Dallas Cowboys: Analyzing the Lingering Preseason Position Battles
With the Dallas Cowboys slated to kick off the regular season in exactly two weeks, Dallas is most worried about injuries to receivers and a perceived weakness in the interior offensive line. Secondary, at this point, are the position battles that have yet to be settled. Here's a look at the key competitions still transpiring as the preseason hits the home stretch.
Bruce Carter and Dan Connor have been battling all summer for the right to start next to Sean Lee. When Connor was brought in as a free agent, many figured he had a clear edge over Carter, who struggled to stay healthy and looked lost as a rookie.
But Carter's looked really good at times in camp, which might mean he'll be able to live up to being a second-round draft pick with a high ceiling. Neither player has gained a significant edge in preseason action, though, and I don't see that changing between now and the start of the regular season.
Prediction: Carter technically wins the starting job, but we see both players plenty. Expect Connor to get a lot of work on early downs and Carter to be on the field consistently in passing situations.
No. 3 Wide Receiver
Things might finally be coming together for Kevin Ogletree. The four-year veteran has failed to seize similar opportunities in the past, but he's having the best summer of his career and looks like a new man. There appears to be a sense of urgency with Ogletree, and he's making plays.
Ogletree is trying to fight off a handful of receivers who have little to no professional experience, with undrafted free agents Cole Beasley and Andre Holmes making the strongest pushes. Both have been stellar in the preseason, but Holmes might be better suited to line up outside with Miles Austin in the slot.
It's good to see Beasley impress, though, because if Austin isn't able to stay, healthy he'd be a nice substitute in the slot. At this point, he's almost certain to make the team as the fifth receiver.
It'll come down to Ogletree and Holmes over the next two preseason games.
Prediction: Ogletree hangs on for the No. 3 job, but expect to see a lot of Holmes and Beasley, especially if Austin and Dez Bryant keep missing time due to injury.
Interior Offensive Line
The whole interior of the offensive line is a mess, but if not for injury, there wouldn't be much competition here. The problem is that presumed starters Nate Livings, Mackenzy Bernadeau and Phil Costa haven't been able to practice or play very much. As a result, we've seen guys like David Arkin, Ronald Leary and Harland Gunn gain opportunities.
None of those players have performed particularly well, but they'll have a chance to fight for starting roles at guard until Livings and Bernadeau can prove that they're capable of holding up.
It looks as though Costa will start the season at center again, but he's yet to prove he can stay healthy. Fortunately for him, quasi-suitable backup Kevin Kowalski is also hurt.
Prediction: Livings and Bernadeau are coming back at the right time. They should win the left and right guard spots. Assuming Costa gets back in time, he'll win the center job by default.
Who will start opposite Jason Hatcher?
There's quite a fight opposite Jason Hatcher. Kenyon Coleman is the incumbent, but he's 33 now and has been outplayed by Marcus Spears and rookie Tyrone Crawford. Sean Lissemore is also a major factor because it's clear Rob Ryan wants to see Lissemore on the field much more often this season.
Few expected Crawford to look this good this early, while Spears has probably been the best defensive lineman on the field during Dallas' two preseason games. Those two will rotate often, but I don't think Dallas is prepared to start a rookie at this stage.
Prediction: Spears starts from the get-go, but we see a lot of Crawford as the season wears on. Lissemore will get reps all over the line, especially if Hatcher has injury issues again and Jay Ratliff and Josh Brent will handle everything at the nose.
Notice how I didn't include Coleman? Yeah, he gets cut.
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