ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) – A long and eventful preseason comes down to this for the Dallas Cowboys: a handful of plays for Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Dez Bryant that figure to be their only snaps together until late October.
As for the Oakland Raiders in their exhibition visit to Texas on Saturday night, they’re planning a brief appearance for Pro Bowl left tackle Donald Penn just three days after he ended his training camp holdout.
Prescott and Elliott, the sensational rookie quarterback-running back combo that helped the Cowboys to a 13-3 record last season, weren’t in the backfield together the first three preseason games this year.
Elliott, last year’s NFL rushing leader, should make his exhibition debut against the Raiders. It’s the same plan from a year ago when he appeared in just one preseason game. But this year, Elliott is facing a six-game suspension after the NFL concluded he used physical force against his girlfriend at the time last summer in Ohio.
If Elliott’s appeal of the ruling is denied, his first regular-season game won’t be until Oct. 29 against Washington.
“Typically, the running backs in this league don’t play that much in the preseason,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Those guys just seem to have a feel, they can get a feel for what they need to do in practice if the practice is competitive and you’re practicing in the right environment, which we believe we do.”
Penn skipped the first 26 days of camp with the Raiders before reporting Wednesday and getting in two practices. Because teams will sit most of their starters in next week’s preseason finales, this is probably the Raiders’ only chance to get Penn work against first-teamers before the regular season.
Both teams have intriguing issues at backup quarterback once Prescott and Derek Carr are finished.
Undrafted Dallas rookie Cooper Rush has been more efficient in preseason than Kellen Moore, a sixth-year veteran who had the backup job at the start of camp. Rush, of Central Michigan, got second-team work in practice this week.
EJ Manuel and Connor Cook have battled for Oakland’s No. 2 job throughout the preseason. Manuel was solid while Cook struggled in the preseason opener; the reverse was true last week.
“The cool thing is both those guys have approached it with such a great attitude,” offensive coordinator Todd Downing said. “They’ve both taken strides, and at times one guy has taken a bigger stride than the other.”
Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith is expected to play again a week after making his NFL debut in his first action since a devastating knee injury in his final college game at Notre Dame – the Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Day 2016. He missed his entire rookie season recovering after getting drafted in the second round.
“We want to see a progression,” Garrett said. “We want to see him handle that work. And then as we’re getting closer to the season, we’ll try to decide what the roles are for him and all the other guys on our team.”
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