We have just completed three preseason games. Roster hopeful and BTB sweetheart Alex Tanney went 14-19, 136 yards with one touchdown and one interception on the night, good for a QB rating of 88.92 against the Arizona Cardinals. These are decent numbers from the man listed as number 3 on the depth chart. It is easy to get worked up over a performance in the preseason and many have been told to temper expectations with the ever prevalent statement of, "Its only preseason." In this game in particular, Tanney was starting behind most of the starting offensive line and if not, the primary backups, against a team throwing out their threes and fours. His targets included both Terrance Williams and Dwayne Harris, likely the 3 and 4 WRs going into the season. So, what does this mean for Tanney?
The easy conclusion to draw from this is that he should have ran over the opponents lesser players. He was able to lead an 89 yard touchdown drive, culminating in a 5 yard pass to second-round pick Gavin Escobar who powered over some defenders to cross the pylon. It is the longest touchdown drive of the preseason for Dallas so far, ahead of both Orton's 69 yard drive, Stephens' 8, and his own 43. The significance of this drive cannot be overstated. He is the only one to lead two fully successful drives. The other three quarterbacks have two between them.
But then again, as rosy as that all sounds, what significance does it actually have? The pessimist would say, nothing. And he would not be wrong, technically speaking. After all, he is throwing against scrubs who likely will never make an NFL roster, especially when he was running the fourth string. In fact, most the guys he is throwing to will develop into nothing as well. It is his ability to make something out of this nothing that has me intrigued. As much as one can point to playing against scrubs, its those that go out and stand out that stand a chance of being something more. That is why he got the opportunity to run the third team, with much of the second teamers still playing. And the fact that his stat line did not stand out as terrible gives me the confidence that he can hold his own at such a high level of play that is the NFL. And coming from D-III ball, even that is impressive. Despite having only completed three preseason games, one would have to be blind to not notice his potential.
After witnessing, to say the least, an anemic offense thus far, Tanney has shown some ability to push the ball down the field. Many on the blog have been pushing for some kind of investment in a backup quarterback ever since Stephen McGee was cut. Tanney is a guy with potential at a very low investment level. Keeping him around is the best thing for him, and for the short term security of a back-up behind Romo. It is too soon to be able to tell if he can replace Romo, but early signs show some promise in his ability to control his side of the ball. In this day and age, the NFL will jump at the chance to grab a guy like that, a low-risk, sound investment. So now, to what extent do the Cowboys need to invest in him? Many have said the practice squad is the likely place he will end up. Those people make an honest and fair assessment of Tanney's ability, but I for one do not believe he will last on the practice squad. If we are lucky, we can get him there, but if not, he will get poached, whether right on the waiver wire or at some point during the season by a QB-needy team. I think he earns that 53rd spot on the roster, and here's why.
When it comes to a pure numbers game, I can realistically say 26 players on o can make the team, and 27 on d, with the recent news that Albright will be out for the year. With the three specialists, that adds up to 56. Three over the limit. I think McCray and Frampton compete for a Safety spot, a spot on the d-line is up for grabs between Bass and Pendleton, and the 52nd spot comes down to Tanner vs. Armstrong. Right now, I think the coaches are leaning towards a sixth WR rather than a fourth RB, purely based on playing time. Honestly, I would roll the other way, in favor of Tanner based on pet-cat-ism. With that said, I don't make the call, but that 53rd spot comes down to the losers: a third QB, (Tanney,) a fourth RB, a sixth DT, or a sixth S. Tanney has much more potential than the loser of either McCray/Frampton or Pendleton/Bass, and even Tanner, though it pains me to say. The extra safety has noticeable STs ace written on them, but I truly think its either or. And not only that, but it is unlikely either gets a call from another team. As for the DTs i see on of them sneaking onto the practice squad if eligible, and a lot more easily than a third QB. Tanner versus Tanney offers a terrible dilemma, but neither offers much of anything on teams, and the future potential of a third QB outweighs that of a fourth RB, especially in this day and age's pass-happy offenses. I am sold on Alex Tanney. Here's to raising a glad of iced blue koolaid to our new developmental third QB. And just for extra fun, here's his trickshot video: