Hall of Fame Game gives Cowboys chance to vet young talent

Cowboys first-round pick Taco Charlton should get a chance to impress family and friends from down the road in Columbus, Ohio, during the Hall of Fame Game. George Walker/Icon Sportswire

CANTON, Ohio -- Football season is back, with the Dallas Cowboys taking on the Arizona Cardinals in the Hall of Fame Game. Well, sort of.

While Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has already said his starters won't play Thursday, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett has made no such declaration. But Garrett has said he and the Dallas coaches are treating this game like the intrasquad Blue-White scrimmage. So the best chance to see Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Sean Lee and almost all of the other regulars will come in pregame warm-ups.

That doesn't mean there won't be anything worth watching.

"Young players," owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. "I'm really anxious to see how they account for themselves in game-like conditions."

Jones said Tuesday it was "unlikely" the most intriguing young player, linebacker Jaylon Smith, will play. He has taken part in four of the six padded practices thus far and has had no setbacks in his return from a knee injury that kept him out all of last season.

The patience Smith has learned in rehab will have to continue, perhaps until the Cowboys' second preseason game on Aug. 12 at the Los Angeles Rams.

The Cowboys have made no secret of their need to play younger players this season. In free agency, they did not make much of an effort to re-sign veteran secondary players Barry Church, Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne and J.J. Wilcox. They let defensive linemen Terrell McClain and Jack Crawford walk, too.

Along the defensive line, the Cowboys selected Taco Charlton in the first round and Joey Ivie and Jordan Carrell in the seventh round. Charlton grew up down the road from Canton, in Columbus, and will have a number of family and friends at his first game.

Because of his draft status (No. 28 overall), Charlton's every move has been watched. Going against Tyron Smith and La'el Collins in practice most days has not been too kind to Charlton. He will be glad to see the Cardinals' tackles and their backups as well.

"I had my struggles day one, but now I'm doing fine," Charlton said. "I basically didn't keep my feet up under me. I was too ready to hit something that I wasn't keeping my feet. As days went on, I got better. Things improved. The pass rush improved. Moves improved and I started winning more."

In the secondary, the Cowboys selected cornerback Chidobe Awuzie in the second round, cornerback Jourdan Lewis in the third round, and safety Xavier Woods and cornerback Marquez White in the sixth round. And in the seventh round they picked defensive linemen Joey Ivie and Jordan Carrell.

Awuzie had an interception on his first one-on-one snap of training camp. White had an athletic interception this week in practice. Woods has made a couple of pass deflections in the past two practices.

"I'm just mad the stats don't count if we get a couple tackles or a pick," Awuzie said. "But it will still be good for our confidence."

It's not just the defensive rookies who will warrant watching. Wide receiver Noah Brown, another sixth-round pick, has turned some heads with plays early in camp. Since Brown played at Ohio State, he figures to hear some cheers when he takes the field.

With Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley and Brice Butler locks -- plus fourth-round pick Ryan Switzer, who will not play because of a hamstring injury -- the Cowboys' crowd might be too big for a sixth receiver. But that doesn't mean much to Brown.

"I can't wait for the game," Brown said. "That's going to be my first NFL opportunity, the chance to go out there and show that I can execute not only on the practice field but when the lights turn on and it's game time."