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Will the Cowboys play their starters in the first preseason game against the Jaguars?

As the Cowboys prepare for their first preseason game against the Jaguars, their head coach is “leaning towards not” starting Dak Prescott.

As the Cowboys prepare for their first preseason game against the Jaguars, their head coach is “leaning towards not” starting Dak Prescott.
Jason ParkhurstUSA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

This Saturday marks the Dallas Cowboys’ inaugural appearance in this year’s preseason as they prepare to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars. Doug Pederson, the head coach of the Jaguars, restated on Wednesday that their starters will take the field in the initial preseason match against the Cowboys, even though it’s an away game.

A notable inclusion among these starters is Calvin Ridley, the exceptional wide receiver who sat out the entire previous season due to a suspension. While the exact roster of starting players for the Cowboys remains undisclosed, head coach Mike McCarthy has already confirmed that star QB Dak Prescott is unlikely to make an appearance.

“We talked about it, but I haven’t made a decision,” McCarthy said. “I’m leaning towards not. If I had to bet, I’d bet on no. But I don’t bet.”

Related: NFL 2023 preseason complete schedule: dates and times of every game

Anticipation surrounds the defensive lineup as fans wonder which defensive starters will be on the field. The defense may be eager for redemption against the Jaguars starters, who handed the Cowboys a harsh defeat last season.

The Jaguars opted to deploy their starters for three series during their second preseason match against the Cleveland Browns in 2022. The previous year, Jacksonville participated in a total of four preseason games, including the Hall of Fame game. Technically, the team’s game against Dallas is equivalent to that Browns’ game last year.

How the preseason works in the NFL

In the past, preseason games served a dual purpose: preparing players for the regular season and providing a competitive arena to secure spots on the rosters. What seems great now is that many players arrived at training camp in poor physical condition, using that period to regain their fitness level. As a result, training camps and preseason activities were notably extended, while the duration of the regular season was comparatively shorter.

Related: Do NFL players get paid in preseason? How much?

All that is different now. Players engage in year-round conditioning, arriving at camps fully prepared or very close to it, to actively participate in games. They make much more money, too, elevating those with substantial contracts into invaluable assets that must be protected. And starters find themselves spending less and less time on the field during preseason matches.

Now, there are only three preseason games. Many teams, like the Cowboys, pay more attention to judging new players and those lower on the list to decide who gets a spot on the 53-player team. This is made easier by the new rules about reducing the team size. Teams don’t have to cut players multiple times anymore. This gives players who are on the edge more chances – all three games – to show what they can do and earn their place.