Cowboys hoping to field team Thursday

IRVING, Texas -- Like the Eagles and Giants, the Dallas Cowboys are missing several players this week. They signed a tight end named DajLeon Farr on Tuesday and he'll probably be expected to play almost the entire second half against the Raiders on Thursday evening. Farr went to the same Houston high school (North Shore) as Pro Bowl center Andre Gurode, but he was obviously several years behind Gurode.

Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said that Gurode went over to Farr on Tuesday and told him that he "had a buddy named D. Farr from North Shore." Then he realized that he was actually talking to his "buddy." I guess it had been a few years.

Tight end Martellus Bennett (ankle), linebacker Sean Lee (quad) and offensive tackle Alex Barron (ankle/finger) will all miss Thursday's preseason game against the Raiders. On Wednesday, I asked Phillips what gave him hope that Bennett would become the player everyone thought he'd be last season.

Phillips was quick to defend Bennett, saying he was a major factor in why the Cowboys were a top-10 rushing team in 2009. He also said that Bennett had been doing a great job in the offseason getting separation and exploding out of routes. Some people are close to giving up on Bennett (like me), but Phillips seems to think Bennett is poised to have a big season.

Phillips also talked about Stephen Bowen's dominant performance in Sunday's preseason win over the Bengals. Folks are starting to wonder if Bowen might push for a starting role, but Phillips wants to keep him in the nickel defense for now. The coach said that Bowen benefits from seeing quite a few one-on-ones because he's playing next to DeMarcus Ware.

Phillips talked to his players about how to keep their focus in a meeting Wednesday. He wants them to practice in the heat some because he thinks it helps them stay mentally sharp.

In other news, Phillips credited special teams coach Joe DeCamillis for identifying former LSU defensive back Danny McCray on film. McCray has been a pleasant surprise and he had an excellent game against the Bengals. Phillips said he was very intelligent, and that's allowed him to pick up the defense pretty quickly.

One more thing: Felix Jones has added about 5 pounds and he's looking bigger than ever. Phillips doesn't think the extra weight has taken anything away from Jones' speed. He loved how he accelerated in the first quarter. But Tashard Choice had the best night of any back. Don't be surprised if he gets about 10 carries against the Raiders.

Redskins fans, I'm hoping to have a long visit with Jason Campbell while he's in town. I'll let you know how he's enjoying his new locale. So far, he's received rave reviews. And Wade Phillips was singing Campbell's praises again Wednesday.