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Cowboys vs. Raiders, Preseason Week 1: What to Watch

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The football season has finally arrived, even if it comes in the form of a preseason game in which the Cowboys will run the same five plays 70 times. At NBC, I wrote about the three most important things to watch for the ‘Boys.

Lawrence Vickers’ lead blocking

The Cowboys got solid play from fullback Tony Fiammetta in 2011, but they decided to let him walk in free agency. Vickers may be an upgrade, and he was really brought into Dallas to do one thing—help the team win on short-yardage runs. This is a team that hasn’t ranked better than 23rd in the NFL in short-yardage efficiency since 2008.

You’ll get a chance to see Vickers in action quite a bit tonight because Jason Garrett will call a strong side dive from a formation called “Double Tight Strong” on numerous occasions. I’ve done extensive research on Double Tight Strong. Since 2009, the ‘Boys have lined up in the formation 221 times during the regular season, running the same strong side dive running play over 70 percent of the time for an average of just 3.4 yards-per-carry. Over 40 percent of the runs have come on 1st and 10, and the ‘Boys have thrown a playaction pass from the look all of three times in short-yardage situations (1 to 4 yards to go for a first down) in three years.

Garrett especially doesn’t mind the predictability in the preseason, so watch Vickers’ ability to help clear a path for the backs on short-yardage plays. By the way, the formation is a variation of “I formation” with an extra tight end on the strong side.

Read all three things here.

Other things to watch include the backup tight end situation, the Tyron Smith-Doug Free position swap, the interior line, Barry Church at safety, and the play of rookies Tyrone Crawford and Kyle Wilber.

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