With just a handful of preseason games played, it seems that a common theme has already arisen.
In Ryan Mathews' short stint versus the Packers on Thursday night, he suffered a broken collarbone that will see him on the bench for the next 6 weeks. The Eagles' signal caller. Michael Vick, has shown once again that he is no stranger to the training table, as he picked up a hand injury in limited action on Thursday.
The injury bug has already struck in full force in both Dallas and Oakland. The two teams are set to meet in a Monday night game, but the teams will look far from recognizable. Granted, preseason is where the starters and the guys being paid the big bucks are given limited plays and ultimately the best seat in the house over on the sideline; however, the first string unit for both teams will be missing key players due to injuries already sustained.
Oakland's featured back, Darren McFadden was sidelined with a foot injury for much of last year. I am going to assume that his role in the preseason will be extremely sparing at best. The two who are vying for the backup role, Mike Goodson and Taiwan Jones are both not on the active roster for Monday. Goodson is recovering from a helmet to helmet blow, suffered in practice last week, while Jones is struggling with hamstring problems.
This opens the door for Lonyae Miller. Miller was bumped to the practice squad in 2011. This could be his breakout game, and what more of a fitting way to do so, than against the Cowboys who picked him up after being undrafted out of Fresno State in 2010. Look for him to put up some good numbers on the ground.
Arguably one of the Raiders' best weapons, punter Shane Lechler will not be participating Monday night either. Lechler has sustained a knee injury. This will definitely need to be monitored closely by Raiders' staff, as the Silver and Black will need his leg healthy for the season.
This will introduce the world to Marquette King. The undrafted free agent rookie out of Fort Valley State University has been highly touted as the next Shane Lechler since he was in high school. Now, punters are usually an afterthought, especially when it comes to hype around recruiting, but if you know your stuff or have seen this kid play, you know he's the real deal. King was First Team All-SIAC and has an average hang time of over 5 seconds. King led the conference in punting with a 43 yards per punt average. His longest punt of the season was an 80 yard kick. 21 of his punts landed inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. 16 of his punts were for 50 yards or more and of his 60 punt attempts during the season, only one was blocked. He was a steal when the Raiders picked him up. He will only get better under wing of the leagues best. Pay close attention to him on Monday, you're in for a treat.
Linebacker Aaron Curry will be among the inactive as well, courtesy of his own knee injury.
Ex-San Diego State Aztec, Miles Burris will claim the starting linebacker role. Burris is more than capable of performing in this role. He was a two-time All-Mountain West Conference first-team selection in college and was selected by the Raiders to give them depth at the linebacker position that seems to be aging in Oakland. Waiting in the wings is Chad Kilgore out of Northwest Missouri state, that could see some action too.
Now for the walking wounded from "America's Team."
Play maker miles Austin is out with a hamstring strain, but is said to be coming back within a week.
This gives the spotlight to Kevin Ogletree. Ogletree has been with the Cowboys since 2009, but has had an up and down career thus far due to injuries. He has just seven receptions and is bound to be hungry for more. He needs to impress in his chance with the starters. With most of the focus being on the speedy and uber talented Dez Bryant, Ogletree will have his moment to shine. The third receiver spot is up for grabs, and second year pro's Andre Holmes and Dwayne Harris will be contending for it too. Also, don't count out Danny Coale if he gets the all clear from team doctors. The Cowboys' 5th round pick in the draft this year. Coale's is listed as day to day, as he is making his return from a broken foot.
Defensive Back, Morris Claiborne, who Jerry Jones and his men most famously traded eight spots up to get at the sixth pick in the 2012 draft is now sidelined with an MCL sprain. This injury is most certainly not helping his case as many have said he is overrated, and that he hasn't been living up to his high draft pick. Those at Cowboys camp have said that Claiborne is even being burned by practice squad receivers and struggling with the defensive concepts.
The replacement here could quite frankly be anyone. The Cowboys have such a lack of depth in the secondary that the man who fills in could probably be the starter come week one. Keep an eye out for just who the Cowboys use as Claiborne's replacement.
Some other notable injuries on the Cowboys side are as follows:
Jay Ratliff (plantar fasciitis), outside linebacker Anthony Spencer (hamstring), guards Mackenzy Bernadeau (hip surgery) and Nate Livings (hamstring) and reserve running back Phillip Tanner (broken hand) among those to be held out as well.
There is a silver lining in all of this. With so many starters out indefinitely, its a chance for those on the bubble to make the roster to shine and earn their spot. With the ailments abundant on both teams, these unheralded dreamers will most likely get more playing time to showcase their skills for the world to see. Many players have earned spots on rosters thanks to outstanding play in the preseason. Perhaps someone will come through and be the gem that either team needs. With all of these injuries before the season has even started, the Cowboys and the Raiders will need all the help they can get.
Both teams have playoff aspirations, especially after failing to reach them in what seems like forever. Think of both teams current situations as the glass half full. All either team needs is that one breakout star to bolster the remainder of the team into greatness this season.