The Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins kick off the 2013 NFL preseason in the 50th Hall of Fame Game at Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio.
The perception in South Florida these days is that the Dolphins have gone all- in in an attempt to make things tough on the New England Patriots in the AFC East.
Miami certainly made the biggest splash early in the offseason, signing two of the best players available in speedy wide receiver Mike Wallace and Super Bowl winning linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. The Dolphins continued the spending spree from there, bringing in wide receiver Brandon Gibson and tight end Dustin Keller on the offensive side of the ball, along with linebacker Phillip Wheeler and cornerback Brent Grimes to help the defense.
Here's the bad news, though. Miami had to release linebackers Kevin Burnett and Karlos Dansby and lost a solid tight end in Anthony Fasano. The Fish also have to replace their starting left tackle, Jake Long, as well as their best cover corner, Sean Smith, and a very versatile running back in Reggie Bush.
All that said, if second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill improves like most expect, the Dolphins should take a significant step forward in 2013.
"We don't have a very old roster to start with," said Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin. "We can find out a little more about them. It's an honor for us to be a part of this, the 50th anniversary of the Hall of Fame and to be part of the festivities that surround that event. We're playing a team with a great history and tradition like ours in the Dallas Cowboys. It should be fun."
On the field, Wallace's debut as a Dolphin could be delayed due to a groin injury suffered in camp.
"Feeling pretty good, feel like it's getting there," Wallace told reporters after practice Thursday. "A lot more strength in my groin. This is a new situation for me, so I just want to get out there and feel it out, get with my new teammates and have a great time."
The Cowboys' preseason is all about getting quarterback Tony Romo right. Romo missed the team's offseason training activities while recovering from back surgery to remove a cyst in April. The procedure wasn't considered serious but anytime you undergo back surgery there are question marks, especially after Romo signed a monster six-year contract extension in late March, a deal reported to be worth $108 million with $55 million guaranteed.
Dallas coach Jason Garrett has already said that Romo won't play Sunday although the veteran is pressing to get on the field.
"If I did play, it would be a series. Whether you went eight plays or three plays. I'm not sure how much that is going to affect that," Romo told ESPNDallas.com. "Saying that, I still want to play every time I suit up ... but whatever the coaches want."
If everything goes to plan this season, the Cowboys figure to be set at most of the skill positions with Romo throwing to Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Miles Austin. The offensive line and running game leave a lot to be desired, however, and must be sorted out in the preseason. Dallas made changes to four of its five offensive line positions a year ago and most of them didn't work, meaning more changes are on the horizon. Tyron Smith, a first-round pick in 2011, is the left tackle and everything else is up for debate although first- round pick Travis Frederick is expected to take over the pivot at some point.
Over on defense, the 'Boys fired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and replaced him with the 72-year-old Monte Kiffin, who worships at the altar of the Tampa-2 defensive philosophy. That means the Cowboys will switch to a 4-3 "under" scheme which requires a Brian Urlacher-type middle linebacker and smart, zone-savvy defensive backs. There is plenty of talent on that side of the ball but whether they will fit in with Kiffin's philosophy is something that needs to be watched.
The Hall of Fame Game is one of the signature events of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Enshrinement Festival that took place over the weekend. Seven new members were welcomed into the institution on Saturday, with offensive lineman Larry Allen, wide receiver Cris Carter, defensive tackles Curley Culp and Warren Sapp, left tackle Jonathan Ogden, linebacker Dave Robinson and head coach Bill Parcells making up the 2013 class.
Two of the inductees have Cowboy connections. Allen was a 10-time Pro Bowl selection and seven-time All-Pro with Dallas after being drafted by the club in the second-round of the 1994 NFL Draft out of tiny Sonoma State. The Los Angeles native was so dominant he's was named to both the NFL's 1990s All- Decade Team as well as the 2000s All-Decade Team.
Parcells, meanwhile, although better known for being the two-time Super Bowl- winning coach of the New York Giants, coached the Cowboys from 2003 to 2006, compiling a 34-30 mark with the team and piloting Dallas to two postseason appearances.
This will be the Dolphins' fourth appearance in the Hall of Fame Game, with the last one coming in 2005. Miami has never won in Canton, however, losing to Philadelphia in 1978, the St. Louis Rams in 2001 and the Chicago Bears in '05.
The Cowboys will play in the Hall of Fame Game for the fifth time in franchise history. Dallas last played in the game to open the 2010 season.
The Cowboys are 5-2 all-time against the Fish in the preseason.