By Zach Walker
Didn’t we all love that sampler? Wow! That Hall of Fame game… Electric is the word that comes immediately to my mind. But in reality, it did. It got us all back to game speed, real football, bad tackling and all. And that there is a lot of time, practices, and games between now and the Sunday night opener on September 8. Now I’d love to say that this coming game against the Raiders is going to be the first real test for the Cowboys so far this camp, but saying it with a straight face is going to be difficult. The Raiders are… rebuilding isn’t the right word, think of the Raiders like a deck of cards, by itself it’s just a grouping of stacked paper with numbers on them, but with the right dealer, they can be exciting, but I’m not too sure they have the right dealer. Matt Flynn is honestly a mystery man. He was “the guy” in Seattle, wait no, he wasn’t. He lost his job to a third round pick. So what to do with him? Well, trade him. To Oakland, because they traded their quarterback to Arizona. The smell of stability is over-bearing in the Black Hole. But at least the stability can start to trickle down; their General Manager Reggie McKenzie was the Director of Player Personnel for the Green Bay Packers, very solid. And he’s already started bailing his bigger name players like Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly, Michael Huff and Rolando McClain. So saying that there are holes on the Raiders defense would be a serious under-statement. But what the Raiders lack in house hold names, they have made up for it in constant competition and every position, even down to the punter.
What to look for from the Raiders: The offseason is going to be about finding out who is going to be the man under center. Is it Matt Flynn, or will this be a recurring nightmare where he’s beaten by another Wilson, Tyler this time around. And how far along is Al Davis’ final pick, Terrelle Pryor. The former Buckeye has all the physical skills, but how far has the full offseason with Dennis Allen gone with Pryor.
Raiders rookies to look for: DJ Hayden, Cornerback. The 12th overall pick is most likely going to be thrown into to the fire as one of the two top corners. Menelik Watson is going to push for a starting tackle position, possibly the left tackle. Linebacker Sio Moore could have opportunity to play alongside Raiders star linebacker Miles Burris. And a bundle of rookie pass catchers: Tight Ends Nick Kasa and Mychal Rivera will help fill the hole left by Brandon Myers leaving for the Giants; and wide receiver Conner Vernon from Duke could be a solid reliable target for whoever is throwing to him.
What to look for from the Cowboys: We might actually see recognizable players on defense, maybe a series of Carr and Claiborne, maybe a little Ware, Lee, and Carter but it won’t last long if they’re in at all. Expect to see more Ernie Sims, Alex Albright, and Justin Durant in the second part of the game, but I really love the third group of young linebackers: Devonte Holloman, Caleb McSurdy, and Taylor Reed. Look to see how the Cowboys put Ron Leary, Travis Frederick, David Arkin, and Phil Costa on the field, personally I like Leary at left guard, Frederick at center, and David Arkin at right guard. Quarterback Alex Tanney has something about him, solid poise. The entire receiver corps needs evaluating, but you have to throw them some passes to have someone pull away.
Cowboys rookies to look for: Travis Frederick showed serious ability versus Miami, and he’s the type of player who will always want to fine tune his play. Escobar didn’t really have many opportunities to show his stuff. B.W. Webb will want to get more opportunities, and JJ Wilcox will probably get the most reps at safety, he looked a step out of place and his tackling needs to be better, but if he gets the opportunity to play with better corners, his play will probably increase. Holloman was rarely out of position and showed what this defense is supposed to be about, creating turnovers. Tank Reed, was deeply impressive and going to have to string more of those types of games together.
Last Game’s quiet stars: Offense: David Arkin. Defense: Caleb McSurdy. Special Teams: Chris Jones.
Last Game’s MVP: Punter – Chris Jones. He showed that, when healthy, he is a massive weapon for the defense, his accurate placement of his punts were very impressive, and if you can make opponents drive 85+ yards to score a touchdown, I like the chances of making a stop.
Prediction: Cowboys 24 Raiders 13. But the score is irrelevant. To fans, we want to win. To coaches, these games are about evaluating players and situations, the score is secondary. To the players, the win is more of a confirmation of where they are and how far along they are as a squad.
August 9 – 9PM CST
O.co Coliseum, Oakland, CA