OXNARD, Calif. – The Cowboys may have ended their stay in California a bit early, but they expect to be at full-strength when they get back to Dallas.
The Cowboys host the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday night for the all-important third preseason game, and coach Jason Garrett expects the scene at AT&T Stadium to be a dress rehearsal for his starting units.
"Saturday night will be a good test for our football team," Garrett said. "Our starters will play the most in this game than they will in any of the preseason games, so it'll be a good opportunity for them to get their feet underneath them a little bit and just to play some football."
What that means as far as playing time is concerned remains to be seen. Traditionally, NFL teams pull their starters either right before or right after halftime during the third preseason game. Garrett declined to specify, but he said he'll have a gameplan in mind for all his starters' reps.
"We'll have a different substitution pattern, like every team in the league, for this ball game," he said. "We'll let our guys know here in the next couple days, but we're excited to have this opportunity to play against Minnesota and see where we are as a team."
There should be plenty of intrigue surrounding at least a few of the Cowboys' top flight players. Dez Bryant has been targeting the Vikings game as his preseason debut after tweaking his hamstring on Aug. 6. He practiced fully on Wednesday afternoon, but he left Thursday morning's practice early and did not return.
Garrett didn't specify what that meant for Bryant's prospects of playing Saturday.
"Dez has been practicing and not practicing over the last few weeks coming off a hamstring injury, so we're hopeful that Dez will play and the other guys will play," he said. "If they don't we'll get them ready for the season another way."
Another name to watch will be Sean Lee, who has yet to appear in a preseason game while he continues his gradual return from last year's ACL injury. Lee said last weekend after the Cowboys' loss to San Francisco that he planned to play against Minnesota.
The same should go for Darren McFadden, who continues to up his workload after receiving three carries in San Francisco.
"He's done a good job the last couple weeks, got a couple carries in the game against San Francisco," Garrett said. "We should see him more this weekend – and really the same thing with the other guys."