Hall of Fame Game

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS -

The Dal­las Cowboys and the Ari­zona Car­di­nals open the NFL ex­hi­bi­tion sea­son tonight with the Hall of Fame Game at Can­ton, Ohio. Coaches for both teams said fans should not ex­pect to see many starters, such as Cowboys quar­ter­back Dak Prescott (above) on the field.

CAN­TON, Ohio — Don’t look for too many stars on the field tonight 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 Dak Prescott, Ja­son Wit­ten and Ezekiel El­liott from the Cowboys, for­get it. Same for Car­son Palmer, Larry Fitzger­ald and Pa­trick Peter­son from the Car­di­nals.

“This will be about the young guys,” said Ari­ans, 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, Calif. 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 tonight 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 firstround 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/GUS RUELAS

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