Dallas Cowboys Face San Diego Chargers in Preseason Week 2: What to Watch for
The Dallas Cowboys are 1-0 this preseason, if that matters to anybody. I'm thinking, though, that Monday's performance in Oakland has Cowboys fans a little on edge. Cowboys 3, Raiders 0? What is this, soccer?
Here's what we'll be watching for in what I can only hope will be a slightly more entertaining Saturday night matchup with the San Diego Chargers.
Morris Claiborne makes his debut
There's a lot riding on how the rookie cornerback performs right from the get-go. He won't likely be asked to do a whole lot coming off of knee and shoulder injuries, but the Cowboys devoted their top two draft picks to Claiborne, so there's quite a lot of pressure there.
When he has been on the field thus far, he's been beaten quite often in practice. But rookie corners always take some time to get acclimated and Rob Ryan's system isn't exactly easy to master.
As a result, we might not glean too much from Saturday night's performance, but at least we'll begin to get a grasp for how prepared Claiborne is to contribute.
Who will be the Cowboys' No. 3 receiver?
Andre Holmes attempts to gain a stranglehold on the No. 3 receiver job
There are some who probably don't agree that Holmes is even in the No. 3 wide receiver spot right now, but based on his performance in Monday night's opener I'd have to imagine the Cowboys are leaning in his direction.
Holmes is still technically buried on the depth chart, but he'll have plenty of opportunities to gain more chemistry with Tony Romo with Miles Austin likely to sit and Dez Bryant limited. Kevin Ogletree is likely to get another start, though, so the battle between Holmes, Ogletree, Dwayne Harris, Cole Beasley and whomever else will be interesting to watch.
Considering that Dallas starts the season in two-and-a-half weeks, you'd think they'd look to settle this thing pretty soon.
A big chance for Victor Butler and/or Alex Albright
With DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer and Kyle Wilber all out, Butler and Albright should play early and often. In fact, with rookie Adrian Hamilton's status also up in the air, there's a chance Butler and Albright are forced to play the majority of the night.
That's exciting, because both looked very, very good in the preseason opener. Butler has the ability to become a top-notch pass-rusher in this league, and this might be his last chance to prove that he can replace Anthony Spencer next year as Ware's sidekick.
The versatile Albright has also worked inside and even as a tight end, so good performances in the next three games should ensure that he's at least a valued role player in 2012.
Dan Connor vs. Bruce Carter continues
This is a fun competition right now because both started the opener, and that might again be the case Saturday. The linebacking corps is depleted, which means we'll see a lot of Connor and Carter against first-teamers. It's an even playing field.
Right now, Connor probably still has an edge, but neither stood out Monday night.
Unless there's an injury, this battle won't end abruptly. We're likely to see a lot of both players throughout the year, but it'll still be interesting to see who rises to the occasion over the next two weeks.
Five particular in-flux players I'll be watching: Ben Bass, Mana Silva, Teddy Williams, Tim Benford and David Arkin.
Check back for a live report card right here during Saturday night's game.
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