There are 33 days left until the NFL season officially kicks off, and the preseason remains key for several players on the current Dallas Cowboys roster.
In 2011, the Cowboys were one botched first-down throw from making the playoffs, and watched as division rival took home the Super Bowl title. Dallas looks to start fresh with recent acquisitions to the secondary, as well as the offensive and defensive lines, as
Dallas cut four offensive linemen and defensive backs Friday.
The team's first test comes against the Oakland Raiders on Aug. 13 at Oakland-Alameda County Stadium. There will be a great deal of focus paid to specific players, as the Cowboys have key holes they are looking to improve on.
Specifically, injuries along the offensive line and at the skill positions have left the door open for the five players below hoping to make the Cowboys final roster:
C Phil Costa
One of the key developments during the Cowboys training camp in Oxnard is third-year center Costa struggling with his snaps.
Head coach Jason Garrett told The Associated Press the snapping woes can be directly attributed to injuries.
"We felt very good about our center, our backup center, our third center, the guys who can play both center and guard going into training camp," Garrett said. "We just had a rash of injuries, so you try to adjust as best you can."
Offensive guard Bill Nagy and center Kevin Kowalski are both down with ankle injuries, and rookie guard David Arkin has never played center in his short career. This puts the pressure on Costa to shake off any kinks with his delivery when he takes the field against the Raiders.
While the market is rather slim for centers this close to the start of the season, the Cowboys cannot tolerate botched snaps for too long.
G Derrick Dockery
The rash of injuries to the offensive line also forced Dallas to sign 10-year NFL journeyman Dockery, who will battle David Arkin for a roster spot.
"He's encouraged about his opportunity and we had a good, long talk about what he needs to get done and how he can improve himself," Dallas offense coordinator Bill Callahan told ESPN Dallas. "He's very willing and very motivated to do a great job for us."
From 2003 to 2009, Dockery started 113 out of 126 games but has since tailed off with just four starts for Dallas and the Washington Redskins. Dockery will have to overcome Arkin's youth to have any shot.
WR David Little
Austin has dealt with nagging hamstring injuries since last season and pending talented but troubled receiver Dez Bryant's legal issues, Dallas sought out more depth at the position.
The Cowboys' most recent wide receiver acquisition went undrafted out of Midwestern State, where he led the team in all receiving categories. He caught 58 balls for 746 yards and six touchdowns as a senior in 2011, and was named the Lone Star Conference Receiver of the Year and made the First-Team All-Lone Star Conference.
Little actually played during the Cowboys rookie minicamp but was not offered a contract. Now he has a shot at redemption.
Dallas plucked Austin from seemingly nowhere, and may have found another gem in Little.
WR Andre Holmes
Whoever wants the No. 3 receiver spot will have to go through veteran Kevin Ogletree. Second-year receiver Holmes saw no action in 2011, but has picked up his pace after putting together a string of excellent fades in the red zone on Thursday, according to the Fort-Worth Star Telegram.
Holmes is the largest receiver on the roster, checking in at 6'4" and 223 pounds, which could make him a valuable red zone target for Tony Romo.
LB Kyle Wilber
Dallas spent five of its seven 2012 draft picks on the defensive side of the ball, including two on the secondary and two on linebackers. The Cowboys took outside linebacker Kyle Wilber in the fourth round with hopes that his size and speed will strength a defense that finished 23rd in passing yards.
Wilber reportedly has only been taking reps with the second team, but the former Wake Forest standout may have an increased role if contract negotiations stall with Anthony Spencer.
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