ARLINGTON, Texas -- We gave you some of what we learned in the preseason, now we bring you the issues that remain as the Cowboys prepare for the regular season.
Who’s on the line? The Cowboys did not have any continuity on the offensive line going into last year and they will not have it this year. They aren’t even sure who will start the Sept. 8 opener against the New York Giants. All indications are that Doug Free will play right guard and Jermey Parnell will play right tackle, but that will depend on the health of Ronald Leary, who had knee surgery and has yet to play in a game in his career.
Defensive line depth: The Cowboys insisted the D-line was a position of strength all offseason, but Jay Ratliff is out at least the first six weeks, Tyrone Crawford is out for the year and Anthony Spencer is not 100 percent from July 25 knee surgery. The Cowboys ignored the position in the draft and it could come back to haunt them. It is possible the Cowboys will have three players who were not on the team when camp started as key reserves up front.
Can they run the ball: On the first day of training camp Jason Garrett said the Cowboys have to run the ball more and run the ball better than they did in 2012. The Cowboys ran the ball 131 times in five preseason games (26 attempts per game) and gained 530 yards, which is an improvement. But in the dress rehearsal game against Cincinnati they averaged 2.5 yards per carry in the first half when it was first team against first team and struggled against Arizona and Oakland, too.
Not-so special teams: Breakdowns happen every year for every team in special teams in camp. It’s part of the process with so many young players in new spots, but a lot of the Cowboys’ miscues came from veterans they are counting on. They allowed a punt return for a touchdown. They had a field goal blocked. They had to burn timeouts to get the right personnel on the field. The return games did not deliver much. There’s a lot of work to be done here.
Some health questions: Ratliff and Spencer were mentioned earlier, and they should not be minimized. But cornerback Morris Claiborne will enter the season without any preseason snaps because of a sore knee. Running back Lance Dunbar remains in a walking boot and his availability to play against the Giants is in question. Defensive tackle Sean Lissemore suffered a concussion, which negates possible trade value as well as a possibility to play against New York. Leary is running but has not practiced since his knee scope.