5 things to watch in tonight's Cowboys preseason opener

08/12/2012 11:03 PM

04/18/2013 7:29 PM

After two weeks of training camp, the Dallas Cowboys are ready to hit someone else. They will get that chance tonight in their preseason opener against the Oakland Raiders. Don't expect to see many of the front-line players on the field for more than a series, because this game is more about the backups and young players.

1The Cowboys had planned to take an extended look at the backup receivers battling for the No. 3 job even before Dez Bryant and Miles Austin suffered hamstring injuries. Look for Kevin Ogletree and Dwayne Harris to start with the starters sidelined. But the question is whether Cole Beasley, Andre Holmes and Tim Benford, who have played the best in camp, can continue to perform under the lights and the pressure of a game.

2Who's at center? With Phil Costa nursing an ailing back and Bill Nagy and Kevin Kowalski sidelined indefinitely, it will be mystery meat for the Cowboys at the position. David Arkin is expected to start, but he has struggled with snaps all camp. Linemen Harland Gunn and Pat McQuistan also have been cross-trained at center and will play there tonight.

3Bruce Carter, who has had a strong camp, is the favorite to win the inside linebacker job opposite Sean Lee. But the starting spot will not be given to Carter. He will share first-team reps against the Raiders with veteran Dan Connor as they have done in practice the past two weeks. Carter has shown range, coverage ability and a nose for the football, but must show it in a game.

4Rookie defensive end Tyrone Crawford had been one of the raves of camp because of his quickness and pass rush skills. Thought to be a project, Crawford has been a quick study and could vie for immediate playing time. He will get a look at left and right end and tackle on passing downs.

5Quarterback Tony Romo and the first-team offense and defense likely will go one series, or certainly no more than eight or nine plays. The Cowboys don't want to risk injuries to their front-line players. Several starters are not expected to play due to injury, including Austin, Costa, nose tackle Jay Ratliff and defensive end Jason Hatcher. Bryant's status is a game-time decision.

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