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Cowboys stock report: Risers and fallers after the second preseason game against the Rams

Check out who’s hot and who’s not.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

With another 60 minutes of football available for us to analyze, it’s time for the latest stock report to find out who’s doing well and who’s struggling. With several roster battles in full swing, every little bit helps.

Rico Gathers

It doesn’t seem that long ago when the young, bratty tight end was making mental mistakes and throwing tantrums (and his helmet) on the practice field when things didn’t go his way. Oh wait, that’s because it wasn’t. That was just a couple weeks ago. But while the learning moments are still plentiful for this kid, the realization that he could be something special is becoming more and more apparent with each game. Gathers is making this tight end thing look easy, coming up with big catches. He now has two touchdowns in two preseason games.

I’m sorry for doubting you Rico. You look incredible.

Cooper Rush

While Gathers has all but locked up a roster spot in Dallas, the whole backup quarterback situation is now topsy turvy. Last week we all got a glimpse of undrafted free agent Cooper Rush and it had us a little giddy. He looked comfortable in the pocket and made good throws. Not bad for his debut. But now, after a second week of strong play you can’t help wondering if this kid might be for real. When watching the tape between him and that other guy (we’ll get to him later), there is a noticeable difference of how decisive he is with his passes. I don’t care who he is throwing to or the type of defense he is going against, his decision making is sharp and his throws are on the money. That dime he dropped to Rico was a thing of beauty.

But can you really expect a rookie to come in right away and play? Oh wait.

Seriously though, when has an undrafted free agent QB done anything in this league? Oh wait.

I’ve just described the Cowboys last two Pro Bowl franchise quarterbacks.

Enough with the labels. The most talented QB is the one the Cowboys should keep. Whatever his draft stock, experience, cap hit, or even being Scott Linehan’s friend on Facebook - all shouldn’t matter.

Lenny Jones

There were times I thought Jaylon Smith was playing on Saturday as the explosiveness of this muscular build player wearing a linebacker number played tricks on my eyes. And that trick was courtesy of the great play of Lenny Jones. The second-year player was all over the field. He had a sack, knocked down a pass, and was constantly in the backfield forcing the ball carrier to alter his path.

With the Cowboys without a couple of suspended edge rushers, the door could swing open for Jones to get some extra time to show his ability. And with more of what we saw against the Rams, he could make it hard for the Cowboys to cut him loose.

Duke Thomas

If the Cowboys keep six cornerbacks on the roster, I’m now convinced it will be second-year player Duke Thomas over rookie Marquez White. Thomas was hurt last year so he didn’t get a chance to play. The Houston Texans waived him. He signed a reserved/future contract with the Cowboys in January and he is making the most of his opportunities.

Thomas’ contribution was hidden. His play didn’t jump out at you, but after watching the game closely, he was all over the place. Thomas did a good job in coverage, not allowing a single completion, despite being challenged a few times. He came up with a splash play on a kickoff return, tackling the returner deep in his own territory. And amidst all the forced fumbles, Thomas actually was responsible for two of them. He tackled the Ram’s tight end on one play causing him to lose control of the ball momentarily and then he speared the running back, knocking the ball out. This play was caught on replay (photo courtesy of NFL Game Pass).

And let’s not forget that of all the forced fumbles the Cowboys had on Saturday, only one was recovered by Dallas. Duke Thomas had that recovery.

Taco Charlton

If I am measuring how pleased I am with the rookie so far this season, he would get two emphatic thumbs up. With every snap he is showing up more and more. This is exactly what was expected from a player like Charlton. He’s not anything close to a finished product. But even will all his deficiencies, the kid is talented enough to make an impact.

It was great to see him get a sack. Fans love that. But it was even more enjoyable watching him fight on so many other plays. He was disruptive against the run and there were times that he burst through the line having a free shot at the quarterback, forcing him to get rid of the ball. And his effort was outstanding. There was one play where he came across the entire other side of the line to make a tackle near the sidelines.

Considering how he has progressed each week, Cowboys fans have to be happy with the rookie. It’s only going to get better from here.

Damien Wilson

I’ll admit, when that whole fiasco with the Damien Wilson road-rage happened, I wasn’t too distraught about losing him for a few games. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a good player and much needed depth guy, but he’s not an incredible loss to the defense.

Well, that line of thinking is gone now. There has been a lot of talk about how he is playing extremely well in camp and watching him on tape against the Rams validated every bit of it. He was around the ball on every play, whether it was against the run or in pass coverage.

You have to go all the way down to the fifth LB on the depth chart before there is a player you’re not that excited about. That’s a nice luxury for the defense. I’m really hoping that Wilson is not absent from the team for any length of time because he’s an important part of the team.

David Irving

I had forgotten just what type of impact Irving can make when he’s on the field. Playing left defensive end, he was constantly bullying his blocker. Several times he was getting push back and changing the direction of the play. And if there is going to be a forced fumble party, you better believe Irving’s going to be a part of it. Consistency has been Irving’s weakness, but he looked difficult to block play after play. This is a great sign for the pass rush.

We got a glimpse of the Cowboys pass rush of the future with Taco on one side and Irving on the other. Now, if you can just throw in some Maliek Collins and Stephen Paea in the middle, look out.

