With two preseason exhibitions left including Thursday night's dress rehearsal with the Seattle Seahawks, some guys are running out of time to make an impression. We've seen some really encouraging things from a lot of young players this offseason, and t looks as though the offense has every shot to be exactly as good as expected. The defense has a ton of question marks but there is a lot of youth looking to make their individual impacts in hopes to become better collectively than advertised.
Still, this is the time where they separate the contenders from pretenders when it comes to becoming an NFL boom or bust player. Each guy will have to carve themselves out a role on this team and the best way is perhaps on special teams. Let's run down a list of guys that have been standing out and those that have been missing in action.
Captain Obvious Award Of The Preseason
QB Dak Prescott - The hype-train surrounding Prescott has been a fantastic ride and the hope is that he continues to progress. What is particularly peculiar about Prescott is that he doesn't always pull out good performances in practice but once the lights come on, Prescott has shined thus far. We all look at reasons to get excited and at least for this moment, it seems as the though the Cowboys' backup quarterback position is working itself out. Anytime you have a kid who has thrown more touchdowns than incompletions, that is pretty rewarding.
Prescott has outplayed all rookies according to PFF and has a perfect passer rating through two contests. The Rams and Eagles could only dream that their future signal-callers were performing as well as Prescott. We're going to get a nice test against Seattle as the Cowboys are without Dez Bryant on offense. It'll be interesting to see what Dak can do against their defense no matter how vanilla it is in the preseason. We can only commend Prescott for what he has done with his opportunities. If he continues to progress in this manner, the Cowboys have to feel good about this find.
RB Alfred Morris- Everyone knows that Ezekiel Elliott is going to be the man in Dallas but Alfred Morris has been outstanding in every way. It reminds you of the situation Dallas faced once before with Tony Dorsett and Preston Pearson. Morris may be the best option to have right behind Elliott because he seems to have all the traits of a workhorse back, he's excelled at everything he's been asked to do.
When he was signed in free agency, some folks thought that Darren McFadden would be the guy that kept Morris from getting reps in Dallas. The oft-injured McFadden suffered an elbow injury early on and has pretty much been supplanted in this offense. Morris has the juice and attitude that the Cowboys would love to have in their stable. There will be no sharing of the carries or anything like that but if you look at the 2014 model, Morris could be every bit as good as Joseph Randle was for DeMarco Murray. They truly have a deep position at running back and Morris deserves a ton of credit.
CB Morris Claiborne- When you think of a Cowboy with a lot to prove there isn't a name more synonymous with that thought than Mo'. However, this offseason we have seen a different side of him that we haven't ever seen before. Sure, last offseason, he was a bit scrappy but he that didn't really translate into a good season. This offseason, he's not only bigger but he's pushing himself to the limit and it's showing.
He's not only had some interesting battles with Dez Bryant but he has shown mental toughness that was never there before. A big part of playing cornerback in the NFL is attitude and the willingness to put bad plays behind you and focus on the now. Claiborne has been playing very tight to his man and has made some plays in the passing game. His stop on 4th and 1 was simply awesome. If he can extend this streak of focus into the regular season, we just may be in for a very good performance. It's better late than never at all. Morris Claiborne deserves some credit as perhaps the biggest standout since training camp begun.
DE Shaneil Jenkins- It's a bummer that the team is now checking into a possible knee issue with Jenkins but he's been by far the highest benefactor of the preseason on the defensive line. He's got two sacks, including a strip-sack and fumble recovery. He's been able to help in run defense as well as get to the quarterback. He's shown some explosion off the line and has only been around a few weeks.
At first, we heard that it was a hamstring issue but it was reported today that Jenkins may have a "concerning" knee issue. That's certainly more than upsetting because Jenkins was looking like this year's George Selvie and everyone knows that this team needs as many defensive playmakers as possible. It's something that we will all continue to monitor.
Out Of Time Award Of The Preseason
S J.J. Wilcox- Not much more that can be discussed with the disappointment in the development of J.J. Wilcox but it's not looking promising for his long-term future with the Cowboys. If it's not the poor angles that everyone witnesses on a daily basis, it's the lack of effort and complete inconsistency. Both McCool and Joey spoke about a series in this past game where Wilcox just completely stands there as a receiver runs by him.
Thankfully, Ryan Tannehill was unable to connect with the pass. Just a fraction of time later, Wilcox is able to help the Cowboys tackle the runner behind the line of scrimmage. The boys ended their discussion of Wilcox with the assessment that Wilcox is just not a good football player. The Wilcox experiment needs to come to an end as he's only getting worse.
Missing In Action
DE Ryan Russell- For as much excitement that was floating around camp about Russell's progress, we haven't seen much of anything show up in these preseason games. In fact, for the most part, what you see is Russell just holding his guy, there has been no penetration from him. Rod Marinelli has got to be wringing his hands with some of these mistakes he's seen. In Marinelli's defense, it's predicated on quickness off the line of scrimmage. Russell is just not cutting the mustard.
The shame of it all is that they are missing a lot of guys they plan on relying on this season. For one reason or another, Russell has been given every opportunity to win a job and he hasn't separated himself from any other young guy on the roster. In fact, none of them have.
DT- Rodney Coe- This is another tale of a guy that you had hopes for but for some reason hasn't been able to make those hopes a reality. He often gets jammed up and can't get himself free against the blocker. Coe was someone that excited Stephen Jones enough to call him out by name. His very limited tape showed a guy with the speed off the line and he still has that but he gets tripped up quite easily.
The defensive tackle position is one with some serious talent on it and it doesn't look as though Coe will be a part of that rotation when the season kicks off unless he flashes something in these final exhibition games.
OT Chaz Green- He played a little better this week than in his debut. We have to be willing to cut him a little more slack as well because this is a guy who didn't play a down last season. Because he's a third-round pick, the expectation is for him to be the swing tackle now. That's a fair desire for any Cowboys' fan and Green has certainly not lived up to the task.
He obviously has played better when he's paired with the ones as the Cowboys have allowed him every opportunity much like Russell has received on defense. So far, we know that Green can hold, trip, and clip. His penalties have cost them offensive production and he hasn't convinced anyone they can run with him behind Tyron Smith and Doug Free.
Who are some guys that have really impressed you or who have been your head-scratchers? We encourage the debate in the comments section as always.