Five to watch: Role players vs. Raiders

August, 13, 2012
8/13/12
12:07
PM ET
FREMONT, Calif. -- The Cowboys open the preseason Monday night against the Oakland Raiders, and coach Jason Garrett has said the playing time will be similar to what it's been in the past.

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So that means look for the first-team offense and defense to get a series or two.

Attempting to determine how new starters like Barry Church and Bruce Carter and some others look in such a small sample size doesn’t make sense.

Instead look more at the backups and see if they can show the ability to handle roles when the games count.

Here are five guys to watch:

David Arkin: Yes, he will start but I’m not contradicting my earlier statement. He will be the center because of Phil Costa's absence but he will also see time at guard. He has seen more snaps in training camp than any other offensive lineman, and plenty of questions remain. He was a fourth-round pick last year and did not play a game. Is he a lock to make the 53-man roster? I wouldn’t think so. But if he can show the ability to play both positions, he can help his cause and make a way onto the 45-man roster.

Cole Beasley: There is a ton of intrigue in the organization around Beasley. He quit for a couple of days only to return and work his way into the first-team three-wide receiver package with Miles Austin out because of a hamstring injury. He has done nothing but make plays in whatever circumstance. Can he do it against another team? Danny Amendola was having a good camp then fumbled a punt in his preseason debut a few years ago and seemed to lose favor. Beasley has a chance.

Tyrone Crawford: The Cowboys believe they may have stolen a player here. A lot of times rookies don’t have the strength to play much right away. Crawford has plenty of strength to go with a relentlessness the coaches knew they were getting. He can be more than just a fence post as a 3-4 end. He has quickness to be trouble at tackle in the nickel defense.

James Hanna: As John Phillips recovers from a sprained ankle, Hanna has taken advantage of the extra work. The sixth-round pick came to the Cowboys with the reputation for not being a good blocker. The team is surprised at how well he has done over the last week. And he’s caught just about every pass thrown in his direction. The more he has played, the better he has gotten. Can it continue? If it can, then the Cowboys will have good depth behind Jason Witten.

Clifton Geathers: He certainly looks the part, and the coaches believe he has really benefitted from Leon Lett’s teachings the last two training camps. Now he needs to produce in the game because the potential tag is something that can hang a player. As you look at the final defensive line spots, Geathers is in that mix with Marcus Spears and Kenyon Coleman.

Todd Archer

ESPN Dallas Cowboys reporter

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