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Key Dallas storylines with Cowboys team insider David Helman, and how they impact the Rams

The Rams head to Honolulu, Hawaii to take on the Dallas Cowboys at Aloha Stadium, with kickoff scheduled for 7 p.m. PT Saturday on KCBS2 and NFL Network. It marks Los Angeles' first neutral site preseason game since 2001, when they took on the Cleveland Browns in the annual Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio.  

For more on Los Angeles' next 2019 preseason opponent, theRams.com caught up with Cowboys team insider David Helman for Dallas' perspective on this matchup. We then explain how it will impact the Rams.


TheRams.com: Generally speaking, how are the Cowboys approaching this preseason when it comes to starters' involvement?

David Helman: "I would probably classify it as the "traditional" method. Jason Garrett is a big believer in giving guys reps, so he's not going to shut his starters down completely — but he's also not crazy. The starting offense got nine plays in the opener, while the defense got two series. I think it'll be slightly more on Saturday night. Maybe 2-3 series for the offense, maybe a bit more for the defense. The ever-popular "dress rehearsal" will be next weekend when the team returns to Texas. Jason Garrett is an old school guy, so it fits that he'd follow an old school schedule."

*TheRams.com: What are some notable position battles taking place? Has training camp plus the first preseason game provided any clarity on that competition? *

DH: "Honestly, considering this team reached the divisional round of the playoffs last year, there aren't a ton of starting jobs up for grabs. The position battles are mainly for depth chart purposes. There's a pretty fierce battle to see who's going to round out the wide receiver depth chart behind the trio of Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb. There are also roughly 8,000 talented defensive linemen on this roster, and the Cowboys can only keep about 10 of them. Right now, it's anybody's guess how those two spots shake out."

TheRams.com: Along those same lines, who are some key Cowboys players to watch – offense, defense and/or special teams – on Saturday?

DH: "My best advice would be to keep a close eye on Tony Pollard, the fourth-round rookie running back out of Memphis. The Cowboys drafted him to be a third-down, scat back to help complement Ezekiel Elliott — but that was before Elliott decided not to report to camp. With Elliott going through a holdout, the Cowboys are clearly trying to get Pollard ready to carry a larger role. To this point, he's handling it well. He ran with the starters last weekend, and he has shown some impressive ability through three weeks of practice. Hopefully we get to see a bit more of what he can do in Honolulu."

TheRams.com: Dallas is dealing with quite a few injuries following its preseason opener against the San Francisco 49ers. Which younger players could see some opportunities against the Rams as a result?

DH: "This game is going to be a challenge for the Dallas offensive line. The starters obviously aren't going to play much, and several young players are injured. Guys like Joe Looney and Xavier Su'a-Filo are going to have to play a ton of snaps, and hopefully they can hold up. The same goes for the linebacker corps. The starters probably won't play a ton, and several young guys are dealing with injuries. You're probably going to hear names like Chris Covington, Justin Phillips and Nate Hall a lot, because they're probably going to play most of this game."

TheRams.com: Finally, based on what you observed from the Cowboys' first preseason game, what will you be watching for against the Rams?

DH: "I want to see if the Cowboys' youngsters can put forth a better effort, to be perfectly blunt. The starters looked great against the 49ers, but everything fell apart once they left. Wide receivers were dropping balls, quarterbacks were holding the ball too long, offensive linemen were missing blocks and defensive backs were missing assignments. In the second half, when it was primarily young players on the field, the Cowboys' offense only managed 96 yards. The defense allowed 177 yards and 10 points. It just wasn't a very pretty display, even by preseason standards. Hopefully they can put something better on tape on Saturday."

What it all means for the Rams:

Regardless of how much Dallas plays its starters, those series are going to be valuable for L.A.'s rookies and other players fighting to make the 53-man roster. Los Angeles is in a similar situation when it comes to position battles with several starters returning, so if Rams coach Sean McVay chooses to rest the starters again this week, a lot of reserves will be featured on both sides. Still, you never know which of these players could end up having big roles down the road.

Any participation from the Cowboys' starting offensive line would've been beneficial for Los Angeles' defensive line, considering it was ranked second in the NFL heading into 2019 by the scouting service Pro Football Focus. Pollard, a former teammate of Rams rookie running back Darrell Henderson at Memphis, should have L.A.'s full attention as a threat as both a runner and pass-catcher out of the backfield.

Overall, despite the limited involvement of key players, this should still be a good test for the Rams.

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