As anticipated as the openings of NFL training camps are, the end of preseason is an even better day. That day is today for Dallas and Miami, as the Cowboys are in Florida for Thursday night's preseason finale. As is usually the case, we won't see many key veterans for long if at all, but a number of jobs are on the line and a number of young players expected to play roles this season should get extended playing time. Here is a position-by-position look at what we should expect to see.
QB - We'll see Tony Romo in a baseball cap and a lot of Tom Brandstater on the field. Stephen McGee could play, but Brandstater will benefit most from the game action. Garrett has been sparing Jon Kitna's arm in the preseason, and that should continue.
RB - Felix Jones looks like he's ready to go, so there's not much to be gained by exposing him to more hits. Tashard Choice is being held out because of a reported injury. As a result, we are going to see a lot of DeMarco Murray, Phillip Tanner and Lonyae Miller. The Cowboys would like to see Murray look capable of handling the number two job, but Tanner, Miller and Choice seem to be the guys vying for either one or two roster spots. Tanner has been excellent in games this summer, but Miller is the biggest runner on the roster and could offer more on special teams. Shaun Chapas, Jason Pociask and Chris Gronkowski are still engaged in their battle for (at most) one fullback spot.
WR - The Cowboys still have several decisions to make here. Miles Austin and Dez Bryant should form one of the best starting tandems in the league, but Kevin Ogletree hasn't removed all doubts in his ability to fill the number three role. Jesse Holley, Manuel Johnson, Dwayne Harris and Raymond Radway are all fighting for what will probably be two spots but could conceivably be just one. Radway continues to impress with his approach and athletic ability, but he's still very raw. Harris seems to struggle in practice, but the Cowboys see him as a gamer. Holley and Johnson both helped their chances last week in Minnesota. Harris and Radway in particular will be watched closely in Miami.
TE - Jason Witten figures to be another cameo/inactive. Martellus Bennett is out for another 2-3 weeks after sustaining the dreaded high ankle sprain Saturday. John Phillips continues to work his way back to full strength, so we should see him. Martin Rucker seems to have a real chance at making this club as its fourth tight end, particularly after Bennett's injury. He has to convince coaches that he's more valuable than a receiver or the fullbacks.
OL - The primary area of discussion for the past week will be watched once again, as the Cowboys figure to take advantage of every chance to play their young linemen. Phil Costa, now the starter at center, is still recovering from his knee injury, while Doug Free and Kyle Kosier don't figure to play much if any. Bill Nagy appears to have won a starting job at left guard, and Kevin Kowalski moved closer to a job with his play and Gurode's departure. David Arkin and he should see lots of time inside, and the Cowboys will want to give Jermey Parnell all of the field time they can. It's possible that Sam Young, Kowalski and Parnell are fighting for two spots.
DL - Igor Olshansky has been written off by much of the media, but he will try to hold onto a backup spot. Clifton Geathers has shown enough to be a possibility for the last end spot. Sean Lissemore looks likely to earn a roster spot again, but if the Cowboys go short in the line he could be at risk.
LB - Victor Butler has wrapped up a third spot behind starters DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer, but the fourth spot is up for grabs. Brandon Williams has fallen well behind Butler, while Alex Albright has caught Rob Ryan's eye in camp. Both will try to make one last good impression in Miami. Kenwin Cummings seems to have the edge on Orie Lemon for that fourth spot.
S - Abram Elam, Gerald Sensabaugh, Danny McCray and Barry Church seem to have spots sewn up, though we should see McCray and Church quite a bit, and it's possible that the staff will want their starting safeties to get more work, after numerous mix-ups in the other games. Andrew Sendejo was on the roster late last year and hopes to show enough on special teams to convince the club to keep five safeties. Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, meanwhile, is in grave danger of losing his spot. His best route onto the team may be by showing his ability as a return man, but he's looked pedestrian there as well. He and Sendejo will be among those playing like their careers are on the line tonight.
CB - Garrett said that he would like for Mike Jenkins to play in the finale. That aside, six corners probably make the team, and there are seven in the picture. Orlando Scandrick and Alan Ball are the third and fourth guys, and Bryan McCann seems to have the fifth spot and some kind of return role just about locked up. That leaves Josh Thomas and Mario Butler battling each other and other positions for a spot. Observers seem to think pretty universally that Butler has outperformed Thomas in camp.
K - Kai Forbath has been placed on the non-football injury list, so we will see some combination of four kickers in this game. David Buehler is the incumbent, but he does not appear to have the inside track on the job. Veterans Shayne Graham and Dave Raynor will hope for opportunities, while the lone active rookie, Dan Bailey, was excellent on field goals last week and will feel like he deserves a further shot to show his quality. Finding out who gets the field goal attempts will be as interesting as seeing whether they make them.
The Cowboys have 27 cuts to make over the weekend. With about 13 roster spots up for grabs, that means that half of the roster will be fighting for jobs against the Dolphins. Assuming that the team doesn't use the waiver wire to supplement, one out of three will win 53-man roster spots and one out of two will stay with the team on the roster or practice squad. Who needs reality TV?