San Diego Charges Vs. Dallas Cowboys
Sunday, August 21, 7:00 CDT
Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, TX
Local TV/Radio: NBC, ESPN 103.3
With the San Antonio portion of their training camp and their first preseason game behind them, the Cowboys have entered the second phase of camp. Competitions have become defined, and players are very much fighting for jobs every day. For players on the fringe of the roster the second preseason game might be the apex of that, since the third preseason game is typically the dress rehearsal for key players and the fourth game is their last chance to make a statement. Battles for certain jobs have in fact come into much clearer focus over the past eight days of practice. Here are a few to watch Sunday night.
Left Guard - Montrae Holland vs. Bill Nagy vs. David Arkin vs. Phil Costa
First off, we aren't certain that these players are necessarily fighting for the left guard spot. It's possible that the winner could play center and Andre Gurode could switch to guard, or that the winner could still swap back with Kyle Kosier and play right guard (particularly if Holland keeps the job). Second, we still aren't seeing Holland, even though he's still considered the odds on favorite. Nagy gets the start against the Chargers after working with the first team for the past few days. Costa may start for Gurode again. Arkin will get plenty of time, but it figures to be against backups.
Left Defensive End - Kenyon Coleman vs. Igor Olshanksy vs. Jason Hatcher vs. Sean Lissemore
Again, we're talking about the left side because of the lineup maneuverings this past week, when Coleman began practicing on the left side with the first team, Marcus Spears shifted over to the right side, and Olshansky practiced with the second team on both sides. Olshansky looked terrible in the first preseason game and could be a roster casualty if he's beaten out for a starting job. Hatcher, on the other hand, might have been the biggest defensive star on the night, as Rob Ryan called him a "one-man wrecking crew" against Broncos backups. Hatcher is the upside player here, the guy who could take the unit to a higher level, so he's probably the guy Cowboys fans should hope takes a larger role. Lissemore has very little shot at a starting job, but his viability at end could help convince coaches whether to hang onto Olshansky for depth purposes.
Third Receiver - Kevin Ogletree vs. the world
Reports from Thursday's practice with the Chargers were that San Diego defensive backs had no trouble covering Ogletree as he filled in for Miles Austin. Rumors also seem to be swirling with more frequency that the Cowboys are preparing to look at veterans who may be cut by other teams as alternatives. This is Ogletree's big chance after a few years of being buried behind veteran receivers, since there really isn't anyone on the roster to challenge him. Rookie Dwayne Harris had a big night against the Broncos, but few think that Harris will be ready right away for a key role. Ogletree has always been regarded as more of a game player than a practice performer, but that hasn't translated yet in the regular season. This game and the Cowboys' third preseason game in Minnesota figure to be his two big shots to show Garrett that he's ready.
Kicker - David Buehler vs. Dan Bailey vs. Kai Forbath
Unfortunately, Forbath still won't play, and Buehler is battling a hip strain. If Buehler can't kick, we'll at least get a good, long look at life with Bailey. Cowboys eyes are probably scouring league-wide kicking battles as well at this point.
Starting Cornerback - Orlando Scandrick vs. Terence Newman
There isn't an actual battle going on here, and Newman won't play until at least the season opener anyway. It's an intriguing situation, though, with Scandrick having a strong camp. He's entering his contract year, while Newman will be an even more likely salary casualty after the season. With Mike Jenkins no sure thing to remain entrenched at the other corner long term, this will be worth watching all season - particularly if Scandrick plays well.
Second Tight End - John Phillips vs. Martellus Bennett
There doesn't have to be a clear cut winner and loser here, but in each of the past two camps Bennett was expected by many to take on a crucial role in the offense, but it was Phillips who impressed as a rookie and Phillips who was winning the battle last summer until he blew out his knee in the Hall Of Fame game. Phillips is back with a vengeance, and Bennett feels like marriage has matured him. Being a fourth year guy heading for free agency probably doesn't hurt.