Our NFL season is approaching rapidly and that means that some tough decisions will be made by JG and our coaching staff. I'm here to give my take, I personally live for the preseason... watching bottom of the roster guys fight it out for a spot and a chance to be the next Miles Austin or Tony Romo is what these games are all about. For the casual fan a 3-0 preseason game against the Oakland Raiders wouldn't even deserve their time, but most of us here were glued to the television from start to finish including myself. I did one of these last year which you could check out below, just disregard my excitement from Martellus Bennett.... he was having a solid camp give me a break
first off these are the guys who are in absolutely no danger of being cut at this time and how they fared last night, obviously things can change though.
QB- Tony Romo, Kyle Orton
This has to be Romo's year right? He needs a lot more help from that offensive line though to be able to push the ball down the field to Dez and Miles. Orton didn't look great last night by any means, that interception was horrendous, but in my opinion he is still the second best backup quarterback in the league. (and no the first isn't Tim Tebow, he would be Matt Hasselbeck which is absolutely baffling to me that he is a backup quarterback in this league.)
Were all expecting big things from Demarco this year but he had no room to run last night. His struggles should be blamed on the offensive line but Felix's struggles could be traced back to him. He had a drop on a screen and also missed a block that could've saved a sack. He really isn't in any danger of losing his roster spot but I think we can agree we're not exactly happy about his performance so far this training camp after his failed conditioning test. Vickers was one of our under the radar signings that a lot of fans were excited about but even he couldn't help out the atrocious running game last night, still a lock though. He did show a good ability to pick up the blitz which is encouraging.
WR- Miles Austin, Dez Bryant
Easily the most up for grabs 3-4 positions on this team are the remaining wide receiver spots. Miles and Dez though are going to be one of the elite 1-2 punches in all of football if they stay healthy. So far that has been a challenge with both nursing sore hammys. Bryant did suit up last night and probably had the offensive play of the game on a nice 24 yard catch on the first drive.
I would say that after Hanna's performance last night, the tight end position is pretty locked up for the 2012 season. Hopefully Witten is ok after that scary hit last night and he is still easily a top 5 tight end in the league. Phillips needs to get back on the field and be checking over his shoulder constantly because James Hanna had a helluva game last night and is now pushing phillips for the 2nd tight end job. Hanna showed the athleticism and receiving ability that got him drafted but also showed that he could block as well.
OT- Tyron Smith, Doug Free, Jeremy Parnell
Tron was the only first team tackle who looked like an actual professional offensive lineman, Free on the other hand got abused. Raiders defenders easily rushed past Free on the first series to put pressure on Romo. I personally am worried about Free, we were hoping a switch to RT would help him out but after one preseason game it looks like he's in for another rough year. Parnell on the other hand handled himself excellently with the second team. The coaching staff has been sticking with this "project" for a while now and it looks to be paying off. He looked like the second best tackle on the team last night showing off his athleticism, strength, and solid technique. I personally feel great about having this kid as our swing tackle, especially with the uncertainty surrounding Free.
OG- Nate Livings, Mackenzy Bernadeau
Interior offensive line is far and away our biggest weakness and even the locks to make the roster are unproven and don't have great track records. Livings is still out with a hyper extended knee, he is one guy we need to see in the Chargers game. Sure Bengals fans had nothing but bad things to say about him but considering their excited about Terrence Newman signing with them I would disregard their opinion. Mac B looked really solid to me last night, though I probably would've looked solid last night playing beside Doug Free and David Arkin but still. He showed that strength that we've all been hearing about.
C- Phil Costa
Did anyone think it was possible to miss, maybe even long for, Phil Costa? Me neither but that's what I felt last night when Tommy Kelly was brutally abusing David Arkin and endangering the season of our beloved leader. We need Costa back, or Jamaal Jackson, or Kevin Kowalski, or anyone but Arkin at center.
DE- Sean Lissemore, Jason Hatcher, Tyrone Crawford
Defensive end looks like one of our deeper positions on paper and they proved it last night. Unfortunately it was more of the bottom of the depth chart guys showing up in the backfield, Hatcher was out with an injury and Lissy was pretty quiet in my opinion. I expect big contributions from him this year still. Crawford was really up and down last night, at times he showed good push and quickness to chase down runners. But their were also times where he disappeared during plays, I think this kid is going to be a major contributor in the long run but most post draft assessments might be correct, he's gonna need some time.
NT- Jay Ratliff
This is one guy we need back STAT! Our first team defensive line got gashed by Darren Mcfadden on the first series and that is one thing that Rat would've improved. He might be older and hobbled but he's still the leader of this line.
