During the recent labor negotiations, one agenda item raised and then quickly tabled was the move to the 18-game season. One argument in favor of the 18-game schedule was that it would reduce the number of meaningless preseason games by two--and season ticket holders would only be charged for one dress rehearsal. Nobody, other than perhaps the owners, who get to fill their pockets by presenting an inferior product, likes preseason games as much as regular season tilts...
...except for guys at the bottom of the roster. For these peripheral players, this time of the season has the highest possible stakes: not only do they get more playing time but, by performing well this August, the next Stephen Bowen can stick on a roster, with a chance to work his way towards a (vastly) better life for himself and those he loves. As a result, bottom of the roster guys often treat a preseason contest like it’s the NFC Championship game.
Since the game against the Broncos, I have been listening and reading the camp reports closely, in an effort to divide the roster into three categories: who’s in, who’s out and who’s on the bubble. After initially establishing the three categories, I have made minute adjustments every day (the most recent: I moved Isaiah Greenhouse from "out" to "bubble") and will continue to make adjustments up to final cuts. One of the main reasons I've done this is because I want to be as clear as possible about which guys are in that middle group--the group which, for the reasons articulated above, will be the most interesting to watch.
Before moving on to the breakdown, I have to give a shout out to BTB member demarcus94, who has been thinking about the roster in similar ways, as his recent FanPost would attest. I'd encourage you to go here to see his assessment of who helped and hurt their respective causes in the Denver game. I'll be doing a similar assessment after the Chargers contest--and hope that demarcus94 does another as well.
Check out Rabble's breakdown after the break...
Here’s my breakdown (PS=likely practice squad candidates)
Tom Brandstater (PS)
Clifton Geathers (PS)
Lyle Leong (PS)
If my assessment is at all accurate, there are approximately 30 guys fighting for about 16 remaining roster spots. On Sunday, I'm going to pay extra special attention to these guys, especially the work they do on special teams, as that's most likely where they'll be buttering their bread.
A closer look shows that many of these guys play the same positions. Lets take a look at those, and the questions to consider:
OLB: Albright vs. B. Williams. Who wins?
CB: which two or three will they keep from among McCann, Thomas, Ball, and Butler?
ILB: Keep Brooking? Cummings v. Lemon?
RB: which one sticks: Choice, Miller, Tanner?
TE: does Rucker make the team in lieu of a FB? Is a receiving TE a luxury?
FB: Gronkowski v. Chapas v. Greenhouse: will the Cowboys keep a FB on the roster?
OG: Keep Holland? Can Kowalaski make the team?
WR: Holley v. Radway for 5th receiver: does the change in kickoffs hurt Holley's chances?
DE: Lissemore v. Olshansky: not sure this is even a battle; Igor probably a goner--or is he?
DS: McCray, AOA, Sendejo will battle for one or 2 spots. Who will stick?
OT: Parnell, Young: Will Dallas keep both? Will they turn to the waiver wire?
K: will any of the three candidates currently on the roster (Beuhler, Bailey, Forbath) emerge?
The casual fan watches preseason games to see the players who are already on the roster and then loses interest. But BTBers aren’t casual fans! On Sunday, I expect all of you sharp-eyed armchair scots will be focusing your attention on the guys currently poised on the bubble, with the knowledge that, on a Jason Garret-coached squad--a team that uses all 53 players--they are going to be involved in plays that decide close games in November and December. If you doubt this, think no further than Bryan McCann.
Enjoy the game!