Five things to watch tonight when Dallas Cowboys face Chargers

08/17/2012 11:31 PM

04/18/2013 7:29 PM

SAN DIEGO -- Dallas Cowboys fans could allow themselves to be depressed about all the players who won't participate in tonight's preseason game against San Diego or be excited about the debut of top pick Morris Claiborne in the secondary. Pro Bowl linebacker DeMarcus Ware has a tight hamstring and is one of at least eight starters who won't play tonight. Claiborne, picked sixth overall out of LSU, will get his first real test against the pass-happy Chargers.

1 Starting over again: Quarterback Tony Romo and the starters will play into the second quarter, prompting owner Jerry Jones to hold his breath again that no one gets hurt. The Cowboys are balancing the fine line between being cautious and getting Romo and company the needed work to get ready for the season.

2 Life without Witten: There will be an increased focus on the tight end position, which will be without Jason Witten for the rest of the preseason and possibly the season opener. John Phillips will get the start. It's also a good opportunity for James Hanna, the rookie from Oklahoma, who could have a bigger role as a pass catcher

3 Who's No. 3? The Cowboys will use more three-receiver sets with the shortage of tight ends, giving them a better chance to evaluate the receivers. Can underdog Cole Beasley of SMU outshine Kevin Ogletree, Andre Holmes, Dwayne Harris, etc?

4 No snap decision: David Arkin gets another long look at center. He starts again for Phil Costa, who is out with a back injury. Monday the goal was not to botch any snaps. Tonight the Cowboys hope he gets the blocking part down and doesn't allow any free hits on the quarterbacks, namely Romo.

5 Linebacker minutes: Bruce Carter and Dan Connor continue their battle for the starting linebacker job opposite Sean Lee. Both will play a lot as the Cowboys will be in the 4-3 look as much as they are in the 3-4 this year. Carter has the potential to be special, and his continued development is key after missing much of last year with a knee injury.

Clarence E. Hill Jr.

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