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Friday before the Cowboys, without a bunch of guys

I'm sure when NBC and "Sunday Night Football" got their hands on a third preseason game between the Cardinals and Cowboys, it sounded really good. I mean, the reality is the Cowboys are good for those TV ratings, and the third game meant there would be Dak Prescott and Zeke Elliott and that nasty offensive line, and even the Cardinals would have both Sam Bradford and Josh Rosen and some Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson. It's about as fun as you can get in the preseason.

But Dallas' offensive line has been shredded with injuries -- they might not have one starter available Sunday -- and because of that, the Cowboys aren't going to risk playing either Prescott or Elliott. Meanwhile, Rosen has a bum thumb and he might not play either.

Still, there are things to sort out. OK, so the Cards won't face a starting quarterback at any point in the preseason. They can still work on a run defense that was way too porous last game. Their own first-team offense still can get the work it needs. And the defensive line still needs to show without its top three defensive tackles.

"We have to make sure we keep the focus on us," coach Steve Wilks said.

-- It would be good to see Rosen play. Wilks said he had not yet determined if Rosen would play the final preseason game next week against Denver. I'd think you'd want him to, given that he's a rookie. More importantly, the time for Rosen to get game snaps is potentially dwindling this season. Sure, past odds say Bradford could get hurt. But what if he doesn't? What if he plays the whole season and plays well? You'll want Rosen to get these reps now, because there will not be many if any in the regular season.

-- Wilks has been very careful with the trio of Bradford, Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson in the preseason. The third preseason game is important to Wilks and I wouldn't be shocked if he left out a chunk of the first unit for the entire first half if not a little longer. But I don't see Bradford, Fitz or Johnson lasting nearly that long.

-- The penalties have to be cleaned up, and fast. The Cards drew 13 penalty flags in the first game and another 13 last game (those are flags, not accepted penalties.) They had four false starts in New Orleans, by four different players. That has to change, obviously.

-- Can Chad Williams and Christian Kirk do it again?

-- Two ex-Cowboys who weren't thrilled with their 2017 opportunities in Dallas were defensive end Benson Mayowa and wide receiver Brice Butler. A preseason game isn't going to impact them much, even in meeting their former team, but it is interesting that both have a lot on the line. Mayowa is on this team and is the clubhouse leader as starter in place of the injured Markus Golden, but he needs to stay at the level he has been at. Butler, meanwhile, still seems to have a good shot at the roster but after missing last game, needs to makes a couple of plays to remind the staff what he can provide on game days.

-- Deone Bucannon and Josh Bynes are back at linebacker. Given the absence of Robert Nkemdiche and Corey Peters (and next-in-line Olsen Pierre), hopefully the linebackers can help mask the missing players. Seeing where Bucannon is at his new spot after so much time off will also be important to watch.

-- Bradford hasn't been knocked down yet. Just sayin'.

-- The other day, it was interesting to hear Wilks note Alec James, an undrafted rookie defensive end, but he didn't mention Cap Capi or Arthur Moats, when talking about guys behind Mayowa and Vontarrious Dora. It's really hard to know exactly what the thought process is for the bottom of the roster (I don't think there is any question there's a good chance of churn around final cuts based on who might be out there let go by other teams) but you try and find clues where you can.

-- Other guys I'll be watching in this game: The receivers I haven't yet mentioned (J.J. Nelson, Greg Little, Trent Sherfield, Jalen Tolliver); how Mike Glennon looks at quarterback, because he did not look good in the preseason opener; and the cornerback battle with Chris Campbell, Deatrick Nichols and Brandon Williams.

-- A week from Saturday we will have the first 53-man roster of the 2018 Cardinals. We're getting close to the games that count.

See you in Dallas.

DE Chandler Jones and RB David Johnson
DE Chandler Jones and RB David Johnson

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