It's Week 3 of the preseason, the much-anticipated dress rehearsal for the regular season when the starters play the entire first half and maybe into the third quarter. Add in the excitement of being the preseason home opener for the Dallas Cowboys and all should be abuzz tonight at Cowboys Stadium when they take on the St. Louis Rams. However, many of the offensive stars the Cowboys hope to count on for the regular season will be sidelined with injuries, including tight end Jason Witten and receivers Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. Add in the absences of center Phil Costa and Pro Bowl linebacker DeMarcus Ware and the focus for the Cowboys is to come away healthy and injury free with the Sept. 5 season opener against the New York Giants less than two weeks away.
Quarterback Tony Romo and the starters will likely play the first half. Romo has had a tough time adjusting in practice without Bryant, Austin and Witten. If he can lead the offense to some success, it would do wonders for the team's confidence.
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Running back DeMarco Murray will see his touches increase against the Rams, against whom he rushed for a team-record 253 yards last season. Coach Jason Garrett doesn't want to wear Murray out , but this is a good opportunity to let him loose, albeit briefly.
The injuries at wide receiver will put the battle for the third spot at the forefront. Look for Kevin Ogletree and Dwayne Harris to start. Cole Beasley, Andre Holmes, Danny Coale, Raymond Radway and Tim Benford will get a chance at the third job and roster spots.
Guard Nate Livings, one of the team's prime free-agent signees, will make his preseason debut after missing the first two games with injury. That means four of the five starters on the offensive line will be in the lineup for the first time. David Arkin is still subbing for Phil Costa at center.
This game should feature the preseason debut of nose tackle Jay Ratliff, defensive end Jason Hatcher and linebacker Anthony Spencer, who missed the first two games with injuries. It also means most of the starting defense will get a chance to play together.