Cowboys vs. Raiders: 6 Things We Learned from Dallas' Preseason Debut

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistAugust 14, 2012

Cowboys vs. Raiders: 6 Things We Learned from Dallas' Preseason Debut

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    The Dallas Cowboys might be 1-0 in the preseason, but Monday night's affair with the Oakland Raiders certainly didn't feel like a victory. There was probably more bad than good in the Cowboys' preseason opener, on both sides of the ball. 

    On the bright side, the defense pitched a shutout. On the down side, the offense managed just a single field goal.

    And as a result, there's only so much I can say we learned in what was one of the most boring football games I've ever watched. 

    But I scratched and clawed and put together six quick takeaways from Monday night's debacle in the Bay Area.

Andre Holmes Has What It Takes to Be the No. 3 Receiver

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    It's still tough to tell who Jason Garrett believes is the lead candidate to become the No. 3 receiver, and it's not likely Garrett will reveal such information until it's become obvious. Right now, though, it's hard not to think that 24-year-old undrafted Hillsdale product Andre Holmes has a slight edge on the competition.

    Holmes wasn't perfect Monday night, but he had one of the Cowboys' top performances in a game that featured very few good ones. 

    Holmes had two especially good catches. It didn't matter that he was facing Oakland's second-teamers, because they were the kinds of plays that simply showed he can ball. He finished with three receptions and 40 yards, which led all Dallas receivers.

    Asked who he felt had an edge in the competition to be the No. 3, Tony Romo mentioned three specific players, and Holmes' name was the second to come out of his mouth.

    "I thought a few guys played well," said Romo (h/t The Dallas Morning News). "Kevin Ogletree, Andre Holmes they did a good job. Cole Beasley's come on lately."

    Considering how big and athletic Holmes is, as well as how often Miles Austin plays the slot, Holmes is the ideal No. 3 receiver candidate. Let's see if he can keep it up going forward. If he can refine his route running, he might lock this thing up.

This Team Still Needs Jay Ratliff

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    Darren McFadden and Lonyae Miller were very productive, and the Raiders offensive line overpowered Dallas' defensive front far too often in the first half. Josh Brent wasn't bad in Jay Ratliff's stead, but Ratliff is still a different-caliber player.

    Expect to see a lot of Brent this season, and Sean Lissemore too, but Ratliff has to be in there on downs that matter most. And he has to be healthy. The 30-year-old is dealing with plantar fasciitis right now, and he was hampered by a rib injury last season.

    Of course, it also didn't help that the Cowboys were also without Jason Hatcher and Anthony Spencer Monday night. On the bright side, Marcus Spears played extremely well up front.

Kyle Wilber and Victor Butler Are in the Mix at Outside Linebacker

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    With Anthony Spencer out and DeMarcus Ware playing sparingly, both backup outside linebackers—Kyle Wilber and Victor Butler—looked good Monday night.

    Now, we've seen glimpses from Butler before and yet he's never been able to take off in three years. He's entering a contract year, so this is his final chance to prove that he can be a consistent pass-rushing threat.

    Wilber is just a rookie, but the fourth-round pick out of Wake Forest has been impressive in camp. He wound up with a thumb injury tonight, but if he doesn't have to miss too much time he could earn the chance to be the first option beyond Ware and Spencer. 

The Offensive Line Is a Work in Progress

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    Yes, they're shorthanded right now. Center David Arkin is a fourth-stringer, while Mackenzy Bernadeau is just returning from injury and Derrick Dockery wasn't on the team until a week ago. Those men all started Monday night.

    Arkin didn't screw up any snaps but was manhandled on a few occasions. He and the rest of the interior of the line struggled, as expected. Tony Romo was pressured too often and DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones had nowhere to go. 

    In fact, pretty much every offensive lineman except Tyron Smith had trouble against the Raiders, which is concerning. 

    I do expect the unit to get better as more players return to health, but there's a serious lack of depth there.

It Doesn't Look Like We'll Have to Worry About the Safeties

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    The underrated Gerald Sensabaugh displayed great range on a first-series interception, while Barry Church played with confidence and showed off his physical side while playing with first-teamers and second-teamers. 

    The Cowboys wouldn't have cut Brodney Pool unless they felt very confident in this duo, especially when you consider that there isn't a lot of depth there. It was good to see Mana Silva play well, too, but expect Sensabaugh and Church to be a reliable duo all season long.

Ben Bass Could Be a Dark Horse to Make the Roster

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    Undrafted rookie Ben Bass had a sack and four tackles in a stellar performance that came out of nowhere. And sure, he was in the game against, like, eighth-teamers, but when you consider that Jason Garrett also recently gave Bass a shoutout for his practice performances, there's the possibility that a sleeper candidate has emerged.

    Tyrone Crawford and Marcus Spears also played well Monday night. Bass' opportunities could be further limited when Jason Hatcher returns, but if the Texas A&M product keeps performing like that, it'll be hard for Rob Ryan to toss him away.