Demarcus looked explosive last night off the edge which is no surprise. Spencer might wanna get back sooner rather then later because Victor Butler had himself a nice night. We are so used to seeing Butler dominate second teams during preseason but maybe this could be his year to step up and overtake Spencer in his contract year. Unfortunate injury for Wilbur, but even if he misses the rest of camp they're not cutting their 4th rounder.
Lee was also himself last night but the real story here is Carter vs. Connor. Neither stood out to me really, Carter looked a little tentative and a little stiff early on but seemed to get himself together as the game went on. Connor was very quiet, didn't really make an impact on the game for me, both need to pick it up to make me feel good about our ILB situation. Neither really impressed me in coverage either.
If this group gets healthy it could be one of our strongest positions, if not it could be the weakest. Brandon Carr had an immediate impact, shutting down his side of the field on the first drive. Scandrick also looked pretty good, he had fantastic coverage on Jacoby Ford to help force an interception. He also had a great open field tackle to save about 10 yards. Still cant wait to see Claiborne in action and also praying Jenkins makes it back by opening day.
One of our "weakest" positions on paper is starting to look like a strength with a whole lot of depth. Sensi was fantastic last night from what I saw. I'm not just talking about the interception, which looked like a play by a roaming, ball hawking, free safety, but he played good in coverage otherwise. He also had a tough open field tackle to save a first down on the first drive. Church was also really good last night. Showed excellent instincts and great tackling technique. Even with his somewhat mediocre coverage skills, the kids got me excited, he's been one of my pet cats for a couple years now. McCray is that special teams stud that every team needs that also happens to be a pretty solid safety, he might be a better cover safety then Church. The one play that stood out to me was his diving save of the punt to pin the Raiders inside their own 5. Johnson is another guy I'm excited to see against the Chargers, wasn't crazy about spending a 4th rounder on this kid but hopefully he makes me feel stupid.
K- Dan Bailey
Not much to say, looks like we'v found our kicker. Of course we all thought that initially about Nick Folk... cross your fingers.
LS- LP Ladouceur
Solid, steady, safe.
36 locks to make the roster, 17 spots up for grabs... now these are the locks for the roster, unfortunately for them their are also locks to be cut, AKA camp bodies. Sorry to the following fellas...
Jeff Adams OT, Delbert Alvardo K, Isiah Greenhouse FB, Saalim Hakim WR, Charlie Hughlett LS, Donovan Kemp WR, David Little WR, Daniel Loper G, Tyrone Novikoff OT, Andrew Szczerba TE
Practice squad possibilities- Adams, Greenhouse, Hakim, Kemp, Szczerba
note- 2nd straight year Greenhouse is on my lock to be cut list, kids a fighter!
Winners and Losers from last night
Winner- Aging Defensive Lineman- Maybe the best performance by a player fighting for a roster spot came from Marcus Spears. Not to get too crazy but Spears looked like he was back at LSU playing against Southwestern Missouri State offensive lineman. He was absolutely dominant against the Raiders second team, this is a guy who knows hes fighting for a spot and is stepping up to the challenge. Unfortunately for him his biggest competition for a spot, Kenyon Coleman, might have been equally impressive against the Raiders first team. His pressure caused Palmer to throw an ill advised pass which resulted in a Sensi pick.
Loser- Younger Defensive Lineman- With the exception of Ben Bass who was very disruptive against the Raiders 3rd team, the younger lineman didn't step up. Josh Brent was okay, he almost had a blocked field goal and seemed to get some solid push which is encouraging after a rough camp so far. Clifton Geathers struggled a lot, he just flat out couldn't get around his man and looked stiff at times. Robert Callaway showed a little more then Brent in camp but looked out of sorts during the game.
Winner- Andre Holmes- Holmes rose to the challenge last night and he seemingly has taken the lead in the #3 receiver race. He used his size and athleticism to just bully the Raiders corners, it was Dez Bryantesque. Jerry's been drooling over his athleticism for some time now and after last night I'm sure some of us are as well.
Loser- Cole Beasley- The star of OTA's and training camp struggled to get open last night. He couldn't get separation on his one target which could've resulted in a touchdown. He finished without a catch and was outshined by not only Holmes but also Ogletree who ran some solid routes, Harris played solid on special teams and had a nice catch and run, and Benford had himself a nice comeback route for a solid gain. Beasley did have a shifty 16 yard punt return though.
