Sports

August 28, 2013

Five things to watch in Cowboys-Texans preseason game

Third-string Dallas quarterback Alex Tanney will be in the spotlight as starters sit out the exhibition final.

The Dallas Cowboys lost a gamble with Matt Moore six years ago when they cut him with the idea of re-signing him to the practice squad, only to have the Carolina Panthers claim him the next day.

They might face a similar decision this week.

Alex Tanney has pushed himself into roster consideration by completing 23 of 42 passes for 246 yards, a touchdown and an interception in three games. Two weeks ago against Arizona, given a chance behind the starting offensive line in the second half, he completed his first 10 passes.

And Thursday night, in the preseason finale against Houston, with Tony Romo not playing, Tanney figures to get most of the snaps again now that the Cowboys are down to three quarterbacks after the release of Nick Stephens. It will be another chance for Tanney to showcase himself, either for the Cowboys or another team.

“I don’t think about that,” Tanney said, adding that he’s just trying to play his best.

The game against the Texans is the last chance for him, and everyone else trying to make the team — in Dallas or elsewhere – to try to play their best.

Here are five things to watch:

Who’s the center

The Cowboys did not say whether Travis Frederick will play Thursday night. He is a starter, so probably not. But he’s a rookie, so maybe so. The Cowboys have to ask themselves if he needs more work, or if they should save him for the New York Giants.

Special teams improvement

The Cowboys have not only been unimpressive on special teams, they have hurt themselves with special teams. There have been two fumbled punt returns, a blocked field goal and a missed field goal, among other miscues.

Safety competition

Undrafted rookie Jeff Heath emerged as the biggest riser among the young safeties in camp. He had a hit that caused a fumble last week. The Cowboys need to find someone who can step in just in case starters Will Allen or Barry Church go down.

Running it

Without Lance Dunbar, there is a chance for another running back to make his case. Phillip Tanner showed a solid understanding last week of the one-cut style the Cowboys are promoting this year. Joseph Randle has already shown flashes. Maybe Kendial Lawrence is next.

Defensive line

This is one of the thinnest areas on the team. Defensive end George Selvie came and went and came and went. He needs to re-emerge as a pass-rush threat, and Kyle Wilber needs to plain emerge. The Cowboys also want long looks at end Thaddeus Gibson and tackle Landon Cohen.

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