Mike Hamlin will start on Saturday

OXNARD, Calif. -- Barring a sudden change, the Cowboys will start Mike Hamlin at strong safety on Saturday night at Houston.

With Gerald Sensabaugh out with a shoulder injury, at least until the season opener, the Cowboys will pair Hamlin up with Alan Ball.

"We like Hamlin but he hasn’t played so we got to get him playing this week and see how he does," Phillips said. "We got other candidates. Pat Watkins has started for us. I wouldn’t discount him either, and he’s back and ready to play."

The Cowboys have a heavy load of safties that could make the 53-man roster. Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, Barry Church, Danny McCray, Watkins, Ball, Hamlin and Sensabaugh are the safties. All of them can't stay.

"We got a lot of safeties right now that are doing pretty well or have played or I think can play. We’ll see," Phillips said. "We think [Hamlin is] the best one right now coming in for Sensabaugh."

*The Cowboys' bubble is a little larger thanks to the nose tackle position. Junior Siavii and Josh Brent are battling for the backup spot to Jay Ratliff. It would be interesting to see if Siavii or Brent make the team. Phillips was asked during a press briefing with reporters could he move Siavii or Brent to defensive end.

"Not right now," Phillips said. "Both of them could. Junior more so than Brent because he’s been there some. Junior is tall, big and got good speed. That will come later on."

*Saturday's game will have the first-teamers possibly go an entire first half. Phillips said he will not game plan and said it's a difficult situation to be in because the Cowboys will face Houston in Week 3.

*Phillips said the return of Alex Barron, full time, to right tackle, was positive.

"He was ready," Phillips said. "Looked like he did fine. He told me [Tuesday] he was ready."