Winner- Defensive Backs- Pretty much every defensive back on this team helped their standing against the Raiders, some more then others though. The starters were solid, other then them the guy who really stood out to me was Teddy Williams, he showed good fluidity and solid coverage skills, he might actually be a ball player. He did get absolutely dominated by a fullback though but other then that solid. AOA showed nice cover skills with the third team, breaking up a couple passes. Silva and Whitley both had good games, Whitley almost had a pick six and Silva did have a game clinching pick. Both showed great instincts for UDFA's. Lionel Smith was physical and showed he can deliver a hit, not the most polished cover corner but extremely tough, while CJ WIlson had a couple of plays were he had excellent coverage on Jacoby Ford. The only guy who didn't perform well was Justin Taplin-Ross. He had one really ugly pass interference call where he didn't even get his head turned around. He looked confused in the defensive backfield.
Loser- Interior Offensive Line- Nobody besides on this interior offensive line, except Mac B, inspired any confidence in whats to come this season. The only bright spot was that their were no snaps on the ground. David Arkin got absolutely abused by Tommy Kelly and we all learned that David Arkin playing first team center is about as bad as it gets. Post draft darling Ronald Leary was outmatched by the Raiders third team defensive lineman. He was beaten bad on two straight plays that led to one sack and one hit on Carpenter. Derrick Dockery did not step up with the first team line. He showed his age and his rust, seriously hurt his chances of not just starting but making this team. Harland Gunn might've been even worse at center then David Arkin. All around horrible showing by nearly everyone.
Winner- Albright, Hamilton, Bass- The three biggest performers on the defensive side of the ball during the second half easily. Albright was always around the ball notching 9 tackles, his knack for the ball plus his versatility should keep him around. Hamilton was an absolute beast. His one huge hit on Pryor after powering through a double team was the highlight of the game for me, completely unstoppable. Bass was our best defensive lineman by the end of the game. He collapsed the pocket and showed his ability to get to the quarterback and chase down the running back.
Loser- Kyle Wilbur- Unfortunately Kyle is on this list because he will miss maybe 4 weeks with his broken thumb. He actually played a nice game and could've been carving out a role for himself on this team for this year but it looks like that will have to wait.
QB- Stephen Mcgee vs. Rudy Carpenter
I don't see any need to keep either of these quarterbacks on the 53. Mcgee was classic captain checkdown last night. I noticed multiple times where he was completely oblivious to wide open receivers and instead chose to check down or overthrow Tim Benford. Carpenter didn't show anything either and I know people like him because he's not Mcgee but he still doesn't look like an NFL quarterback. Winner- Neither
Neither Tanner nor Dunbar suited up for the first preseason game. I think this seriously hampered Dunbar's chances of making the roster at this point. That left Wesley, Williams, and Olawale to run the ball and none of them impressed. The camp darling Olawale did not look like a natural runner at all, he frequently would miss holes. He is not a running back, he is a fullback and unfortunately for him we have a solidified starter there. Chapas looked good at FB catching passes out of the backfield but unfortunately you really don't need more then one fullback on the roster so his chances are slim. Williams and Wesley both are starting to look like camp bodies to me. This final decision comes down to Tanner vs. Dunbar. Every time Tanner gets on the field, he seems to impress, he just needs to see the field more... why cut him? Hopefully Dunbar's injury will allow us to sneak him on the PS. Winner- Tanner
Toughest position to pick and will be the funnest to watch unfold. Holmes got himself on the roster with his eye popping performance against the second team Raiders corners. Beasley might've played himself off the roster, he could not get open whatsoever. All we've been hearing is that he is always open, he gets behind the defense. He showed none of that against the Raiders, plus he isn't a factor on special teams. Coale needs to get back right away because this competition is heated. I still like the kid so I would like to give him a chance before we let him go. Radway needs perform like its 2011 for the rest of camp if he wants a shot at making the roster. Benford has been a pet cat of mine since everyone was blowing up about Beasley but he is falling behind Ogletree and Harris in this race. Coaches like these two receivers it seems and I think they are both proving to be solid receivers. Winners- Holmes, Coale, Harris, Ogletree
OT- Levy Adcock vs. Pat Mcquistan
Adock was one of our best lineman during the Raiders game playing against third teamers, but he seems like more of a practice squad candidate. Mcquistan has shown versatility during camp but he really hasn't shown he's a better player now then he was when traded him back in the day. I think JG will feel comfortable going into the season with Parnell as his lone swing tackle. Winner- Neither
OG/C- David Arkin vs. Derrick Dockery vs. Harland Gunn vs. Ronald Leary vs. Kevin Kowalski vs. Bill Nagy
