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Mailbag: Should starters play in the preseason?


Last year the Cowboys didn't play Dak Prescott during the preseason, and several other starters saw very little time. To me, that showed in Game One of the regular season. It seemed to me the offense was out of sync in that game. I know the reason they don't play is to avoid injury, but do you think the first-string offense should play in the preseason to work out the kinks before the regular season starts? – Paul Albright/Pflugerville, TX

Nick Eatman: I've changed my tune over the years on this subject. In the past, I think I just wanted to see the starters, mainly because I wanted too see them play. When you watch guys for the entire training camp, you just want to see them in a real game. But to me, when Tony Romo was crunched over in Seattle back in 2016, that weird play just changed his entire season and career. Now, it worked out for the Cowboys because Dak Prescott was ready to take over. But it was hard to know that at the time. All we saw was the starting quarterback get hurt and miss several games. That can happen at any moment. As great as it might feel to watch the starters go up and down and the field and score on a possession or two in the preseason, the sick feeling of losing a starter in a game that doesn't matter outweighs that leaps and bounds. Getting some work is nice, but not at that cost of losing someone.

Kurt: On our Hangin' With The Boys' podcast, Nate Newton has said several times that because the starters don't play in the preseason, it takes four regular-season games before the offense is firing on all cylinders. They are still, as you said, working out the kinks. Just consider last year. Eleven teams completely rested their starting quarterbacks as well as a few key veterans in the preseason and they promptly went a combined 3-8 in Week One of the regular season. That included the Cowboys, who converted only 20 percent of third downs, totaled 244 yards of offense and had a whopping 10 penalties in a 19-3 loss at home to the Buccaneers. So yes, I do wish the starters, including Dak Prescott, would see at least some preseason action. How else can anyone prepare for the true speed of the game unless they're actually, you know, in the speed of the game? Of course there is the risk of injury, but by making sure Prescott is healthy in August, is he put at greater risk come September when he's challenged with facing some guys who have already experienced the frenzied pace of real play and the hitting that comes with it? It's a difficult balance for sure (especially if Zack Martin is out), but I would think at least a handful of snaps in the preseason would provide a greater overall benefit to both the player and team.

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