Tonight's game against the Vikings is the third preseason game for the Cowboys. The third week of the preseason is traditionally considered the dress rehearsal, the final test before the start of the regular season, because teams don’t want any starters getting injured in week four. The Cowboys are no different.
The Cowboys will likely play their starters for most or almost all of the first half and perhaps even into the third quarter according to coach Garrett
"Our progression the first week it was eight, 10, 12 plays," Garrett said. "Last week it was around 20, and we’ll up it a little bit more depending on the game situations. We’d like the starters to play the bulk of the first half, if not into the third quarter depending on how the game goes."
But tonight's game is not just about the starters. It's also a chance for some of the young guys on the team to make a strong push for the 53-man roster. The preseason games may be even more important for the young guys than in previous seasons because of the compressed nature of this year's schedule.Coach Garrett said in his press conference on Thursday that he might be willing to make allowances for the compressed schedule, particularly with the rookies, but was optimistic that the time missed due to the lockout won't prove too big a hurdle:
You look at some guys who maybe develop more slowly because they didn't have that offseason time and you say, "Boy, he wasn't what we thought he was. He didn't even know what the offense was 12 hours ago and now we're putting all these plays in, and there are some more plays coming tomorrow by the way," so sometime you've got to take a step back and understand and have a little perspective on that. I think our guys have in general caught up to that. So I think the sentiment is there, but in reality, we're all in the same situation.
We've got to make a decision about who are the best 53. And then who are the best eight. Not only for right now, but as we go forward. So that's ultimately what we've got to get to.
Garrett also said that the coaching staff is trying to grade and evaluate players regardless of their pedigree:
One of the things that we try to do as a staff is create competition. We try to look at what's happening on the field with a naked eye, with an unbiased eye.
Regardless of how many years they've been with us, where they came from, what round they were drafted in - we really try to look at it and say, "Okay, who's playing better? Let's take the numbers off the guys. Who's playing better?" We try to do that. We try not to have too strong or too firm opinions going in.
Now, obviously we've been around some of these players for a long time and they have a certain amount of credibility because they have some history with us. Having said that, you want to evaluate them as cleanly as possible as we go. Try not to have a pre-camp opinion and now a different opinion. We're just evaluating the whole thing as we go.
Obviously, there are some players whose pedigree may have kept them on the team in previous years, and who may find themselves off the team this year based on their training camp and preseason game performance. At the same time, this approach could open the door to the 53-man roster for a couple of undrafted rookies whose pedigree would perhaps suggest that they should be happy to make the practice squad, if that.
Tonight, some of our undrafted free agents get yet another chance to help Garrett and his coaches answer the question of "Who's playing better." But waiting until tonight to find out who they are is kind of boring, so here's where you get to weigh in with your opinion: Which undrafted free agent will make the Cowboys 53-man roster based on his performance in camp and preseason games so far?