The Dallas Cowboys have had far too long to think about their opening date with the New York Giants. But with only a week to go until the season kicks off, Dallas still has a few questions that it hopes to get answers to.
The Cowboys won't solve everything in tonight's preseason finale against the Miami Dolphins, especially with the majority of regular starters sitting. But here are four things we'll be watching for regardless.
Josh Brent and Sean Lissemore attempt to replace Jay Ratliff
Ratliff is hurt again and is likely to miss regular season time, meaning that 24-year-olds Brent and Lissemore will finally get a crack at significant and consistent snaps in Week 1. Brent is a big run-stopper and is likely to play some early downs, while Lissemore is a more versatile five-technique who can also play nose.
Lissemore made the most of his limited opportunities in his sophomore season last year, which has many believing he could be a future star at either end or nose tackle. Tonight, we'll get to see how he and Brent perform with the 31-year-old Ratliff sidelined.
The wide receivers continue to jockey for positioning
What we know is that Miles Austin and Dez Bryant are the starters, while Kevin Ogletree, Cole Beasley and Dwayne Harris are the key backups. Beyond that, Andre Holmes, Danny Coale and Tim Benford are clawing for a sixth spot that might not even exist.
Regardless, all six receivers not named Austin and Bryant will have final opportunities to gain separation or close gaps against the Dolphins.
Final audition for Marcus Spears
The 29-year-old veteran has performed extremely well during the preseason, but so has starter Jason Hatcher, as well as undrafted rookie Ben Bass. With Lissemore and rookie third-rounder Tyrone Crawford sure to make the team, Spears might need another stellar performance as he works as a starter against Miami.
If that happens, Spears should make the team and even play a big role. If it doesn't, Dallas could instead opt to keep Bass or Clifton Geathers.
Final tuneup for Morris Claiborne
The rookie first-round pick has obviously missed quite a lot of his first offseason due to injuries to his shoulder and knee. And when he was on the field consistently early in camp, he looked a lot like a rookie cornerback.
Now that he's back but still behind, Claiborne will get starter reps against the Dolphins so that the team can get a final feel for where he's at headed into Week 1 against the Giants.
Check back later for a full wrap on the Cowboys' final preseason performance.