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Cowboys vs. Dolphins: 5 Players to Watch

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    Stephen McGee is a player to watch in tonight's preseason game against the Dolphins.

    The Cowboys’ final preseason game against the Miami Dolphins tonight is all about player evaluation. Cornerback Morris Claiborne may be the only starter who will see snaps, so it’s a great opportunity to assess the rookies and players on the roster bubble. Here are five guys to keep an eye on ...

    Josh Brent
    When the Cowboys spent a supplemental draft pick on nose tackle Josh Brent in 2010, I loved the move. Brent justified my excitement in his rookie season, producing at a level that was actually near that of starter Jay Ratliff, at least in terms of efficiency. Brent received 256 snaps that season, 60.1 percent of which were against the run. He made a tackle on 5.5 percent of his plays—greater than Ratliff’s 3.0 percent mark.

    Last season, however, Brent regressed. Below, I charted the percentage of plays on which Ratliff and Brent recorded either a sack, hit, pressure, or tackle over the past two seasons. You can see Brent’s production took a dip last year, which may be one reason he played only 137 snaps.

    The reason you should keep an eye on Brent tonight is that, in all likelihood, he’ll be starting for the Cowboys for at least a week or two to begin the season. Ratliff has a high ankle sprain, and that sort of injury tends to linger. Let’s see what Brent can do when he’s “the man” instead of coming off of the bench. He has never played more than 31 snaps in a single game.

    Stephen McGee and Rudy Carpenter
    Neither McGee nor Carpenter has stood out during the preseason, but McGee has been particularly poor. Even with a strong outing, I don’t think he’ll make the 53-man roster. The Cowboys have watched McGee play for a few years now, and there just isn’t much progress being made. Carpenter has a shot, but I think you’ll see the ‘Boys end up retaining just two quarterbacks in 2012, meaning both guys could be searching for jobs by next week.

    Mana Silva
    Just who is this Mana Silva guy that keeps making plays? Picked up from Buffalo and signed to the practice squad late last season, the Cowboys, and Rob Ryan especially, have big hopes for the undrafted safety. He has an interception and a handful of nice tackles during the preseason, and with fourth-round safety Matt Johnson perpetually injured in his rookie season, I actually think Silva has already made the final roster.

    Marcus Spears
    Spears will be one of the few veterans getting playing time for Dallas tonight. That’s not good news for the defensive end, who is likely fighting for a job. I think Spears is going to get cut in favor of Kenyon Coleman, which is probably the right move. The two played right around the same number of snaps last year, but Coleman recorded 12 more tackles while still reaching the passer on a greater percentage of pass-rushing snaps (4.5 percent to 3.4 percent).

    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.

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