Here is a position by position look at the possible match-ups during tomorrow's game in Canton.
Analysis: The Ocho and T.O. will have solid starting cornerbacks to face in Newman and Jenkins, but help over the top could be questionable from former journeyman SS Sensabaugh and FS Alan Ball. Ball, a 7th round draft pick in 2007 takes over for the departed Ken Hamlin in only his 3rd year. Competing against Ball for time at FS is 2nd year player Michael Hamlin (5th-2009) who was showing promise last year after an injury delayed his rookie debut.
Scandrick is a very capable young corner who has a stranglehold on the third spot on the depth chart. The 'Boys moved up in the 5th round of the 2008 draft to grab him, and he is likely comparable to, if not better than, Morgan Trent. He should provide close competition against Caldwell, Shipley, and Simpson.Then there's Cletis Gordon, an Un-Drafted Free Agent (UDFA) in 2006 who played three seasons with San Diego as a depth corner and special teams player before being released. Last preseason Gordon bounced from Sand Diego's camp, to Houston's, to Detroit's, and eventually to the 'Boys., where he has made somewhat of an impression. Gordon (6'2") will likely be lined up against taller possession receivers like Simpson, Briscoe, and Jones. Coming in for the 2nd team at strong safety is Barry Church, an UDFA rookie out of Toledo. Church looks like a natural safety and may have been a great find, as he made plays everywhere in college and started in 48 games in four years.
Jamar Wall, a 2010 6th round draft pick out of Texas Tech, is expected to win the 4th cornerback spot on the depth chart by the regular season. He is a good hitter and tackler who will likely see plenty of snaps against inside receivers like Shipley and Cosby. Patrick Watkins is the strong safety in line behind Church. Watkins is coming off a 2009 in which he was placed on IR with a neck injury, but previously he was comparable to Kyries Hebert, our own heavy hitting special teams ace. Untested rookies Owusu-Ansah (4th-2010, Indiana (PA)) and Danny McCray (UDFA-2010, LSU) will round out the free safety competition for the Cowboys. Lined up across from Matt Jones and Purify at the end of the game, we'll see more rookie UDFAs in corners Bryan McCann (Southern Methodist) and Teddy Williams (Texas, San Antonio). Teddy might be interesting, he was a track star.
Bengals TEs Cowboys OLBs Cowboys ILBs Cowboys SSs
Analysis: Reggie Kelly will start the game in an effort to keep Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware out of the backfield, a tall order. The Reverend likely sees snaps until he needs to rest the heel, pitting him against the second tier pass-rushers as well, Victor Butler and Brandon Williams. Both were draft picks in 2009 but Brandon Williams, a third-rounder, suffered a torn ACL in his first preseason. Butler, taken in the 4th round, went on to back up both outside backer positions and climb his way up the roster. If the Bengals fall into any third-and-long situations with the first-team, Gresham may come in for some snaps against Spencer, Ware, Bradie James, Keith Brooking, and Sensabaugh. This would be a 'trial by fire' against a collection of savvy NFL veterans. Gresham should be able to get some separation with his speed but wont play like a rookie and get away with it.
Other than perhaps a brief look at Jermaine against the top defensive unit, he'll also see work against the second-team OLBs (Butler and B. Williams). Because he's bound to run more routes than Reggie Kelly, the rookie will also see more work against ILBs Leon Williams, Jason Williams, and Sean Lee, and strong safety Barry Church. Jason Williams was actually the first linebacker taken by the Cowboys in the 2009 draft, just ahead of Brandon Williams, and has proven himself as a good coverage linebacker even earning a spot in nickel packages his rookie year. Jason may be lined up over Jermaine for a significant amount of time in the first half. Coffman and Coats should also see limited snaps against this second-team unit that includes Leon Williams in occasional coverage. Sean Lee was the team's second round draft pick in 2010 out of Penn State, despite recovering from major knee surgery, and has been easing into the bottom of the depth chart behind Leon. Leon Williams (4th-2006, Miami) played for the Browns from 2006-08 but spent last year as part of the UFL's New York Sentinels. He has done well enough in camp to run with the second team and may earn a special teams role as well.
Dan Coats, Chase Coffman, and Darius Hill will finish the game against linebackers Sean Lee, Steve Octavien, Curtis Johnson, and Brandon Sharpe, and strong safety Patrick Watkins. Aside from the anticipated debut of Lee, Cowboys fans are excited to see what Curtis Johnson can do. Johnson is a 3rd year pass-rush specialist who impressed in limited game action with Dallas last year, and in Indianapolis in '08. Steve Octavien is mostly a special teams player and could probably be compared to Abdul Hodge. Hopefully Brandon Sharpe, an UDFA out of Texas Tech with very few credentials, will not compete too well against even Coats (in coverage) or Coffman (rushing-the-passer). Consider Sharpe's presence akin to the Bengals signing UC products Angelo Craig and Mike Mickens, a PR move for a local prospect. Rarely do these turn out as well as Tashard Choice, another Dallas local, has in carrying the ball for the 'Boys.