin” (Chad Ochocinco)?
I guess Ochocinco isn’t a good enough nickname, so Chad needed a new moniker. In any event, this will be a good test (albeit a short one) for a cornerback duo I rated as the third-best in the NFL.
5. Who will step up in the tight race for the fourth cornerback job?
The battle for the fourth cornerback spot is one of my favorite of the preseason. It is particularly intriguing because, in my estimation, the versatility of safeties Ball and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah will allow Dallas to keep just four corners.
Each guy has advantages over the others. Cletis Gordon’s experience has him in the lead as of now. Bryan McCann is the most athletic of the group. Coach Phillips has even labeled him the best in coverage “when he is on,” but he is also quite frail and may not be physical enough in live action. Rookie Jamar Wall has struggled a bit, particularly in coverage, but the ‘Boys invested a sixth-round draft pick in him.
Right now, I’d give a slight advantage to Gordon with McCann’s upside putting him right in the mix. Wall will need to show he can make some plays to stick around.
6. How will Alan Ball tackle?
Ball missed 22.2 percent of tackles last season, forcing me to provide him with a “D” in run support. His athleticism and speed should allow him to make some plays in the passing game, but he really needs to show he can hold up against the run. He could get a few series worth of work on Sunday night to prove he can do so.
7. Will Anthony Spencer, who has a bruised Achilles tendon, receive any reps?……………..to read more, click here