The Dallas Cowboys already have two preseason games under their belt, but they will play their third on Saturday as they travel to Glendale, Ariz., to take on the Arizona Cardinals. Dallas is 1-1 on the preseason, while Arizona is 1-0. More importantly, though, both teams have avoided catastrophic injuries, unlike a handful of other teams across the league.
The Cowboys and Cards figure to get their starters about two or three series worth of snaps, but that is likely to be about it. Teams generally use their second-to-last preseason games as a dress rehearsal for the regular season, so Saturday's game will be about keeping the starters sharp but mostly evaluating younger players who are on the bubble.
Dallas and Arizona seem to be pretty settled from a starter perspective on both sides of the ball, as there aren't a ton of position battles to speak of. There are tons of roster spots out there for the taking, though, so the second half of the game should be particularly interesting as guys battle to make the active roster.
Since the Cowboys have been riddled with injuries in recent years, stars like Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and DeMarcus Ware won't be pushed too hard. The same can be said for Cardinals players such as Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald in particular.
Here is a full breakdown of Saturday's preseason meeting between the Cowboys and Cards as the regular season continues to draw closer.
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
When: Saturday, Aug. 17 at 4:30 p.m. ET
Watch: NFL Network
Betting Line (via Bovada): Cardinals (-3)
Cowboys Injuries (via Rainer Sabin of Dallas Morning News)
LB; Alex Albright; Back; Day-to-day; July 30
WR; Cole Beasley; Foot; 1 week; Aug. 8
CB; Morris Claiborne; Knee; Day-to-day; Aug. 6
OL; Ryan Cook; Back; Day-to-day; Aug. 6
DL; Tyrone Crawford; Achilles; Season; July 21
G; Ray Dominguez; Shoulder; Day-to-day; July 29
S; Eric Frampton; Hamstring; Week-to-week; Aug.8
S; Matt Johnson; S; Foot; Out indefinitely; Aug. 2
G; Kevin Kowalski; Knee; 2-4 weeks; July 30
DT; Sean Lissemore; Groin; Day-to-day; Aug. 8
G; Nate Livings; Knee; Out indefinitely; July 30
DT; Jay Ratliff; Hamstring; 1 week; N/A*
LB; Ernie Sims; Groin; Day-to-day; Aug. 8
DE; Anthony Spencer; Knee; 2-4 weeks; N/A*
G; Ron Leary; Knee; 2-4 weeks; Aug. 13
Cardinals Injuries (via Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com)
RB; Ryan Williams; Knee; Day-to-Day
RB; Rashard Mendenhall; Knee, Day-to-Day
S; Jonathon Amaya; Knee; Day-to-Day
G; Daryn Colledge; Leg; Day-to-Day
S; Rashad Johnson; Knee; Doubtful
Cowboys Player to Watch: Gavin Escobar
Despite having one of the best tight ends in the league in the form of Jason Witten, the Dallas Cowboys decided to select Gavin Escobar out of San Diego State in the second round of April's draft.
Escobar was easily one of the most athletic tight ends in the draft, so it's tough to blame the Cowboys for being intrigued by his ability. Escobar has flashed his skill set on occasion at training camp, but he hasn't transitioned to the NFL game as smoothly as Dallas had hoped.
There is little doubt that the Cowboys were trying to mirror the New England Patriots' successful two-tight-end system when they took Escobar. That may ultimately come to fruition, but Escobar is nowhere near ready to be a consistent contributor.
One of Escobar's biggest issues, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com, is his inability to block effectively. Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com took notice of that in a recent practice as well.
This has been a tough practice for Gavin Escobar. Struggling to block and he's got a drop.— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) August 13, 2013
The Cowboys didn't draft Escobar with the intention of making him a blocking tight end, but every tight end has to be able to block to a certain extent. If Escobar is unable to do that, he will be little more than a glorified wide receiver.
Escobar has just one catch for three yards through two preseason games, and it seems like head coach Jason Garrett trusts the likes of Dante Rosario and James Hanna more than him. Escobar isn't in danger of getting cut, but he'll have to make some plays and prove that he can block against Arizona in order to gain a better standing on the team.
Cardinals Player to Watch: Tyrann Mathieu
Will Tyrann Mathieu earn a starting job this season?
Arizona Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu's off-field issues have been well-documented, but all indications are that he is ready to turn over a new leaf.
Mathieu was a game-changer at cornerback in college for LSU, as he won the Chuck Bednarik Award in 2011. Mathieu fell to the third round of the 2013 draft due to questions about his attitude, but he could end up being the steal of the draft provided he stays on the straight and narrow path.
Mathieu has been moved to safety since joining the Cards, and he has already paid dividends. In Arizona's preseason opener against the Green Bay Packers, Mathieu was second on the team with four solo tackles, and he also added a sack as well as a pass defended.
In addition to that, Mathieu averaged 13 yards on two punt returns. Due to an injury to starter Rashad Johnson, Mathieu will start at safety against the Cowboys, according to Urban. ESPN's Ed Werder reports that Bryant called Mathieu the best player in the 2013 draft, and he believes that Dallas' star receiver could be correct.
Cardinals S Tyrann Mathieu will start against Cowboys and WR @DezBryant, who called Honey Badger best player in draft. Might be right— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) August 14, 2013
Had Mathieu never encountered any off-field issues, it's entirely possible that he would have been a top-five pick. His size is a bit troublesome at 5'9", but Arizona hopes it won't be an issue at safety.
Regardless of his slight stature, Mathieu is a tenacious competitor as evidenced by his "Honey Badger" nickname. It really doesn't matter where Mathieu plays, though, because he makes things happen anywhere on the field. Mathieu is very much in the running for a starting job, and he could take the lead with another great game on Saturday.
Which team will win this game?
This game certainly seems to be a crapshoot due to the fact that the starters won't be playing much, but since Dallas is more likely to take a cautious approach with its top players, Arizona should have a leg up. The Cardinals looked fantastic defensively against the Packers in their first preseason game, and the first-team offense was efficient as well.
Also, backup Drew Stanton should see plenty of action for the Cards after a strong opener. The Cowboys seem reluctant to wear out backup quarterback Kyle Orton as they are more interested in the battle for the third quarterback spot between Nick Stephens and Alex Tanney. Because of that inexperience at quarterback, look for Arizona to win by a 24-14 score.
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