Of course, the final 28-17 score of the last preseason game for the Dallas Cowboys is meaningless in and of itself. The loss to the Houston Texans does not matter in any real way. This was all about players trying to use their last chance to make the 53 man roster in Dallas, or in some cases the practice squad. It was also a last audition for other teams with the final cutdowns looming.
So how did some of the players do? The live game is somewhat limiting, since you don’t have nearly as good an idea of what is going on in the trenches. You see a lot more of the so-called skill positions. With that caveat, here are some names that jumped out a little in the final action before it starts to count.
Although it was not a perfect performance by any means, Showers had what was far and away his best outing of the preseason. He had some good field position to work with for the first time, and orchestrated a very nice 61 yard drive that saw him convert first downs with his arm and his legs, capped off by a perfectly called and executed screen pass right into the teeth of a Texans blitz for an 18 yard touchdown.
But even more impressive was the possession just before halftime. Dallas got the ball on their own 30 with only 33 seconds left and two time outs. Showers completed three passes to get the ball in range for Dan Bailey to kick a boringly routine 52 yard field goal. What was most evident was his poise. He did not get rushed and knew just what he had to do. He didn’t try to do too much and the drive was definitely a success. There is a bigger story here as well.
for what it's worth, that's a FG at the end of half in all four preseason games. Dak for the first three and then Showers. #2minutedrill— Nick Eatman (@nickeatman) September 2, 2016
Running two minute drills like that is not something that a lot of rookie and backup quarterbacks can do all that well. This is something that may be very important for Dallas while Tony Romo is unavailable.
But the question is still what the Cowboys might do with Showers. There is still a belief among the media cognoscenti that the staff wants to go out and find a veteran backup, but the real question should be whether there is an available quarterback after cuts or that could be traded for that is better than Showers, and it is not at all certain that the evidence shows that. Showers has some things in common with Dak Prescott. He has that poise. He is mobile and can run the ball as well as throw it. The coaches would not have to make much adjustment to put Showers in if (may all the heavens most earnestly forbid) something happens to Prescott. Jerry Jones was making some comments that the Cowboys could well go with Showers as the QB2 in Romo’s absence. While much of what Jones says should be taken with a stiff shot of Johnny Walker Blue, he also sometimes drops some real hints about how the team is thinking. We will find out more shortly, but Showers probably helped himself a good bit with his work. However, he gave up two turnovers, losing a fumble trying to run for a first down and a pick six from deep in his own end right at the two minute warning for the end of the game. Those may hurt his case, but on balance, he still looks like a real possibility to make the 53.
Jackson was the receiver on that screen pass touchdown in the first quarter, and it was about as easy as it can be. By halftime, he had only 16 yards rushing but added 32 yards receiving, catching all three balls thrown to him. But more significantly, he added 44 yards returning kicks. Finding a role on special teams is one way the staff gets players onto the roster, so that is a bit encouraging. What also stands out is that he looks quite able to fill the change of pace role. Lance Dunbar was leading the team in receiving when he was injured last season, and the team sorely missed him. Jackson would give them depth there as well as being able to fill in as an every down back. The numbers are going to be interesting at running back, but with Darren McFadden looking more and more like he will be kept on NFI to start the season, there just may be a place for the man some refer to as Radius.
Anthony Brown, Deji Olatoye, and Dax Swanson
Going into the game, Olatoye had been having an outstanding preseason and was seen by many as a lock for the roster. But he had some serious struggles during the game. Anthony Brown made his statement with a 59 yard pick six of Brandon Weeden (who did have some very pretty throws). However, one player who may have done more to help himself than anyone else in the fourth preseason game was Dax Swanson, who had three excellent pass breakups just in the first half (one of which was negated by a penalty away from the play). What was most noticeable was how on all three he got his head around to make sure he did not get called for pass interference. That is something far too many DBs fail to do well. When you add in that Swanson is also an option returning punts, he may have a real shot at taking a cornerback spot from Olatoye.
Rod and Keith Smith have been competing for the fullback job, which Jason Garrett wants to have despite it being so little valued throughout the league. Rod came in to relieve Jackson in the second half, and at one point has a six yard per carry average. He may have been auditioning for a job elsewhere, but he also offers the ability to step in as a running back if needed, which may be a big plus for him. Garrett also loves him some position flex.
Mike McAdoo and Lawrence Okoye
One guy in the trenches who did show up was McAdoo, who had at least one sack and two tackles for loss. He looks like a serious challenge to Ryan Russell if Dallas decides to go with nine defensive linemen. Okoye would be another challenger there, since all he did was make tackles all game.
Derek Akunne and Deon King
Both may be playing for practice squad jobs, but the two linebackers were leading tacklers on the night, and both had some nice plays.
Those were some of the players that stood out watching live. More will no doubt emerge with further analysis, and some of these may not look as good as first thought. But the decisions will be made on Saturday, when the team has to get down to 53 players by 3 pm CDT. And all that really matters then is what the team thinks.