When it comes to preseason football, I agree with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell that it's not easy to stomach. But I'm somewhat intrigued by tonight's matchup between the Cowboys and Bengals. I'll post my postgame observations on the Beast at some point this evening. But first, here are the things I'll be looking for in tonight's exhibition opener:
How will kicker David Buehler perform in live game action? There will come a time in this game when Wade Phillips will ask Jon Kitna or Stephen McGee not to get a first down, so that Buehler can get at least one or two opportunities. If Buehler struggles early in preseason, John Carney or Matt Stover will receive a phone call from special teams coach Joe DeCamillis.
Left tackle Doug Free will need more reps than a typical starter. I'm anxious to see him in extended time at left tackle. As I've written a couple times, the other NFC East teams believe that Alex Barron will eventually take over as the starter. I believe that Free will hold his own.
In the absence of the injured Dez Bryant (ankle), receivers such as Kevin Ogletree and Sam Hurd will have a chance to shine. And Tony Romo and Roy Williams need to find a rhythm at some point in the preseason. I think Jason Garrett will call a couple of plays for Williams during the first series tonight.
DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer form one of the pass-rushing duos in the league, but they'll need a few plays off this season. Let's see how Brandon Williams and Victor Butler perform in live action. And I'm anxious to see how Jason Williams looks at inside linebacker. He's a player that a lot of folks have forgotten about since Sean Lee (quadriceps) was selected in the second round. I'd like to see how far Williams has come in terms of knowing his assignments.
This is the type of game where Tashard Choice can shine. He'll get at least 10 carries, and I'd expect for him to have a strong showing.
Phillips has asked his defense to make turnovers a priority, so it will be interesting to see how that manifests itself in tonight's game. Alan Ball should be better in coverage than Ken Hamlin, but I'm not sure how he'll do when it comes to tackling. That's something to watch.
The Cowboys look pretty solid at cornerback, but I'd like to see how Cletis Gordon performs in this game. This is an excellent opportunity for him.
Rick "Goose" Gosselin says the Cowboys are the No. 2 team in the NFL. Tonight we'll get our first look at this outfit against a team with some talent.