The Dress Rehearsal Game: Oakland Raiders at Dallas Cowboys

Darren McFadden is now the Dallas Cowboys starting running back. Photo Courtesy: Franklin Sheard
It looks like Darren McFadden will be the Dallas Cowboys starting running back at the start of the season. Photo Courtesy: Franklin Sheard
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By Zach Walker

Game Info
Oakland Raiders vs Dallas Cowboys
Saturday – August 26 – 7:00 p.m.
TV: CBS 11
AT&T Stadium – Arlington – TX

This is the game before the games, the game in which the starters get to dip a toe back in the full speed waters of the NFL, and the second stringers and the camp battlers are going to have to take advantage of the second half reps to pull away with the available roster positions.

Cowboys to watch for:
1: LB #54 Jaylon Smith – Last week must have been a whirlwind of emotion for Jaylon Smith. The first opponent to have faced in something like nineteen months. And to be honest, he looked pretty darn amped and ready for the two series that he was in on. Time for that next step for Jaylon to take to get back to meaningful football. I still think he’ll be on a harsh pitch count, but every play will be a highlight to watch a player get back to his new 100 percent.

2: RB #20 Darren McFadden – Garrett might play Ezekiel Elliott for some in this game. But the man who will likely start the season for the Dallas Cowboys is Darren McFadden. McFadden looked damn good against the Colts, just cracking off gems left and right, then he fumbled in the red zone. McFadden has looked good anytime he’s gotten in games since Elliott has been with the team, which has helped the feeling of potential helplessness of losing Ezekiel Elliott for a stretch.

3: SS #38 Jeff Heath – This one is going to be an ongoing assessment. Jeff Heath hasn’t been tasked with playing significant minutes like he about to be, since his rookie season. The Cowboys let JJ Wilcox walk away in free agency, and have done very little in terms of long term plans at strong safety, two very late picks over the past two drafts, and Heath wasn’t even a draft pick himself, but neither was the position holder of the past bunch of seasons Barry Church. Heath may be the answer, may not be, but he is what the Cowboys are going into battle with so let us all see how this goes.

4: TE #80 Rico Gathers/ WR #85 Noah Brown – Sight cop out by me, listing two players here, but they are two of the top young players that the Cowboys have in their camp. Rico Gathers missed the Colts game within the concussion protocol, but with one more solid outing, either this game (if he plays) or in the final against the Texans, Rico will be on the 53. Noah Brown is a slightly different story. It is pretty darn unfair, that Noah Brown might be left off of the final 53, even though Ryan Switzer hasn’t played in a single game, and has missed most of training camp, and will likely make the roster. When Brown isn’t flat-lining punters, and catching wide open touchdowns, he’s actually out there, available for further production.

5: QB #7 Cooper Rush – Rush has looked great, and in comparison with Kellen Moore, looked like a beyond capable second string quarterback. As much as I like Kellen Moore, and so does Scott Linehan, his limitations are things that actually cannot be overcome. Cooper Rush, during his touchdown drive, wasn’t taking the checks or the simple tosses, he was letting it rip downfield, on target and impressive, often with solid movement to boot. If Rush continues, he could easily be the backup behind Dak Prescott.

Oakland Raiders to watch for:
1: RB Marshawn Lynch – The Raiders were absolutely exciting last season. Derek Carr emerged as possibly the next generation arm talent, they surrounded him with weapons, and fortified the men blocking in front of him. He got injured, and down went the hopes of their 2016. In 2017, they’re back, but this time they are tying themselves to a 30+ year old running back who likes to “run through a M***** F*****’s face” rather than go around him. He didn’t play last season, and the year before, he got injured, so this is a bold low-risk/high-reward/could-be-a-waste-of-time strategy that the Raiders are going with, and I can’t wait to watch.

2: SS Karl Joseph – He hasn’t played long, only a single season, but Karl Joseph plays like he’s going to stencil his name and jersey number on the player unfortunate to encounter him on a play. He plays the way the Cowboys had hoped that JJ Wilcox would end up like. It doesn’t take long for safeties in the NFL to gain notoriety with the punishment that they can serve up, and Joseph is a missile.