The Dallas Cowboys may be without Ezekiel Elliott, as the star running back continues to hold out, but the show must go on as the Cowboys get set to battle the San Francisco 49ers in their first preseason game on Saturday night.
Dallas is going into 2019 with high expectations after winning the NFC East and notching just its third playoff win since 1997 this past year, but the Elliott situation has obviously put a damper on things.
Still, this is a Cowboys team that is certainly talented and will be interesting to watch with or without Elliott.
So, here are three players to keep an eye on for Dallas in its preseason opener.
3. Jason Witten
This is obviously assuming that Jason Witten even plays in this game, but if he does, it will be intriguing to watch how well he is moving and how much he has left after taking a year off from football.
Witten has never relied on his athleticism, but it is fair to wonder how a 37-year-old will play after spending a full season in the broadcast booth.
The future Hall-of-Famer could definitely end up being a crucial part of the Cowboys’ offense, as his ability to consistently catch passes over the middle of the field will open up the wide receivers to run deep routes, not to mention the fact that he is a very good blocker.
Again, it remains to be seen if Witten even plays and how much he does play if he gets on the field, but he will absolutely be someone to watch.
2. Michael Gallup
Amari Cooper is the Cowboys’ clear No. 1 receiver, but Dallas doesn’t really have an obvious No. 2.
The Cowboys signed Randall Cobb this offseason, but Cobb has been on a steady decline and is coming off of a 2018 campaign in which he played just nine games.
Really, the job should be Michael Gallup’s to lose, as he is coming off of a solid rookie year and already has some familiarity with Dak Prescott, unlike Cobb who just arrived.
Gallup’s role in the offense is probably safe no matter what, but it would certainly behoove him to have a good preseason, and if he can get off to a great start on Saturday, it could be pivotal in building his confidence.
1. Tony Pollard
With Elliott holding out, the Cowboys’ ground game is in a state of flux. They signed veteran back Alfred Morris recently, but Morris hasn’t really been all that productive since 2015.
Right now, the path is clear for rookie back Tony Pollard to step in and surprise some people.
Dallas drafted Pollard in the fourth round back in April, but he has been making some noise in training camp, and while he wasn’t incredibly product at Memphis, he showed some versatility and was, at the very least, an efficient runner.
Is having Pollard as their lead back something the Cowboys were hoping for? No, but at the moment, they don’t really have a ton of other options, and unless they cave and pay up for Zeke, they will be stuck with Morris and Pollard.
Pollard could go a long way in establishing some trust with a strong start to the preseason on Saturday evening.