The Miami Dolphins take on the Dallas Cowboys in a Preseason Week 2 contest in Texas on Friday. The game will likely feature the starters for both teams playing a little longer into the game than they did last week, but will still focus primarily on the depth players getting experience and trying to earn their spot on the roster. For the Dolphins, that means a lot of players like Brandon Doughty, Matt Hazel, Chris McCain, and Jordan Lucas getting playing time as they try to earn roster spots.
But, what about the Cowboys? To get a better look at Dallas heading into Friday night’s game, we turn to Blogging the Boys editor Dave Halprin.
Kevin (KN): Dolphins fans are starting to get hyped by backup rookie quarterback Brandon Doughty after one preseason game. The Doughty hype is nothing compared to the Dak Prescott mania that seemed to grip the national media after last week's preseason games. It also reportedly includes Jerry Jones having Prescott-fever. How have Cowboys fans reacted to Prescott and the media's hype of him?
Dave (DH): Fans are pretty darn excited about Prescott's play in the Rams game. I think a couple of elements play into that. One was that nobody really went into the game thinking Prescott would do more than just kind of muddle his way through. There were no reports of him tearing it up in practice, nothing that would have predicted his play. So when he absolutely nailed it, everybody was amazed. Additionally, it wasn't just the numbers he put up, it was his poise and calmness, and the way he spread the ball around and never seemed overwhelmed by the moment. Given what Cowboys fans had to put up with last year in their backup quarterbacks, the idea that someone could come in and actually help the team win is a powerful narcotic. So everything just kind of came together and people went nuts over what Prescott did. Now, most of us also realize this was just one game, a preseason game at that. For it to really matter, you have to be able to replicate it on a consistent basis. That is one reason fans are so curious about what he will do on Friday night. Can he do it again? Are we looking at the birth of the next Cowboys starting quarterback once Romo retires? Or is this just a flash in the pan? This is an intriguing storyline for Friday.
KN: Tony Romo is expected to start this game, maybe pushing Prescott-mania back for a little while Friday night. How has Romo looked coming back from the broken collarbone that ended his season, after a broken collarbone caused him to miss seven games in the middle of the year?
DH: By all accounts, Romo has had a very good offseason and training camp. There has been no noticeable discomfort surrounding the collarbone and his passing has showed no ill effects. In fact, people are probably still more concerned about his back issues that have dogged him in recent years than they are about the collarbone. The Cowboys have been giving Romo plenty of days off during training camp, but that is something they've been doing for a few years now. Romo says he feels 100% and there is nothing so far to dispute that assessment. Friday night's action will be interesting to watch since it will be his first real action since the collarbone surgery, so there will be some nervous moments. But it's likely that it will be a non-issue this season.
KN: Ezekiel Elliott has been slowed by a hamstring injury he sustained earlier this summer. Is there concern that this is a serious thing, or should he be ready to go when the season starts? Before the injury, did he look like the player advertised heading into the Draft?
DH: The Cowboys are being overly cautious with Elliott's hamstring injury. They never even really deemed it a pull, just a discomfort, meaning it wasn't even that serious but when he felt anything they just shut him down for a while. He returned to practice on a limited basis earlier this week but will not be playing in this week's game. I don't think anyone in the organization is concerned about the injury as it pertains to the season, he should be fine to go for the first game, he'll probably play some in the third preseason game. As for what we've seen, pretty much as advertised. He can do the three big things asked of a complete running back - run, catch and pass protect. He hasn't seen any real, live action as a Cowboy yet, so it's hard to gauge him in that respect, but nothing that has occurred so far would make you think that he isn't the real deal.
KN: There has been a lot of focus on the return of Romo, the selection of Elliott, Dez Bryant being healthy, and the incredible offensive line for the Cowboys. The defense, however, seems to be the weakness for the team. Is that an accurate observation? What are the major concerns?
DH: The Cowboys defense is certainly not on the level of the offense. Depending on which stats you look at and how you evaluate a defense, you could say their performance last year was middle-of-the-road to bad. They had an extremely bad (and some may say unlucky) year in creating turnovers. The year before, they did a great job of getting turnovers, last year not so much. There are concerns at all three levels of the defense. On the line, they don't have a strong pass rush and two guys who were supposed to help will be suspended (DeMarcus Lawrence four games, Randy Gregory 10 games). So they are trying to create a pass rush from some young, inexperienced guys who have a lot of athletic potential. At linebacker, starting middle linebacker Rolando McClain is suspended for 10 games, leaving a big hole. They have a couple of guys who they hope can step in and play next to Sean Lee, but they are not as gifted of football players as McClain. In the secondary, cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne have never really lived up to expectations. Dallas has a ton of questions throughout its defense, but, it should be noted, they are not as bad as conventional wisdom holds. In some of the most important categories - points allowed, redzone, efficiency stats, they are actually an average unit.
KN: What depth players could have an impact on this game, and are players Miami fans should be watching on Friday night?
DH: Besides Dak Prescott, there are some other guys looking to prove their worth. Dallas is looking for a third running back behind Elliott and Alfred Morris. Darren McFadden has been injured and missing all of camp, so sixth-round pick Darius Jackson should see the bulk of the carries tonight. It's his chance to shine and make a claim to the third RB spot. Chaz Green is a 2015 third-round pick who the Cowboys would like to be the backup swing tackle, but so far he's been injured (2015) and hasn't been overly impressive this offseason. He really needs to start showing something or the Cowboys might have to look for a veteran. On defense, the Cowboys have quite a few linemen injured, so Ryan Russell will get a lot of snaps at end. The Cowboys are wondering if he can become a player or is he just a body that takes up roster space. Linebacker Mark Nzeocha has been making a name for himself in training camp so far, so let's see how he does when they have him in at middle linebacker.