Lewis Neal

For the second straight game, the Cowboys have started the game with Richard Ash and Lewis Neal as the team’s starting defensive tackles. Neal has impressed some people in camp and he showed up big on the second play of the game. He just completely blew up the guard getting into the backfield and tackling Ram’s running back Todd Gurley for a three-yard loss. Neal is an undrafted free agent from Louisiana State and looks to have at least earned a practice squad spot, but can he play his way onto roster? If Neal can hold his own against first team, he should really flash later when he’s going up against reserves after the real starters see action early.

Mark Nzeocha

The Cowboys linebacker group is deep this year and the older, tenderfoot is doing everything he can to be a part of it. Of course, staying healthy has been his biggest challenge. While you can still see Nzeocha get washed out of a play here or there, he is also in the middle of some splash plays as well. His athleticism gives him a chance to make a play and he did that a couple times against the Rams. He was able to trip up the Rams running back resulting in the Cowboys only takeaway of the game. He also flew in on a blitz that forced the RB to hold him in order to prevent a clean shot on the quarterback.

It was a good showing for Nzeocha and he’s doing more and more to solidify his spot on the roster.

Noah Brown

The Cowboys rookie receiver looked good on Saturday. One of the best plays of the game came on a third down play when Rush hit Brown in stride that led to a nice catch and run. Brown showed good strength as he kept churning his legs to extend the run, but then he started flailing his arms to pick up speed and that’s when the ball came loose. It’s too bad because had he held onto the ball, he might have found the end zone. Brown caught all three of his targets for 41 yards.

I’ve been going back and forth with Andy Jones and Brown for the sixth WR spot and after last nights game, I have Brown slightly ahead. The problem however, is that the Cowboys aren’t going to keep six wide receivers. With the Rico forcing them to keep four TEs, plus the RB mess, and now even what’s happening at QB - the team does not have the luxury of keeping an extra WR.

Xavier Woods

The Cowboys rookie showed up in this game as he finished with six stops over the course of 35 snaps. The most impressive thing about his play was his ability to make open field tackles. He’s not a big guy, but strength isn’t a problem for him and he drags down the ball carrier very well. He also had a nice hit on the receiver that caused the ball to come loose. The play was ruled incomplete, but it still speaks towards the physical nature of Woods’ game.

There were a couple instances where his angles were off which led to some big plays for the Rams, but all in all it was a good game for the Cowboys rookie safety.

Emmett Cleary

There is nothing positive to report about the Cowboys offensive line. When Darren McFadden ran to the right where La’el Collins, Zack Martin, and Travis Frederick paved the way, there were some running lanes. Anything to the left where Byron Bell and Emmett Cleary were at - went absolutely nowhere.

There was some belief that Cleary would be able to hold down the swing tackle position for the team, but he’s been struggling. Filling in at LT for Tyron Smith has proved to be no easy task. He was beat on a few different instances resulting in quick pressure on the quarterback.

Lance Lenior

From the moment Lance Lenior was trying to shade his eyes with his forearm, you just knew something bad was going to happen. It’s a tough spot for players like this. Clearly, they have to really show something to have a shot to make an NFL team, but muffing a punt is not the way to do it.

Uzoma Nwachukwa

Again, players know they have to do something special to make the team. So when you hesitate and run the ball out on a kickoff deep in your end zone, that’s bad news. And Jason Garrett let the rookie hear about it on the sideline.

These receivers/returners weren’t going to make the roster anyway, but they’re auditioning for any type of job in the NFL and last night’s performance isn’t going to help them get a call back.

Kellen Moore

I can’t decide what I like the least - his decisions of where to throw the ball or the throws themselves? Typically, the Cowboys current number two quarterback is sharp with his ball placement, but that wasn’t the case last night. He only threw a few passes over 10 yards and most of them were just slightly off target.

People try to downplay how his size won’t necessarily matter when it comes to being successful in the NFL. Maybe that’s true, everyone is different. He’s had a batted down pass in each of his first two preseason games so far. Somebody give that guy a phone book to stand on, would ya?

Moore looks completely uncomfortable in the pocket. If feels like a blitz is coming every time even thought it’s not, and I’m not sure if anyone else has picked up on this, but it seems like he might be throwing with the wrong hand. That could explain a few things.

Byron Bell

Outside of the Cowboys four main offensive linemen, the OL is a mess. Not a single player is showing anything that would calm the nerves of Cowboys fans. Last week, Bell spent a lot of time on the ground lunging at defenders and was completely ineffective. This week, he stayed upright more but his defenders were having their way with him. Bell was terrible at LG. He got called for a couple holding penalties and just couldn’t keep his leverage to hold his blocks.

This type of play would indicate that he’s the odd man out when it comes to cuts, however, the Cowboys don’t have anyone that’s played well enough to make him expendable at this point. Let’s hope Chaz Green comes back soon and can string together some decent play at the position.

Luke McCown

My disdain for Moore made me thirst for McCown more than I should have and after Saturday’s performance, that thirst is gone. The Moore/McCown display looked awfully similar to the Brandon Weeden/Matt Cassel antics of 2015. One quarterback pulled up short too much and the other quarterback took shots down field that were off the mark. Neither outcomes are a good recipe for winning.

I would honestly be freaked out right now about the Cowboys backup QB situation had it not been for the good play of Rush. With a player like Dak Prescott, who is far and away the most talented QB to where he’s the no-brainer starter every game and is also young and healthy - Rush is the better type of backup option. He’ll sit back with a clipboard as he develops and if something terrible happens to where Prescott is injured, he at least gives the team something the other guys don’t - hope.

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