Football is not only back in Los Angeles, but it's back, period. And the Cowboys will get to be included in both aspects as they take on the relocated Rams in Saturday's preseason opener at the Coliseum.
The staff writers of DallasCowboys.com have each selected a player from both sides of the ball to evaluate throughout the game, followed by a review of their performances afterward.
While it's expected that both Dak Prescott and Jameill Showers will split all of the reps at quarterback Saturday, it's a given that all eyes will be fixed on the two youngsters. So those two have been skipped for this segment. But let's check out who the staff writers will be following closely in Saturday's game with the Rams.
Anthony Brown – Speaking with Brown on Talkin' Cowboys this week, it was interesting to hear he had never really played the slot; he was an outside corner at Purdue. It's been impressive for him to step into the slot in his first NFL training camp and accept the challenge of covering veterans such as Cole Beasley. The Cowboys had a fourth-round grade on Brown, and we're seeing why they think he was a steal in the sixth round. He intercepted Tony Romo on opening practice weekend and has carried that momentum through camp. He has a real chance to be the fourth corner on the Week 1 depth chart.
Geoff Swaim – To be clear, this is no direct comparison to the 10-time Pro Bowler: Swaim has been Dak Prescott's version of Jason Witten in these practices – a reliable intermediate target in the middle of the field. Swaim only played 23 offensive snaps in four games last year as a rookie, but he's gotten valuable reps in camp with James Hanna on Active/PUP and the Cowboys taking a taking a deliberate approach with Gavin Escobar's workload coming off last year's Achilles injury. Swaim could have a big opportunity to play on Saturday night.
Darius Jackson:Who better to watch during the first action of the year than the rookies who are going to have to do all of the work? With Ezekiel Elliott likely to sit out and Alfred Morris unlikely to do much, I'm counting on seeing quite the audition from Jackson. He should get all the work he wants, and I'm hoping he showcases his speed and game-breaking ability to prove why he's worth keeping around.
Kavon Frazier: Defensively, I want to see how Frazier shows up in a game situation. He had a slow start to camp, but he really showed up when he was allowed to hit people both in the Blue-White Scrimmage and the goal line drills earlier this week. Given a chance to suit up and make some real contact, I think it will play to his strengths as a player.
Keith Smith:While I'll be watching the running backs, especially Morris, the kind of holes that will be opened up for him and the other backs are just as interesting. Keith Smith has made significant progress in this transition from linebacker to fullback, but we'll see if he carries it over to the game. Smith can help his cause if he shines on special teams, which he's done before. Last year, he went up and down from the roster and practice squad because there wasn't a good spot for him. But if he shows at least some progress at fullback, Smith can work his way onto the roster with a few special teams tackles.
Ryan Russell: This guy has had plenty of chances to win this starting job, but now David Irving has elevated himself to the starting post. Russell isn't out of the picture – no one else is right now with four preseason games to play. But he has to do something when the lights come on Saturday against the Rams. Russell, so far, has been nothing more than solid. He doesn't show great power, rush off the edge, or run-stopping ability. And for now, he's not even the candidate to be a Week 1 starter despite the two suspensions at defensive end. But to Russell's credit, he has played better in practice of late. Maybe he can continue that onto the fight Saturday night.
Chaz Green - The front office and coaching staff would love nothing more coming out of this training camp than for Green to win the job as the swing offensive tackle for the upcoming season. Green has worked on both the left and right sides during camp but looks far more comfortable on the left side which is where he played at Florida. Green has made some progress in his overall technique and agility but needs to find more consistency in his overall play. This will a nice test for him against a Rams defensive line that has some edge rushers. He will need to be able to put back to back together in order to have any success.[embeddedad0]
Mark Nzeocha: If there is a group that has surprised me in their ability to line up and play in this camp, it has been the linebackers. Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens are the starters but Kyle Wilber is holding onto that starting spot at the SAM but there are guys that are lining up for the taking, including Nezocha. Physically, he looks the part and in practices has shown that he can play the part. There have been snaps where he puts himself in position to make plays but needs to do a better job of finishing them. Nezocha tends to be too aggressive in his approach and tends to overrun plays. What he needs to show these coaches is when he's on the field, he can play the scheme under control and make sure that he carries out his responsibilities.