Sunday NFL preview: Cowboys RB job up for grabs vs. 49ers

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NFL Nation reporters look ahead to Sunday's practices and games.


Buffalo Bills: After a slow-paced practice Saturday, the Bills will be under the lights Sunday for their final night practice of training camp. Six injured players were back in uniform Saturday, although receivers Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods didn't participate in team drills. If they can ramp up their participation Sunday, it will be another step in the right direction for the Bills' banged-up offense. -- Mike Rodak

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins will take a day off following their second preseason game, a loss to the Panthers. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill will look to stay hot next week after completing 82 percent of his passes through two games. He is 18-for-22 for 158 yards and two touchdowns. -- James Walker

New England Patriots: The Patriots were scheduled to return home early Sunday morning after Saturday night's preseason game against the Saints. They will take a breather before looking ahead to their third preseason game -- Friday's road matchup against the Panthers in Charlotte. The matchup with the Panthers provides a springboard to shine a brighter spotlight on Patriots wide receiver Brandon LaFell, the former Panther who remains on the physically unable to perform list after being spotted this offseason with a boot on his left foot. Is he going to be ready for the regular-season opener Sept. 10? That should come into sharper focus within the next 7-10 days. -- Mike Reiss

New York Jets: Injuries are starting to mount at wide receiver, which could impact roster decisions. The list includes Jeremy Kerley (concussion), Shaquelle Evans (back), Chris Owusu (concussion) and Devin Smith (ribs). Determining roles for the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 receivers will be complicated by the injuries. One player benefiting is Quincy Enunwa. He hasn't done anything spectacular, but he's healthy and available. -- Rich Cimini


Baltimore Ravens: The focus now is the health of the Baltimore offensive line. The Ravens watched three more offensive linemen (left tackle Eugene Monroe, right tackle James Hurst and offensive tackle De'Ondre Wesley) go down in the first half of Saturday's game against the Eagles. That is underscored by the fact that Baltimore didn't dress six offensive linemen entering the game. -- Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati Bengals: Sunday is a travel day for the Bengals as they head to Tampa for Monday night's game against the Buccaneers. Although he's part of Cincinnati's third-team offense, running back James Wilder Jr. will be one to watch this week as he returns to his hometown. The son of a former Bucs star will get plenty of reps as he tries to make the team. -- Coley Harvey

Cleveland Browns: The Browns will put full pads on for the final two days before breaking training camp on Tuesday. Coach Mike Pettine hopes that the injured players who went through a "jog-through" on Saturday -- Dwayne Bowe, Duke Johnson, Pierre Desir -- will be ready to go full speed on Sunday. -- Pat McManamon

Pittsburgh Steelers: In their third game of the preseason, which kicks off at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday against the Packers, the Steelers need more from young pass rushers Jarvis Jones and Bud Dupree. Last week against Jacksonville, veterans James Harrison and Arthur Moats made the plays in the backfield. It's time for the young guys to start taking ownership of starting jobs. -- Jeremy Fowler


Houston Texans: Texans cornerback Charles James' determination to make the team showed on Saturday against the Denver Broncos. James had a standout performance on special teams, forcing a 6-yard loss on a punt return in the first quarter, then downing a punt at the Broncos' 2-yard line in the second quarter. It'll be worth monitoring James' continued progress as roster cuts near. -- Tania Ganguli

Indianapolis Colts: It didn't take long into Saturday's preseason game against Chicago to realize the Colts have to do a better job of protecting franchise quarterback Andrew Luck. Luck was sacked once, hit on the release another time and pressured on three of his first five dropbacks. It doesn't matter how many playmakers the Colts have around Luck if the offensive line can't protect the quarterback. -- Mike Wells

Jacksonville Jaguars: One of the biggest goals of the preseason is to escape each game without a significant injury. That didn't happen in Week 1 (Johnathan Cyprien and Julius Thomas) and we'll find out Sunday if the Jags were luckier against the Giants. Starting CB Demetrius McCray and LB LaRoy Reynolds, the team's core special teams players, both went down with knee injuries that will be evaluated further. The players are off Sunday and return to the practice field on Monday. -- Mike DiRocco

