The most entertaining portion of preseason football is watching the players you feel are on the bubble - those not guaranteed a roster spot, and not guaranteed to be gone by September.
In the Cowboys' 3-0 shut-out victory over the Raiders, there were players that stood out. Some of them showcased skills that could make them assets to the team on game day, while others looked more likely to be selling used cars than signing autographs in the near future.
See who's on the bubble, and how they're doing, after the jump.
We'll go through the players by position group, starting with the defense, and note any significant moves based on the first preseason game.
Mana Silva, Justin Taplin-Ross, Eddie Whitley, Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, Mario Butler, Lionel Smith, Teddy Williams, CJ Wilson
Overall, the defensive backs performed admirably against Oakland. Consider that Morris Claiborne and Mike Jenkins were missing from the field, and you appreciate how impressive it is that the Cowboys' young corners and safeties kept a lid on Oakland's vertical passing game.
Positives: Mana Silva had an interception, moments after Eddie Whitley nearly secured one of his own. Both were able to make substantial run-backs. Lionel Smith showed why the team decided to keep him over Isaac Madison - he played an aggressive, physical style that must have enamored coach Jerome Henderson. Teddy Williams and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah looked like real football players out there, which is more than could be said of either of them in the past. I was most impressed with Williams' play, as he stayed tight to his man and made sure tackles on underneath routes.
Negatives: Justin Taplin-Ross may not be ready for prime time. I love his potential, and I pray that he remains with the team in some way, but his only significant play on the ball resulted in a costly pass interference penalty which could (should) have resulted in points for the Raiders. I once said Justin Taplin-Ross reminds me of Miles Austin, and I stand by that assessment. Like Miles, however, he isn't quite ready to perform in his first year.
Alex Albright, Victor Butler, Adrian Hamilton, Isaiah Greenhouse, Orie Lemon, Caleb McSurdy
For the most part, the linebacking corps flew under the radar against Oakland. Most of the plays came when they were lined up as defensive ends in a 4-man front, but the fact that they weren't exposed in coverage indicates an overall good game from the group. Wilber doesn't make the bubble list, as I feel he's certain to make the roster based on practice, performance, and investment.
Positives: Adrian Hamilton made the second half of the game worth watching. His punishing sack of Terrelle Pryor should be made into a GIF at the nearest opportunity and distributed electronically to Cowboys fans worldwide. Aside from that sack, he continuously was able to get pressure on the quarterback, and delivered some solid hits after the football was thrown. Victor Butler played passably in the absence of Anthony Spencer, but the run defense was suspect for the first few drives, and Butler may have been part of the problem. Alex Albright showcased his versatility, and Orie Lemon was always around the ball.
Negatives: I didn't notice anything from Isaiah Greenhouse or Caleb McSurdy - and I'm certain that McSurdy received some playing time. These two need to make plays to make the roster, and so far they haven't done it.
Baraka Atkins, Ben Bass, Rob Callaway, Kenyon Coleman, Clifton Geathers, Marcus Spears
Aside from some initially porous run defense, and looking silly chasing after Tyrelle Pryor, the defensive line played an integral role in the shutout. Brent doesn't appear to be at risk of losing his spot, and he may have even blocked Janikowski's FG attempt. Tyrone Crawford has so far lived up to expectations (ferocious, strong, but still somewhat small). Neither of them are bubble players to me, so neither of them are on the list.
Positives: Ben Bass, a big man in his own right (but not as big as Geathers), made his presence felt when he lined up at DE. He consistently pushed the pocket. Kenyon Coleman looked like a man, even against the Raiders' serviceable first-team line, and was able to collapse the pocket as well. Marcus Spears played hard despite his apparent demotion, and dominated the lesser competition, even chasing down a running back who was able to pass the line of scrimmage to Spears' side. Baraka Atkins made some plays despite being under the radar all through camp.
Negatives: Clifton Geathers' potential has yet to surface in a game situation. He has looked good in practice, where he can overpower the Cowboys' wall of UDFAs, but against legitimate backups he struggled to get leverage (a problem for anyone that big).
To the Stephen McGee fan(s?) out there, I apologize. Right now, I don't see him as a bubble player. Currently, he appears about equivalent to Rudy Carpenter, and Carpenter is on the bubble for the practice squad, not the 53. Perhaps, if the San Diego game features a McGee touchdown drive or two, he will make his way onto the bubble. For now, he's likely camp fodder.
Shaun Chapas, Lance Dunbar, Jamize Olawale, Phillip Tanner, Ed Wesley, Javarris Williams
The running game was fairly impotent throughout most of the game, as the blocking simply wasn't up to the task against the Raiders' D Line. At the bottom of the roster, however, things seemed to even out a bit.
Positives: Shaun Chapas played well, even contributing in the passing game. Catching the ball out of the backfield was considered his biggest weakness before, so his stock has increased. Jamize Olawale was featured heavily, and reeled off some decent gains on draw plays. Javarris Williams was a load and was able to fall forward at the end of most of his runs.
Negatives: There was really nothing to blame the backs for here. Sometimes the holes just weren't there.
Cole Beasley, Tim Benford, Danny Coale, Dwayne Harris, Andre Holmes, Donavon Kemp, Kevin Ogletree, Raymond Radway, James Hanna, Andrew Szczerba
The receiving corps didn't have much opportunity to shine in the deep game, but they took advantage of the short and intermediate routes they were given.
Positives: Andre Holmes elevated his play from what we saw at the Blue and White scrimmage not long ago, making some tough catches in traffic with minimal mental mistakes. Kevin Ogletree showed some of that consistency he was rumored to have by Coach Robinson. Tim Benford was able to stretch the field, but he was betrayed by an overthrown ball from Stephen McGee. James Hanna shined as a receiving tight end, catching everything he could be expected to and also blocking well.
Negatives: Cole Beasley wasn't nearly the weapon we had been anticipating. He wasn't bad, but the bar was set very high, and he came up short. Dwayne Harris was caught tackling a defender while trying to make a block downfield. Andrew Szczerba's only notable play was a dropped pass, and everyone else was fairly invisible.
Jeff Adams, Levy Adcock, Tyrone Novikoff, David Arkin, Derrick Dockery, Harland Gunn, Ronald Leary, Daniel Loper
I've invested a few beers in erasing my early impressions of the offensive line, but what I still remember isn't all that good.
Positives: The very bottom of the roster guys, especially the young tackles, appear to be on-par with their corresponding defensive linemen. At the end of the game, the offensive line didn't look overmatched, with the exception of Harland Gunn at Center. Through most of the game, David Arkin played a mentally sound game. He successfully snapped the ball, and didn't commit any snap infractions (as a former Center, I appreciate this). His biggest error (giving up the sack) was a mental mistake, rather than a result of being overpowered.
Negatives: Derrick Dockery didn't appear to be much of a solution to our problems at Guard - certainly not any more than he was last year. Ronald Leary didn't appear to be as NFL-ready as initially reported. Gunn didn't put the ball on the ground, but he was the center piece in a line that nearly got Rudy Carpenter killed (due to pressure up the middle).
Now that you've heard my take on the bubble players, go ahead and make your own roster. Click the button below to launch the latest version of my roster builder. Bill Nagy is still on the roster here, but has technically been cut - I'm waiting to see if he is placed on IR before moving him.