With NFL rosters getting trimmed to 75 players next week, the Cowboys’ fourth preseason game against the Bengals is a big one for a lot of players. Most of the guys on the roster bubble will need to wait until the second half to make an impact, though, since the first half will be dominated by the starters. Here are three things to watch.
Will we still see unique calls from Bill Callahan?
The first half of this game will come as close to resembling a regular season contest as we can get, so it will be interesting to see how Callahan calls plays. Although the play-calling has been similar to Jason Garrett’s, we’ve already seen a few changes, such as more outside runs and screen passes. If you see the ‘Boys trying to get to the edge, particularly on the weak side, and tossing more screens to their running backs (Jason Garrett called only eight running back screens in 2012), it’s a good sign that Callahan has a pretty big influence on the offense.
Can Kyle Wilber stand out from defensive end George Selvie?
Wilber has reportedly looked good this preseason, but Selvie is the player dominating the games. I think Selvie has what it takes to be an eventual starter in Dallas, but Wilber is a younger player who the Cowboys would love to eventually take over for Anthony Spencer.
In reality, it will be fun to watch all of the Cowboys’ defensive ends because the Bengals might have the best offensive tackle duo in the NFL. Last year, starters Andre Smith and Andrew Whitworth combined to allow only 35 pressures and a 2.8 percent pressure rate. Compare that to 78 pressures and a 6.1 percent pressure rate for Doug Free and Tyron Smith.
How will Doug Free stack up against the Cincinnati rushers?
I’ll have my eye on Free for the majority of the first half because I want to see if he’s truly a different player. The Bengals have two of the leagues most underrated pass-rushers in Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap. The latter defensive end lined up on the left side of the Bengals’ line on 92.4 percent of his snaps last year, so he’ll be the one that Free sees most. I think Free is going to struggle in a major way with the 6-6, 277-pound Dunlap, so it will be a great sign if he can hold up.
Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.