Tennessee Titans: How big of an impact has Marcus Mariota had on the Titans? For one, their preseason game against the Rams on Sunday will be on national TV. With a bigger the spotlight, comes more scrutiny -- something Mariota surely understands from his time at Oregon. The rookie QB will need to be at his best against St. Louis' stingy defensive front. -- Paul Kuharsky


Denver Broncos: The Broncos averaged 5.8 yards per carry -- and didn't allow a sack -- in the first half of Saturday night's game against the Texans. That means the Broncos' young starting O-line, which includes two rookies, will likely remain intact in preseason game No. 3. -- Jeff Legwold

Kansas City Chiefs: Linebacker Tamba Hali didn't play in Friday night's preseason win over the Seattle Seahawks, but there's no injury or issue there. The Chiefs simply wanted to get an extended look at his backup, Dee Ford. Kansas City is back to practice Monday after two days off; expect Hali to be back in the lineup then. -- Adam Teicher

Oakland Raiders: The Raiders will spend Sunday resting after playing at Minnesota on Saturday. They have to feel good about starting running back Latavius Murray, who had 20 yards on four carries against the Vikings, including a six-yard touchdown run. Murray has 55 yards on 10 carries in the preseason. -- Bill Williamson

San Diego Chargers: With an emphasis on keeping guys healthy for the start of the regular season, Chargers head coach Mike McCoy sat frontline players like Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon and Jason Verrett against the Cardinals Saturday night. San Diego will take Sunday off before returning to the field next week to prepare for the regular-season dress rehearsal at home against the Seattle Seahawks. "The big focus is to get everyone as healthy as possible and feeling as good as they can," McCoy said. -- Eric D. Williams


Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys play their second preseason game Sunday night against the San Francisco 49ers. Tony Romo is expected to get his first action, albeit briefly, but this game will mean more for the running backs: Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden and Lance Dunbar. None played last week against the San Diego Chargers and all three will be available Sunday. Nobody will run away with the job, but they can at least ease the fears some have about the position group with a positive showing. -- Todd Archer

New York Giants: The Giants are off Sunday and Monday before returning to practice Tuesday. But watch today for any news on linebacker Jon Beason, who left Saturday night's game with a left knee sprain. As the middle linebacker, Beason is a critical part of Steve Spagnuolo's defense. And with so little experience at the second and third levels, the Giants count on his leadership and organizational skills to keep things running smoothly. A long-term injury to Beason would be difficult to overcome. -- Dan Graziano

Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles are off Sunday after their one-sided preseason victory over the Baltimore Ravens Saturday night. When they reconvene Monday, Sam Bradford will have some game action -- an 11-play touchdown drive, at that -- under his belt for the first time in a year. -- Phil Sheridan

Washington Redskins: As the Redskins return to work Sunday, the focus again will be on quarterback Robert Griffin III. He'll undergo concussion protocol throughout the week, but the team remains hopeful that he'll play vs. Baltimore on Aug. 29. It will be interesting to hear coach Jay Gruden's assessment of Griffin's night. This much is clear: Not all the issues stemmed from the offensive line. -- John Keim


Chicago Bears: The players have Sunday off, but John Fox's staff will evaluate tape from Saturday's game against the Colts. Next week takes on a more serious tone when the players return to work. Fox plans to play the starters for three quarters in preseason game No. 3 in Cincinnati. The Bears also seem optimistic that wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (calf strain) will be back soon. Jeffery is no longer using crutches or a walking boot. Jeffery's preseason participation remains in question, but general manager Ryan Pace said Jeffery will be ready for Week 1 against the Green Bay Packers. -- Jeff Dickerson

Detroit Lions: The Lions have a short practice scheduled on Sunday. It is the last practice fully open to the media this season. One thing to watch: Who will be playing one of the guard spots with Larry Warford injured? It could be Laken Tomlinson or Taylor Boggs. -- Michael Rothstein

