IRVING, Texas – As the Cowboys get set to depart for Miami, here's a list of things I'll be watching against the Dolphins. This team will be giving a large workload to several veterans and a lot of young players on Saturday, and there's a top-notch pass rusher they'll need to worry about. This game should give us a good look at the guy who will comprise the majority of this roster.
- This will be the first extensive action in the preseason for Brandon Carr and it should be a very good test in having to cover guys like Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline for the Dolphins. Wallace last week against the Buccaneers took off on a vertical route that should have been a touchdown if the ball had not been underthrown by Ryan Tannehill. On the other side, Hartline presents a different challenge because of his ability to carry routes across the field -- an area Carr has struggled with in the past. I am also interested to see how Rod Marinelli plays Carr in this game scheme-wise. I expect to see more press man which is the strength of his and a technique that he is more comfortable playing. Physically, Carr has looked ready since he stepped back onto the field.
- If there is an offensive lineman for the Cowboys that has been steady in his approach and performance during this training camp, it has been Doug Free. The plan every week in the NFL is to protect your quarterback first and then everything else should take care of itself. Free has the difficult assignment of blocking the Dolphins' best pass rusher, Cameron Wake. What makes this job even more important is that the offensive coaches are not truly game planning this game, so coming up with combinations for how to handle Wake through scheme will not be as extensive as if this was a regular season contest. There will be times where Free does get help from Zack Martin and DeMarco Murray, but the majority of the work will fall on his shoulders. Free is going to be at his technique best with his hands and feet in order to keep Wake from being a disruptive player -- which has been in the history of his NFL career.
- Can Zach Minter continue to build on the nice game he had against the Ravens? Minter was splitting first-team snaps with Davon Coleman during practices at Valley Ranch in order to get him ready for this game Saturday night. Minter has had opportunities like this before while he was with the Bears in 2013, where in preseason he received work very early in a game. These defensive coaches are more than willing to put him on the field to see exactly what they have in this player. In talking with members of the front office this week they are all cautiously optimistic in what they have in the player. [embedded_ad]
- In the halls of Valley Ranch the saying is that injury leads to opportunity. With the current state of these Cowboys linebackers health-wise my attention will be focused on two rookies – Anthony Hitchens and Will Smith. Hitchens has been getting plenty of work both on the outside, but now inside as well. Smith has been on the opposite end of that workload because he was injured early in training camp, and he is just now working his way back into the conversations. I have always believed that when the pads came on, Smith would be able to show these coaches the type of ability he has. He is not going to be the smoothest-moving player, but he does have a knack for physically playing at the point of attack and getting to the ball. He is now getting more work with the second defense and with the unfortunate injury to DeVonte Holloman he now has a real opportunity to make this team.