With the start of the preseason schedule later tonight it is really starting to feel like the season is getting close. There are still a lot of unanswered questions about the Cowboys heading into the game. But a game against live competition should help to tell us what to expect from the Cowboys this season. Here is what I will be watching for:
1. No injuries. We all know this team is loaded with talent. The easiest way to lose the talent advantage is to have key players get hurt before the season even starts.
2. Alan Ball. Does he look like he is in command out there? Is he making the calls in the secondary without any confusion? Is he making plays on the ball in the passing game? How is his run support?
3. Orlando Scandrick. We keep hearing that he is ok and his injured finger won't be a problem. I want to see with my own eyes that he is making plays on the ball and jamming receivers without hesitation.
4. Stephen Bowen/Jason Hatcher. These two finally have shot to really show us something. With Spears out until the regular season either guy could dominate and take the starting position. It will be interesting to see if either guy can play the run consistently at the level Spears does.
5. Marion Barber. Is he back to running like The Barbarian? That should be easy to spot if he gets a chance to carry the ball.
6. Felix Jones. Is his extra weight gained in the offseason going to slow him down? If he still has his burst with added weight he could be more durable this season.
7. Fullback. Are the Cowboys committed to using a fullback? Will Deon Anderson stick around another year? Do any of the rookies have a chance to take his spot?
8. Anthony Spencer. Is he ready to dominate all season long? I'm hoping to see the late season/playoff version of Spencer on the field. The defense could be scary good if he dominates this season.
9. Tony Romo. We won't see much of him, but I'd like to see him operating efficiently in his short time on the field.
10. David Buehler. This is simple. Can he make his kicks?
11. Martellus Bennett/John Phillips. Either way this plays out the Cowboys are loaded at tight end. But the #2 spot might be a battle if John Phillips continues to shine. I'm hoping we finally see Marty B. focused and ready to play. If he knows his play book like he should then he'll probably be able to fend off Phillips for the #2 tight end spot.
12. Wide receivers. Does Miles Austin look focused? Is Roy Williams ready to step up and earn his enormous paycheck? Is Dez Bryant focused on the game on the sidelines? I know Dez is not playing but I hope he isn't just playing grab ass on the sidelines. He can learn a lot by watching.
13. Doug Free. Is he ready to protect Romo this season? Free is probably the key to the passing game. If he can give Romo time then the offense should be just as good if not better than last year.
14. Sean Lee/Jason Williams. Both players have a lot of talent and promising futures. But only one of them will get to be on the field a lot this season. I know Sean Lee is the total package and will start someday, but Williams' speed and athleticism is perfect for the nickel linebacker spot he is fighting to win.
15. Can T.O. be mature enough to shake hands and be friendly with his former team? I'm assuming that Jerry Jones, Wade Phillips, Tony Romo and the rest of the Cowboys will be professional. But you never know what you are going to get with T.O.
***I didn't get a chance to post anything on Emmitt Smith and the Hall of Fame yet. I was travelling and I didn't want to short change one of the greatest Dallas Cowboys of all time by rushing through a post about him. I'll have more on #22 later this week.