The Zeke Elliott-less Cowboys broke training camp in Oxnard, Calif. on Thursday and are now in Hawaii for Saturday’s preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams. They’ll return home to resume practice at the team’s headquarters at the Star in Frisco on Tuesday.
The matchup against the Rams is the NFL’s first preseason game in Hawaii since 1976. This will be the 36th neutral site preseason game for the Cowboys, who have held them in such locales as Mexico, Japan, Canada and England previously.
But coming to Hawaii is special.
“I just think everybody is excited about it. Hawaii is a magical place,” coach Jason Garrett said. “There is a great football tradition there, a lot of great players have come from there. One of our great players years ago, Mark Tuinei, is from Hawaii and so many others. But once you get around the logistical part it’s going to be fun to go over there and play a football game and hopefully grow as a team in a great environment.”
“I think it’s something we’re really excited about doing. It’s a little bit different leaving training camp to go to Hawaii to play a game then going back to Dallas.”
Said owner Jerry Jones: “It’s great to go over there. It’s a real enthusiastic state of NFL fans. We have a lot of Cowboys fans over there. We have a lot of communication with our fans there. It’ll be fun for us.”
WHAT TO WATCH FOR IN COWBOYS’ GAME VS. RAMS
Tyron Smith and Zack Martin are out back issues
Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin has not practiced since the first week of camp because of back issues. He will miss his second preseason game. Now Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith is out with a tight back. He didn’t make the trip as the Cowboys didn’t want him to make that long plane ride to and from Hawaii. Cam Fleming will start at left tackle with Xavier Su’a-Filo still going at right guard in place of Martin.
Dak Prescott and the first team offense
Quarterback Dak Prescott and the first team offense usually plays a quarter in the second preseason game. But with Smith and Martin sidelined, how long do want to keep Prescott on the field and risk him to injury? Tight end Jason Witten will see game action for the first time since coming out of retirement. He sat out the opener against the 49ers. Receiver Amari Cooper will miss his second straight game with a bruised heel. But Randall Cobb should make his Cowboys debut.
Can Brett Maher be perfect
The kicker question is going to be an issue until Brett Maher shows some consistency in making kicks to regain the trust of the team and the fans. He made all six of his kicks on back-to-back days for the first time on the final two days of camp. But that won’t be enough to silence doubters. He will have to do it in game action. Being perfect in a preseason game is a start.
Can the Cowboys get in the end zone?
The red zone offense was a huge issue last season and it proved to be a problem in the 17-9 preseason-opening loss to the 49ers. Neither quarterback could get the team in the end zone. The Cowboys were one of just four teams to fail to score in a touchdown last week, including the Lions, Jaguars and the Rams. The Rams didn’t play any of their starters, including quarterback Jared Goff, and don’t plan to again on Saturday. The Cowboys don’t have the same excuse. They have not scored a touchdown in three straight preseason games dating back to last season and they are riding a five-game preseason losing streak.
Position/roster battles at backup QB and WR
The preseason is truly for backup spots and roster decisions. Now that Cooper Rush has bested Mike White for the best backup QB option on the roster, can he show enough to keep the Cowboys from looking for an upgrade on the waiver wire? The other real hot spot is at receiver where Devin Smith, Cedrick Wilson and Jon’vea Johnson are battling for the sixth spot. Johnson looked good early before coming down with a case of the drops. Smith has come on late and showed why he was a former second round pick of the Jets. It will also be nice to see defensive tackle Trysten Hill flash for the first time. The second-round pick has been kind of quiet.