W2W4: Cowboys kick off preseason at Oakland

August, 13, 2012
8/13/12
8:00
AM ET


FREMONT, Calif. -- We're relaxing at the Dallas Cowboys' team hotel trying to figure out if they're going to be ready for the preseason opener against the Oakland Raiders.

Remember, the game is on ESPN tonight at 7 p.m. CT.

Starters out: The Cowboys could have as many as nine regular contributors out, which means starters and guys who come in on third down/passing downs. The list includes: WR Miles Austin (hamstring), G Nate Livings (hamstring), G Mackenzy Bernadeau (knee and hip), WR Dez Bryant (hamstring), CB Mike Jenkins (shoulder), CB Morris Claiborne (knee), NT Jay Ratliff (foot), LB Anthony Spencer (hamstring) and DE Jason Hatcher (hamstring). Bryant and Bernadeau are game-time decisions. Both participated in walkthrough practices Sunday.

Who is the center?: Phil Costa won't play due to a strained lower back, so David Arkin will get the first-team snaps and we could see Harland Gunn, and maybe Pat McQuistan, at center. If Bernadeau plays, it will be at center only. Expect Arkin to play with the first- and second-team units.

How much will the starters play?: Don't expect to see Tony Romo a lot Monday night. He'll get a series and then he and the rest of the starters will get the remainder of the night off. The objective with any first-team unit is to get a score of some kind on the first possession. If the Cowboys get a three-and-out, coach Jason Garrett could give the first unit another series. Also, if Bryant and Austin don't play, Dwayne Harris and Kevin Ogletree -- the projected starters Monday in that case -- will see more than a series or two because realistically they're trying to become one of the backup receivers.

Replacements, replacements, replacements: This is the Cowboys' first game with replacement officials. The end of the dispute between the league and the NFL referee's union isn't in sight. Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said he's not concerned about the replacement referees. The Cowboys have used officials quite frequently during training camp and had a teaching session on the new rules.

Who needs to play well?: It's easy to say everybody, but there are some players that really need to step it up. WR Andre Holmes failed the conditioning test and has been inconsistent since returning. DE Clifton Geathers has the measurables, but not the consistency. Arkin can't have any bad snaps Monday. S Barry Church has been fantastic this camp, and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said he's played better since the team released Brodney Pool, which allowed him to become the starter. Church needs to continue his good play Monday night. ILB Caleb McSurdy, a seventh-round pick, has to make some plays Monday. He's had little impact in camp thus far. DS Charley Hughlett is going to get a chance to win a gig over LP Ladouceur. Hughlett can't have any mistakes.
Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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