Green Bay Packers: How much will Aaron Rodgers play in Sunday's preseason game at Pittsburgh? Don't be surprised if he plays most of the first half. Typically, Rodgers' playing time increases in each of the first three preseason games, and he played a full quarter (33 snaps) last week against the Patriots. The only issue would be if the pass protection breaks down without left tackle David Bakhtiari (knee). Backup Don Barclay is expected to start in his place and if Rodgers takes some early hits, coach Mike McCarthy might cut his time short. -- Rob Demovsky

Minnesota Vikings: After improving to 3-0 in the preseason on Saturday night, the Vikings will have a day off before resuming practice at their facility on Monday. The Vikings will try to get kicker Blair Walsh back on track after he missed three field goals and an extra point on Saturday. -- Ben Goessling


Atlanta Falcons: Coach Dan Quinn said his top two running backs, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, are very close to returning from hamstring strains. Keep an eye on how much they're participating in 11-on-11 drills this week; that will tell you if they're ready to play at Miami -- the third and most important preseason game for the primary players. -- Vaughn McClure

Carolina Panthers: The Panthers are off on Sunday, but several key players could be in for treatment. Center Ryan Kalil left Saturday night's preseason game against Miami with a knee injury that coach Ron Rivera said wasn't serious. Quarterback Cam Newton appeared to walk with a slight limp in the second half, even though he said it was just soreness from camp. The good news is rookie wide receiver Devin Funchess (hamstring) and defensive tackle Kawann Short (back) are expected to return next week when Carolina begins preparing for New England. -- David Newton

New Orleans Saints: The Saints will get right back on the practice field Sunday afternoon after losing to the Patriots on Saturday night. It will be the Saints' first practice at their home training facility since breaking camp in West Virginia last week. And suddenly the emphasis will be on making sure they don't feel too good about themselves after a terrific performance by the starters Saturday. It will be interesting to see if the Saints get ailing defensive backs Keenan Lewis, Brandon Browner, Kenny Vaccaro and maybe even Jairus Byrd back as they prepare for the third preseason game, when starters typically play the most. -- Mike Triplett

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Buccaneers don't have practice Sunday as they get ready for Monday night's game with the Bengals. The player to keep an eye on in that game is Jameis Winston. The rookie quarterback struggled in his preseason debut last week, but has practiced well recently. The Bucs are hoping to see a big improvement from Winston. -- Pat Yasinskas


Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals will enjoy a Sunday off as they head into their last week of training camp. Before they get back to practice, Arizona's coaches will watch the film from Saturday night's game against San Diego, during which rookie RB David Johnson showed enough of a mix of power and speed to make the Cardinals' staff excited. -- Josh Weinfuss

St. Louis Rams: St. Louis faces off against Tennessee Sunday night. The Rams liked Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota coming out of Oregon, but he was long gone before they drafted at No. 10 overall in April. With coordinator Gregg Williams playing it conservative in the preseason, the Rams will lean on the line to create pass rush. That means they'll turn their talented defensive line -- which features five former first-round picks -- loose on Mariota and the Titans' work-in-progress offensive line. -- Nick Wagoner

San Francisco 49ers: As the Niners gear up for their preseason home opener on Sunday against the Cowboys, it's San Francisco's turf that's making headlines. The Cowboys have hinted that fears of a bad field at Levi's Stadium might prompt them to sit star players, such as quarterback Tony Romo, while 49ers coach Jim Tomsula is non-committal about inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman making his preseason debut. Translation? Don't hold your breath. -- Paul Gutierrez

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks won't return to practice until Monday, getting another off day following their 14-13 loss to Kansas City on Friday. In the meantime, the coaching staff will continue to evaluate what it saw from the reconfigured offensive line, which had a new players at left guard, center and right tackle. Seattle's options at this point include sticking with that group, continuing to mix and match or perhaps adding a veteran like left guard Evan Mathis, who's in town to take a physical with the team this weekend. -- Brady Henderson