Don’t look for Dak, Zeke, Carson or other stars for HOF game
By Barry Wilner
AP Pro Football Writer
CANTON, Ohio (AP) — Don’t look for too many stars on the field Thursday night when the Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals kick off the NFL preseason in the Pro Football Hall of Fame game.
Don’t look for many starters, either.
For those who believe four preseason games are too many, seeing their team play in Canton isn’t a welcome sight. Both coaches, Jason Garrett for Dallas and Bruce Arians for Arizona, will covet getting an extra chance to watch their rookies and fringe guys compete. That’s it.
As for the Dak Prescotts, Jason Wittens and Ezekiel Elliotts from Big D, forget it. Same for Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald and Patrick Peterson for the Cardinals.
“This will be about the young guys,” Arians says, although top draft choice Haason Reddick of Temple , who is making a switch from defensive end to linebacker, will see limited action, too. He “is not going to play a ton,” Arians said.
Both teams are heading to Ohio from out west, with Dallas holding early training camp in Oxnard, California. The reason they were chosen for the game is simple: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner will be inducted into the hall on Saturday night. Fitzgerald plans to stay for the ceremonies, as does Witten.
Some things to look for as the Hall of Fame game switches from its usual weekend spot to Thursday night on NBC.
BACK IN THE SADDLE: Kellen Moore is likely to see his first action since the end of the 2015 season with the Cowboys, when he made his first two career starts. He made his NFL regular-season debut off the bench that season, his fourth year in the league. It was mop-up duty back then, with Dallas finishing a 4-12 season ruined by Tony Romo’s twice-broken left collarbone.
Moore broke his right ankle as Romo’s backup in training camp last year, the first domino to fall in Prescott’s path to the starting job. Romo’s back injury last preseason cleared the way for Prescott. Moore is healthy again, and a backup again — this time to the reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
NOT IN THE SADDLE: Not only will Palmer, coming off a mediocre season, be sitting out, so will his backup, Drew Stanton. The quarterbacking duties will fall mostly to journeyman Blaine Gabbert, seeking a spot in Arizona after supplanting Colin Kaepernick as San Francisco’s starter last year. With the 49ers going 2-14, Gabbert didn’t exactly light up the Golden Gate Bridge.
DEBUT FOR TWO? While it’s unclear how the defensive rotation will work, two young defensive ends are eagerly awaiting their NFL debuts: Dallas rookie first-round pick Taco Charlton and second-year player Charles Tapper. A third-round pick last year, Tapper missed his rookie season, preseason included, with a back injury. Improving the pass rush is a high priority for Dallas, and these two prospects are supposed to be part of the solution.
FIELD IS READY: Last year’s game was canceled when the field was unplayable, an embarrassment to the hall and league that left an empty spot on the national TV scene, too.
Hall of Fame President David Baker promises the new turf will be as good as any the Cowboys and Cardinals will play on. He said it “passed the test with the NFL’s game operations folks.” Baker joked that the football team and cheerleaders from McKinley High School next door had been successfully practicing on it.
AP Pro Football Writer Schuyler Dixon and Sports Writer Bob Baum contributed.