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DATE: Sunday, Aug. 4
TIME: 8 p.m. ET
SITE: Fawcett Stadium, Canton, Ohio
TV: NBC (Al Michaels, play-by-play; Cris Collinsworth, analysis; Michele Tafoya, sideline)
THE SERIES (PRESEASON)
SERIES RECORD: Dallas leads 5-2
AT MIAMI: Teams are tied 1-1
AT DALLAS: Cowboys lead 4-1
LAST MEETING: 2012 at Dallas; Cowboys 30, Dolphins 13
SERIES TREND: The last two preseason meetings were decided by 14 and 17 points, respectively, after the first five all were close games. The margin the first five times the teams met in the preseason was three points or less on four occasions, and six points on the other.
HISTORY LESSON: The Dolphins closed out their preseason schedule against Dallas each of the past three years; this will be the second time the teams meet in their preseason opener. The teams opened the preseason against each other in 1983 in Dallas, with the Cowboys coming away with a 20-17 victory.
HALL OF FAME GAME RECORDS: Miami is 0-3 (last appearance in 2005); Dallas is 1-3 (last appearance in 2010).
DALLAS’ 2012 REGULAR SEASON RECORD: 8-8
LAST GAME: Lost 28-18 at Washington
OVERVIEW: The Cowboys failed to make the playoffs the last two years after losing a showdown for the NFC East title both times, against the Giants in 2011 and against the Redskins last season. It’s the same core of veterans that will attempt to break through this season, as the biggest addition the Cowboys made in the offseason was the hiring of Monte Kiffin as defensive coordinator.
NEW FACES: C Travis Frederick (draft, 1st round), TE Gavin Escobar (draft, 2nd); WR Terrance Williams (draft, 3rd), S Will Allen (Pittsburgh), LB Justin Durant (Detroit), TE Dante Rosario (San Diego).
VETERANS GONE: DT Josh Brent (retired), LB Victor Butler (New Orleans), LB Dan Connor (released), CB Mike Jenkins (Oakland), RB Felix Jones (Philadelphia), P Brian Moorman (Pittsburgh), WR Kevin Ogletree (Tampa Bay), S Gerald Sensabaugh (released), DE Marcus Spears (released), FB Lawrence Vickers (released).
THE COWBOYS’ STRENGTH ON OFFENSE: Few quarterbacks around the league elicit such a wide array of opinions as Tony Romo, but there’s no denying his ability to make plays. Dez Bryant, meanwhile, emerged last season as one of the most exciting wide receivers in the NFL. For this preseason opener, keep an eye on second-round pick Gavin Escobar at tight end and third-round selection Terrance Williams at wide receiver. Also look out for wide receiver Anthony Armstrong, a young player who has had two stints with the Dolphins.
THE COWBOYS’ QUESTION MARK ON OFFENSE: The Cowboys shocked many observers during the 2013 NFL draft when they moved down in the first round before selecting Wisconsin center Travis Frederick. While the choice was criticized in many circles, the reality is the Cowboys had to address the middle of their offensive line. It didn’t help matters that projected starting guard Mackenzy Bernadeau began training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
THE COWBOYS’ STRENGTH ON DEFENSE: This actually might boil down to one name: DeMarcus Ware. The stud pass rusher has moved from outside linebacker to defensive end in Dallas’ new 4-3 scheme, but he has made a smooth transition by all accounts. One player to watch on Sunday is projected starting weakside linebacker Bruce Carter, a young player coming off an injury whom the Cowboys think could become as good as Derrick Brooks. Another is cornerback B.W. Webb, a fourth-round pick from William & Mary.
THE COWBOYS’ QUESTION MARK ON DEFENSE: The Cowboys’ training camp got off to an unfortunate start when defensive end Tyrone Crawford went down with a torn Achilles tendon on the first day. He’s just one of three significant defensive linemen dealing with an injury of note, as DT Jay Ratliff is on PUP with a hamstring problem and DE Anthony Spencer is out a month after undergoing knee surgery.
THE COWBOYS’ STRENGTH ON SPECIAL TEAMS: Dan Bailey should be familiar to Dolphins fans considering it was his field goal that was the difference in Dallas’ Thanksgiving Day victory in 2011. Bailey was good that season as a rookie, but he was even better in 2012 when he made 29 of 31 field goal attempts, the only two misses coming from 50 yards and beyond. Dallas also has a tremendous punt returner in Dwayne Harris, who seven returns of at least 20 yards were tied for most in the league in 2012.
THE COWBOYS’ QUESTION MARK ON SPECIAL TEAMS: The Cowboys had some breakdowns in kick coverage last season, allowing a 98-yard punt return for a touchdown as well as a 108-yard kickoff return for another score.