IRVING, Texas – One last road trip before the Cowboys conclude their regular season at home, and this trip to Buffalo looks likely to be cold and rainy.
It should be quite an atmosphere for Kellen Moore to notch his first career start, and it'll be interesting to see exactly what type of personnel he has around him. The Cowboys and Bills are both dealing with a variety of injury issues, so that's something worth considering.
Along that same line, injury issues should give the Cowboys a chance to evaluate several young players as they look toward 2016.
Let's take a look:
- With Terrance Mitchell and Deji Olatoye getting snaps in the game against the Jets last week, I would not be surprised to see them play more of a role this week against the Bills. The coaches might be comfortable using them in a way that would allow Byron Jones to move back to safety, which appears to be his more natural position. Olatoye was playing on the outside and Mitchell out of the slot.
- With Rolando McClain back in the lineup as the Mike linebacker, there is a side of me that wonders whether we will see Anthony Hitchens getting work at another position after the game he played last week. The coaches really like what they have been getting from Kyle Wilber in the base, so that might not be a possibility but it's a spot to keep an eye on going into the game.
- With the Friday injury report coming out – the Bills have listed tight end Charles Clay as out. This is a big blow for a Buffalo offense that is already missing LeSean McCoy. I'm confident that during the week, Rod Marinelli was working on ways to keep Clay from being that "go-to" guy for Tyrod Taylor. These Cowboys safeties are catching a break.
- Geoff Swaim is a better blocker than Gavin Escobar, so look for him to be on the field more than what we were used to seeing from Escobar. Swaim is suited to play and function well in either "12" or "13" packages and be that point-of-attack blocker.
- Newly-activated Casey Walker is likely to be on the game day roster come Sunday. Last week, Jermey Mincey played in the role as the backup "one-tech" to Nick Hayden and did a nice job. I expect we will likely see Walker get more of those opportunities just to see if he has a future there. Walker is a stout, point-of-attack player that has more mass than guys they have used this season like Jack Crawford and David Irving.
- I noticed last week that when Kellen Moore came into the game, Scott Linehan went with more "max" protection in order to try and help his quarterback. As accurate as Moore is, if running two or three man routes, keeping a tight end to help him get the ball off is a smart game plan. The one thing I do know is if he has time, he can pick a defense apart.
- Speaking of Scott Linehan: if he wants to call a college style of game – he has the perfect quarterback to do it, but he also has Terrance Williams and Lucky Whitehead to get the ball moving on the outside. Moore is comfortable playing in a quick game where he gets the ball out of his hand and let his receivers work. We saw a little of this last week in how he worked with Dez Bryant.
- In the previous two games that I had the opportunity to study, right tackle Jordan Mills has been the weak link in the Bills offensive line. Mills tends to get over extended and off balance in his set. The Bills will have a choice to make in trying to help him with a tight end to that side or let him roll one-on-one against DeMarcus Lawrence, who has been outstanding the last month of the season. If Mills is left alone on Lawrence, this will be a win for Rod Marinelli and his defense because Mills cannot handle him.
- Bills cornerback Roanld Darby comes into this game nursing a sore groin, and with wet/cold conditions it will be worth it to test him early to see where he is health-wise. Brice Butler has the speed to do it and make him pay if there is in fact an issue. In the games that I have studied, opponents have been going away from him and instead attacking Leodis McKelvin with regular success. Keep an eye on both of these Bills cornerbacks because there might be some opportunity there.
- My guess at the Cowboys Inactives: Dez Bryant, Morris Claiborne, Ronald Leary, Chaz Green, Jameill Showers, Mark Nzeocha and Cole Beasley – keep an eye on this one.