Three things to watch:
1. Hello, Romo: Quarterback Tony Romo will make his preseason debut, but it’s not clear how much he -- or the rest of the regulars -- will play. Typically Romo plays 10-14 snaps in his first preseason game, covering a series or two depending on how successful the offense is. Coach Jason Garrett has said Romo has started to look like himself as training camp wore on in Oxnard, California. He was driving the ball down the field more and better. He was moving around better. This will be Romo’s first game since Dec. 22, 2013, when he directed a late comeback win against the Washington Redskins. He needed back surgery five days later, ending his season. Also, this will be Romo’s first game with new playcaller Scott Linehan. Owner and general manager Jerry Jones said the biggest plus for him in camp is how well Linehan and Romo have worked together. With the state of the Cowboys’ defense, there will be even more pressure on Romo and the offense to succeed, but determining just how good or bad the unit is based off limited work tonight would be foolish.
2. Where’s the D? After a less-than-stellar performance against the San Diego Chargers last week, the defense needs to be better against the Ravens, but it will continue to be shorthanded. Cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne will not play. Defensive tackle Henry Melton will not play because of a groin strain. Being able to overcome missing pieces is a must during the regular season, and the new faces must come through to at least calm some fears with two preseason games to go. What displeased the coaching staff most in the game against the Chargers was the lack of effort and poor tackling. The Cowboys increased their individual tackling work in practice, and there were some better moments in the two days of practice against the Oakland Raiders, but not enough. Cornerback Orlando Scandrick and safety Barry Church will make their debuts, as well. Scandrick could see more time than usual in a preseason game since he will miss the first four regular-season games because of violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy.
3. All eyes on Rolando McClain: When the Cowboys traded for McClain from the Ravens in July, many eyebrows were raised because the linebacker had retired twice since playing his last game in 2012. The Cowboys quickly threw him on the field, needed to back off when a case of knee tendinitis flared up and saw him perform well against the Raiders, his former team, in two days of practice. McClain has shown the instincts and ability that made him the eighth overall pick of the 2010 draft, but he has to show he has staying power. How well McClain performs will have a direct impact on Bruce Carter. If McClain plays well at middle linebacker with the reserves, then it would not be a reach to see him with the starters soon and Justin Durant moving to Carter’s weakside position.