Dallas Cowboys: What to Watch For Against the Oakland Raiders


The NFL Preseason is very polarizing. Some think it’s a worthless exhibition game and therefore pointless to watch, while others are fully invested watching and cheering to the very end.  I think it would be wisest if we try to fall somewhere in the middle.

While the final score is indeed pointless, the game itself provides many important items to fans and media unable to watch every single practice. For instance, we can see one-on-one matchups and judge individual performances. We can see blocks being made, the technique used and the overall effectiveness. We can see defensive backs react to a football in the air and display special awareness in their play and positioning.

June 11, 2013; Irving, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys guard Ronald Leary (65) center Travis Frederick (70) and guard David Arkin (62) during minicamp at Dallas Cowboys Headquarters. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive Guards

When watching guard David Arkin against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday it was easy to see he was manhandled and physically dominated multiple times. We don’t always know his exact assignments on each play but we can see when he locks in on a blocker and if he is overpowered. So, speaking specifically about Arkin, after knowing his struggles with strength last season, and then seeing the same problem here in 2013, I can conclude he is not a viable option at Guard this year and probably won’t even make the final roster. That’s some valuable information gained by a nice knowledge base and watching a preseason game, wouldn’t you say?

This doesn’t mean it’s completely over for David Arkin. He still has more practices and games so he could redeem himself at some point (it’s just unlikely). I also want to see Bernadeau block and pull. He’s not known for being very fast and last season he was often manhandled with basic bull rushes. Is he fast enough and/or strong enough to succeed in Callahan’s Zone Blocking Scheme(ZBS)?

Defensive Line

Nov 18, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne (24) – defensive end Anthony Spencer (93) – linebacker DeMarcus Ware (94) – defensive tackle Jason Hatcher (97) – linebacker Bruce Carter (54) – nose tackle Jay Ratliff (90) and cornerback Brandon Carr (39) on the line of scrimmage before a play during the game against the Cleveland Browns at Cowboys Stadium. The Cowboys beat the Browns 23-20 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

George Selvie played lights out on Sunday. Does that mean he’s going to be a star in 2013? Of course not. He is a backup who dominated other backups. It’s possible he’s more than that but we will have to see his dominance more in practice and against real competition before we can be sure. But we did learn some things about Selvie:

  • He’s strong and was able to beat his opponents with brute strength
  • He has some pass rush moves and showed a little more quickness than many were expecting
  • He’s opportunistic and was able to take advantage of his opponents’ poor technique and missed blocks.
  • He has a non-stop motor

I also want to see Kyle Wilber’s play. I have been critical of Wilber since the day he was drafted but he happily surprised me in the HOF game. He didn’t have a bunch of amazing plays like Selvie but he did show me speed and lean as he rushed the corner. He also played bigger than I thought he could and may actually be able to stand up to the beating a DE takes over the season. I’m keeping an eye on Wilber

The Defensive Tackle group is equally as important to me. I need to see them occupy offensive guards and effectively handle the inevitable double-teams. If the DT’s can’t do their jobs Sean Lee and Bruce Carter will pay for it. The LB’s are ineffective if they are being blocked by charging 300 lb offensive linemen every down.

The Secondary

Jul 21, 2013; Oxnard, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys safety J.J. Wilcox (27) at training camp at the River Ridge Fields. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The final group I’m placing focus on is the secondary. I specifically want to watch JJ Wilcox who has had a phenomenal camp but was a little hesitant at times during the HOF game. I want to see Wilcox grow in confidence game to game and hopefully win the starting job next to Barry Church early in the season. Sorry, but the idea of Will Allen starting just doesn’t excite me too much.

Keep an eye on Jakar Hamilton at safety also while you’re at it. I have a feeling he’s going show something soon too.

For CB I’m looking at two guys trying to earn a spot – Sterling Moore and Micah Pellerin.  Moore has excellent versatility and can help at safety in a pinch. He’s a pretty good bet to win a roster spot. I want to see how he plays out of the slot.

Jul 21, 2013; Oxnard, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys safety Micah Pellerin (31) at training camp at the River Ridge Fields. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

This should be Scandrick’s last season with the Cowboys (I predict he will be cut for salary reasons) and the Cowboys need either Moore or B.W. Webb to take the nickleback role over.

Micah Pellerin jumped out on game film to many of us on Sunday. He’s pretty sloppy at times with his technique but he has fantastic instincts (The kind you can’t teach) and could turn out to be a contributor on the outside. If he can show improvement at CB and play well on special teams, he could win the final roster spot in the secondary.

Skill Positions are Overrated in the Preseason

It’s fun to cheer on the RBs and WRs but I’m not really interested today. Many times their success in preseason is misleading and mostly a product of someone else’s error rather than actual talent. Don’t get me wrong, Philip Tanner earned most of those yards on Sunday. That was all him, but generally speaking a good run in the preseason is the result of a well-executed block and/or an error by the defense.

The WR’s are also misleading. They are really earning their jobs catching balls in practice. These games are too small of a sample size to really make a fair judgment.

There it is! What to watch for tonight. What are you looking for tonight? Are there bigger worries you’d like to focus on?

Do you have questions or comments regarding Dallas area sports? Email Reid at permaximum@hotmail.com. You may be included in the next weekly mailbag. Follow Reid on twitter @ReidDHanson