Thursday, August 9, 2012

NFL Preseason Preview - Dallas (0-0) at Oakland (0-0) (ET) - Fort Worth Star Telegram

When the Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders start up their respective 2012 preseason schedules with a Monday night matchup at the Coliseum, both teams will aiming to accomplish familiar goals.

For the Cowboys, the objective is to turn the page on another late fade that ended the previous season in disappointment. Dallas was in position to seize a playoff berth after compiling a 7-4 record heading into the 2011 stretch run, but dropped four of its final five contests to finish a game back of the division-winning New York Giants in the NFC East.The Raiders, meanwhile, are in the midst of a change in leadership once again after cutting ties with head coach Hue Jackson after just one season. His replacement, former Denver defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, is the franchise's seventh man in charge in the 10 years since it last reached the playoffs in 2002.Jackson's abrupt firing was triggered by a poor late-season run as well, with Oakland also losing four of its final five games to fall just short of the postseason chase.The Raiders at least came into Allen's first camp with some continuity at quarterback, a luxury the club didn't have in Jackson's lone year at the helm. After losing starter Jason Campbell to a broken collarbone after six games, Oakland brought longtime Cincinnati triggerman Carson Palmer out of a self- imposed exile at midseason, but the two-time Pro Bowler had an inconsistent performance after being thrown immediately into the fire.Palmer entered camp as the unquestioned starter with Campbell exiting as a free agent in the spring, meaning Monday's tilt will likely serve as an audition for new backup Matt Leinart and athletic but untested second-year man Terrelle Pryor, but the Raiders do enter the opener with a bit more uncertainty at running back.Oakland does have a bona fide No. 1 back in Darren McFadden, who's fully recovered from a foot sprain that limited him to just seven games in 2011, but the 2008 first-round pick's extensive injury history may cause the team to limit his workload in the preseason. However, the two players contending to be McFadden's backup, ex-Panther Mike Goodson and second-year speedster Taiwan Jones, are each dealing with ailments that will keep both out of Monday's bout.Goodson is experiencing a sore neck following a frightening helmet-to-helmet collision with linebacker Philip Wheeler in Tuesday's practice, while Jones has missed much of camp with a strained hamstring. With both players sidelined, onetime Cowboy Lonyae Miller will serve as McFadden's handcuff this week.All-Pro punter Shane Lechler and linebacker Aaron Curry, both of whom are dealing with knee injuries, will also be among the Oakland inactives, while projected starting corner Ronald Bartell (hamstring) is questionable to suit up.Dallas enters its 2012 debut with a more extensive list of wounded players, a group headlined by wide receiver Miles Austin and highly touted rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne.Claiborne, whom the Cowboys traded up eight spots to nab with the sixth overall pick of April's draft, sustained an MCL sprain in his left knee that's expected to push back his initial appearance. His absence further thins out a secondary that's already lost last year's starter at right corner, Mike Jenkins, for possibly the entire preseason while he recovers from shoulder surgery.With Austin unavailable with a hamstring strain, Kevin Ogletree will work alongside mega-talent Dez Bryant in the starting lineup on Monday. He's one of a glut of contenders vying for the No. 3 receiver job, a cast that also includes second-year pros Andre Holmes and Dwayne Harris and rookie Danny Coale (5th Round).Coale's status is in doubt for the opener, however, after just returning from a broken foot, with nose tackle Jay Ratliff (plantar fasciitis), outside linebacker Anthony Spencer (hamstring), guards Mackenzy Bernadeau (hip surgery) and Nate Livings (hamstring) and reserve running back Phillip Tanner (broken hand) among those to be held out as well.Oakland possesses an 18-9 advantage in its all-time preseason series with the Cowboys and has won the last two such meetings between the teams, following up a 31-10 decision at the Coliseum in 2009 with a 17-9 triumph in Dallas the subsequent year.

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