The Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins will kick off the NFL's preseason on Sunday, Aug. 4, in the 2013 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game.
The yearly trek to Canton, Ohio, serves as a significant landmark as a new Hall of Fame class is introduced.
It is a hallowed ceremony that regularly prompts grown men who have displayed unrelenting toughness on the gridiron to break down in tears. There is no higher pinnacle for NFL players than to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Then, one day after a new class of legends is immortalized into football lore, a new season begins with the Hall of Fame game.
Last season, the New Orleans Saints edged the Arizona Cardinals 17-10, as the Cardinals' quarterback woes began in earnest. The team's signal-callers combined for zero touchdowns, two interceptions and a completion rate of 47 percent.
This year's contest features two teams that feature plenty of talent, but questions abound regarding their true potential.
Here's a quick look at the pertinent information you need in order to catch every minute of the first NFL game on the 2013 calendar, followed by a closer look into what both teams face this season.
Dallas Cowboys vs. Miami Dolphins
When: Sunday, Aug. 4, at 8 p.m. ET
Where: Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio
As usual, there is no shortage of optimism in Dallas as a new season begins.
From the top down, every coach, player and front-office man believes in the team's chances of winning a Super Bowl—as they should. Every team should feel this way during the preseason.
From the outside looking in, however, there are reasons to believe the Cowboys will fail to make the playoffs this year.
The team's offensive line is still highly suspect. Last season, the line failed to create running lanes and protect Tony Romo, who was running for his life.
Dallas' first-round draft pick, center Travis Frederick, needs to live up to the lofty expectations Jones has for him, or 2013 will feature more of the same.
Running back DeMarco Murray is the unquestioned starter at running back, and Jason Garrett has said the team will run the ball more, as noted by Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com:
But Murray has struggled to stay on the field thus far in his NFL career, and the men behind him on the depth chart may have potential, but they're unknown quantities. Certainly, one of these unknowns could turn into a superstar overnight, but that's not something any team wants to bank on.
If Romo gets help from his offensive line and running backs, then the Cowboys' offensive attack has the potential to be one of the more potent in the NFL.
But that's a big "if."
On defense, the Cowboys are currently involved in a complete overhaul under new defensive coordinator and "Tampa 2" guru Monte Kiffin.
Guys like DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer, who have excelled as 3-4 outside linebackers, will now play with their hands in the dirt as defensive ends. Additionally, it remains to be seen if the roster features the defensive tackles it needs to control the middle of the field.
The team's linebacking corps has the potential to be special, however, as Sean Lee, Bruce Carter and Justin Durant will be a formidable trio. But if the team's defensive line struggles to do its job, then the linebackers will have to pick up the slack, which will, in turn, put more stress on the secondary.
Speaking of the secondary, Dallas' cornerbacks will be interesting to watch this preseason. Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne are both exceptional man-to-man cornerbacks, but Kiffin's scheme relies on cornerbacks to play in zone coverage. It's not exactly a perfect fit.
Dallas could pull together and make the playoffs this season, but another mediocre season is just as likely.
After a flashy offseason, fans are buzzing about Miami's potential, but there are a lot of things that must fall into place in order for the Dolphins to emerge as playoff contenders in 2013.
General manager Jeff Ireland wasn't bashful in free agency and during the draft, going out and getting the players he wanted.
By landing receiver Mike Wallace, tight end Dustin Keller, offensive tackle Tyson Clabo and linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler, it's evident he went all in to buy a playoff team.
Then, in another bold move, Ireland traded up into the No. 3 spot in the 2013 NFL draft to land highly coveted pass-rusher Dion Jordan.
Wallace was one of the crown jewels of the 2013 free-agent class, and the Dolphins aggressively pursued and landed him with the goal of giving Ryan Tannehill a deep-threat receiver.
But Wallace's transition hasn't gone smoothly. He has reportedly "lacked chemistry" with Tannehill and has been dropping passes in training camp, as noted by Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel.
Though under the radar compared to Wallace, Keller could be the more valuable acquisition, as Tannehill needs a security blanket in the middle of the field.
Speaking of Tannehill, the team has high expectations for the second-year starter. After showing promise as a rookie playing with a below-average receiving corps, the team hopes he'll take a giant leap in development this season with his new receivers.
With so many new faces—high-profile players, at that—second-year head coach Joe Philbin has a tall task in front of him. Though he has plenty of talent to work with, it's always a challenge to get so many new players to play as one unit.
One preseason game won't prove anything, but it'll at least give us a glimpse into what both teams are facing going forward.
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