The Cowboys will have their first of four consecutive practice days tomorrow in Oxnard. They'll break camp on Friday and head back to Dallas to take on the Colts for their third preseason game. There'll be two more preseason games after that, which for some fans may feel like an interminably long time until the preseason ends.
Yet in just 20 short days, the Cowboys (and every other NFL team) will cut their roster to 53 players as they start to prepare for the 2017 regular season, signaling the end of preseason. Most fans will be happy when the preseason is over, and the "real" football starts. After all, "it's just preseason," isn't it?
While that may be technically true, don't tell the Cowboys players battling for a roster spot that what they are doing "doesn't count."
- Wide receivers Andy Jones and Noah Brown may have a leg up on other receivers like Lance Lenoir, Javontee Herndon, Uzoma Nwachuku, or Brian Brown, but it's not sure there's is even a sixth WR spot for any of these guys, so the battle here may be for a spot on the practice squad - or the hope that continued good performance will get them noticed by another team.
- Nobody knows how many linebackers the Cowboys will keep, especially the questions surrounding some of the linebackers: Will Damien Wilson be suspended? Is Jaylon Smith healthy enough? Can Justin Durant make the club from the tub? There's bound to be an opportunity here for the likes of Joseph Jones, John Lotulelei, Lucas Wacha, and Kennan Gilchrist.
- Will the Cowboys keep six corners? The first five spots seem to be taken (Scandrick, Carroll, Brown, Awuzie, Lewis). But the sixth spot is up for grabs, and Leon McFadden, Duke Thomas, Sammy Seamster, and Marquez White all have a chance to take that spot over the next 20 days.
- The O-line, traditionally a strength of the Cowboys, doesn't even have a clear front runner at left guard and almost every backup position is up for grabs.
I could continue this list for almost all position groups, but I think the point is clear.
20 days may sound like there is still ample time for the down-roster players to make a push for a spot on the roster, but 20 days don't leave too many opportunities to impress the coaches enough to secure a roster spot.
That means every single practice, every single meeting, and every single snap counts from here on out.
Here's an overview of the key dates left on the Cowboys' preseason schedule.
Cowboys Preseason Schedule
|Monday, August 28||Frisco, Public practice, 6:00 p.m. ET|
|Tuesday, August 29||Frisco, Public practice, 11:30 a.m. ET|
|Tuesday, August 29||The NFL hears Ezekiel Elliott's appeal.|
|Thursday, August 31||Final preseason game @ Houston Texans. Kickoff at 8:00 p.m. ET.|
|Saturday, September 2||Final roster cuts: Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, clubs must reduce rosters to a maximum of 53 players on the Active/Inactive List.|
|Sunday, September 3||Claiming period for players placed on waivers at the final roster reduction will expire at 12:00 p.m. ET.|
|Sunday, September 3||Beginning at 1:00 p.m. ET, clubs may establish a Practice Squad of 10 players.|
|Sunday, September 10||Regular Season opener: The Cowboys vs. Giants. Kickoff at 8:30 p.m. ET.|