PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 7: Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys looks on from the sideline during their NFL game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on December 7, 2008 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steelers defeated the Cowboys 20-13. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Jason Garrett, no doubt, is eager to put the ugliness of last season behind him.
After spending 2008 anointed as the wunderkind of the NFL coaching set, Garrett's offense grew stale and predictable last year, drawing criticism from just about everyone, from the predictable (Terrell Owens), to the vaguely shocking (Patrick Crayton, Tony Romo).
All things considered, it's no wonder that Garrett is excited about training camp in general, and tonight's preseason debut against the Raiders in Oakland.
"There's an excitement level every time I come out here to practice, there really is," Garrett said after practice Wednesday. "And we have guys who are working hard, and it's fun for us as coaches to see them out here [at camp], and playing in a preseason game is going to be the next step."
"You want to see how well guys play in games and practices matter a lot," Garrett continued. "We do a lot of evaluating in practices, but then preseason games are the next step. So you want to see them under the lights, in a game condition, how they respond to it, and I'm excited to see how these guys respond to it. They practice well, I think they're ready to play well."
Garrett will be using tonight mostly as a vehicle for evaluation, a fairly typical approach to the first game on the preseason schedule and a crucial aspect of camp. Evaluation will indeed be the word of the day for Garrett and the rest of the coaching staff, who appear already--with the emergence of Tashard Choice and Felix Jones in 2008--to better understand what they're working with on offense; thus the ostensibly run-first Dallas offense of 2009.
But Garrett won't stop there. He'll be watching like a hawk over each of the sixty minutes of football played, each of which could serve as a showcase for the next, say, Tashard Choice. But don't expect to see anything fancy at this stage of the game.