Another intriguing battle but this one lacks the talent that the receivers have. This is just pretty much who's the best of the worst since we have to keep backup guards. Gunn didn't look like he could hang with the big boys at center so he is out. Dockery played with the first team and was atrocious but Leary was equally as bad against 2nd and 3rd teamers. The difference is it was Leary's first ever game while Dockery has played dozens. I don't think they'll opt to keep both and will chose to develop Leary instead of keeping the veteran. Nagy will find his way to the IR while Kowalski could start the year on the PUP but even so I still hope Killer K is around by the start of the season. Arkin can not be our backup center for a regular season game. The coaching staff keeps Arkin around for his potential at guard, definitely not a center. This depth might be a little scary to some of us so don't be surprised if Jerry changes his stance on Lumpy and his demands. Winners- Arkin, Leary and (PUP) Kowalski (for now)
DL- Kenyon Coleman vs. Marcus Spears vs. Josh Brent vs. Clifton Geathers vs. Ben Bass vs. Baraka Atkins vs. Robert Callaway
I have a new found respect for Coleman and Spears. Respected NFL veterans and former first round picks fighting like a UDFA to make the roster. It payed off as both were excellent against the Raiders and both played their way onto my roster. Brent is generally a lock as Rat's backup even despite a shaky camp, this is partly due to Callaway's struggles. Baraka Atkins showed some serious ability to get to the passer even if he did have a hard time bringing Terrell Pryor down but their is little chance the coaching staff chooses him over an intriguing young prospect like Geathers or Bass. One of these guys is having fantastic practices, the other dominated in the game. I don't feel good about letting either of these guys go and I doubt either would make it to the PS, so i'll get a little crazy here and suggest we keep 9 defensive lineman. One of the two will probably be a casualty when Kowalski comes off the PUP or we sign a veteran guard. Winners- Coleman, Spears, Brent, Bass, Geathers
OLB- Alex Albright vs. Adrian Hamilton
Both of these guys were disruptive against the raiders. Hamilton has the potential to be the second best pass rusher we have and I don't think anyone in their right mind would let this kid go. Albright has the versatility to play inside and outside plus tight end? Albright has put together two years of solid training camps and really shouldn't be in any danger of losing his spot. Winners- Both
ILB- Orie Lemon vs. Caleb McSurdy
McSurdy was a head scratcher to me when I heard his name called in the 7th round. He really hasn't shown anything in camp or during the game to warrant being drafted at all. Lemon is a different story, he has also put together two solid camps but with the versatility of Albright and the decision to go heavy at defensive line he really doesn't have a spot on this active roster. Hopefully for the second straight year we can sneak him onto the practice squad. Winner- Neither
CB- Teddy WIlliams vs. Mario Butler vs. Lionel Smith vs. CJ Wilson vs. Akwasi Owosu Ansah
I never thought I'd say this but it was tough for me to cut Teddy and AOA. Both have shown that they are real football players at the cornerback position this preseason so far but everyone in this defensive backfield has been really impressive as well. Butler is one guy I have been rooting for from the beginning, he lacks the athleticism to ever be a star in this league but he has great coverage skills that fits well at the bottom of the cornerback depth chart. The final cut for me came down to Smith vs. Wilson, the UDFA vs. the veteran. Smith has shown to be an extremely tough and physical cornerback and Wilson has shown to have superior coverage ability. For our 6th corner though I would take the physicalness that can especially help on special teams. Winners- Smith and Butler
S- Mana Silva vs. Eddie Whitley vs. Justin Taplin Ross
It's tough for me to leave all three of these guys off the roster but unfortunately it's something I gotta do. Whitley is my favorite player of this group, he was a hard hitter in college and showed in the first preseason game that he also has good instincts almost getting a pick six against Terrell Pryor. One play after that Silva showed his ball hawking skills with a game clinching interception even though I'm pretty sure I could've made that interception. JTR struggled a lot against the Raiders but he still has the most upside of anyone in this group, prime practice squad candidate. Winner- None
P- Chris Jones vs. Free Agent
Jones has had a bad case of the shanks during practices but he was spectacular during the Raiders game. If he keeps this up against the Chargers he shouldn't fear any free agent being brought in to compete with him Winner- Jones
53 man roster is now officially set, its practice squad time
RB- Lance Dunbar
WR- Saalim Hakim
WR- Tim Benford
OT- Levy Adcock
DE- Rob Callaway
LB- Orie Lemon
CB- Teddy Williams
S-Justin Taplin Ross
Now that I am finished I have one final thing to say. If this article somehow reaches commissioner Roger Goodell listen closely to what I have to say. These replacement officials are an embarrassment to your league. Please just meet all the demands that referee union or whatever is demanding and lets play some real football.