Over the past 9 days, the Dallas Cowboys have played two preseason games. Both games truned out to be wins, a 20-19 nail-biter against the St. Louis Rams, and a 30-13 thrashing of the Miami Dolphins in the preseason finale.
Against the Rams, the first team offense finally found the endzone. And they did it twice, as Tony Romo hit Dwayne Harris for 2 TDs in the victory, and the second tier defense held the game in check in the final minutes.
The real story though, is what happened tonight, and how it will affect the final cuts the Cowboys are supposed to make by Friday. Against the Dolphins, almost every starter didn’t play a down, instead giving way to players trying to make it onto the back end of the roster. What I saw tonight were players that were playing inspired football, trying to get their names on the roster and be a part of one of the most storied teams in the NFL.
Despite an up and down first quarter that saw Miami take a 6-0 lead on two field goals, the Cowboys continued to look good on offense and defense. A 25-yd interception return for a TD by Orie Lemon would give the Cowboys a 10-6 lead, and they’d never trail again. Philip Tanner and Lance Dunbar added a rushing TD apiece, and all three of them may have solidifed roster spots.
The big position battle tonight was for 3rd string QB, and the battle was between Stephen McGee and Rudy Carpenter. McGee is the favorite, and has been for the entire preseason. He also has had the better preseason. Carpenter won’t make the team, regardless of whether the Cowboys choose to keep a 3rd string QB or not. For those who may have missed it, Jerry Jones at halftime said that the team would like to keep a 3rd QB, but that if there are better players that can fill roster spots, they might sacrifice the 3rd string spot. That officially puts McGee on the bubble for Friday.
Another player on the bubble, but who might actually make the cut, is DB Mana Silva. He had a huge deflection on 4th down today, and played probably the most consistent defense of the entire secondary used in tonight’s game. He could prove to be invaluable on special teams, and even in certain multiple-DB defensive sets.
As for the receiving core, Danny Coale may have notched a spot on the back end of the dpeth chart for the receivers. Andre Holmes might be joining him, but is on the bubble. It is possible that in week 1, the Cowboys receiving unit could be Austin, Bryant, Ogletree, Dwayne Harris, Cole Beasley, Danny Coale, and Andre Holmes.
The offensive line is the place that leaves the most questions unanaswered as to who has earned a roster spot.With injuries wreaking havoc on the O-line, Phil Costa, the usual starter, played tonight, seeing his first action of the preseason. Nate Livings returned to practice this week, but most likely the offenisve line depth chart won’t be known until after the final cuts are made.
As for usual starters who might be out for the opener against the Giants, Jason Witten and Jay Ratliff top the list. A high ankle sprain for Ratliff is nothing to mess with, and Witten still isn’t fully recovered from his spleen injury. Going into next week’s opener against the Giants, there remain a ton of question marks about player personnel, but Friday will begin to give us answers.
In any event, the Cowboys ended their preseason on a high note, and no doubt have a ton of confidence going forward into the regular season.