The Dallas Cowboys finally play a football game this week and with a shortened preseason, depth will probably be on display way more than in years past. Before this year, there were four preseason games and the Hall of Fame game would make a fifth.
However, this year with the additional game at the end of the season, preseason has gone to three games with the Hall of Fame game being the fourth. When there were four games, starters usually would play a series in the first game, and then the rest would be about depth players. While that could hold this season, odds are we might see more depth players this year than prior years.
With Dak Prescott out for the game, and a handful of other starters already sitting, the Cowboys could decide to play this preseason game a little differently than before. Some starters will still see the field, but the general feeling is that many will not play until the next game and possibly not even until the one after for the “dress rehearsal”.
This preseason game could be more about the depth and young Dallas Cowboys players.
With an extra regular-season game, attrition could be even more of a thing in the 2021 season, but that does remain to be seen. That could mean that teams will play it safe for this preseason and allow the fewer games to better grasp the backups. With fewer games, there is less opportunity for the depth players to shine. Younger players and rookies, like Micah Parsons, Kelvin Joseph, Nahshon Wright will probably play a little more to get them in-game experience even though they are expected to contribute quite a bit this season, with Parsons and Joseph most likely starters right now.
However, the depth will be huge questions for this preseason game. The positions many will be looking at will be safety and corner. Of course, depth across the team will be on display but those two positions probably have the biggest question marks. How the Cowboys rotate the young players with the backups will be a huge jump-start to the final 53 roster.
On offense the biggest depth questions will be at wide receiver five through six, backup quarterback, guard, and if there will be a fullback or third running back. The questions are a little deeper on defense with defensive end and defensive tackle being right after safety and corner. Linebacker is pretty set at starter, and the depth doesn’t seem to be as big of a question other than how the team views rookie Jabril Cox. Luke Gifford, Keanu Neal, and Francis Bernard seem to be entrenched as the backup linebackers with Cox being the biggest question.
This game will not provide all of the answers to the depth, but it will start giving a picture. Defense seems to be the biggest concern overall, with some minor questions on offense. With teams usually playing fairly “vanilla” in terms of scheme, we may not get a full picture of how the team will use players, but it will give an idea of what they are looking for in a player and the type of player they are looking for.
I wouldn’t expect a lot out of the starters across the board, but football is back so we should sit back and enjoy it. Garrett Gilbert will have an opportunity to cement his role as the backup, and there could be a small battle at center. However, most of what we will watch will be about what happens if attrition does become a concern later in the regular season. Now, bring on the football.