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Cowboys risers and fallers after Hall of Fame game

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Which players helped/hurt their chances of making the team with their performance on Thursday night?

NFL: New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After taking a close look at the Hall of Fame game against the Arizona Cardinals, there were a few players that impressed and some that struggled. Here is the stock report after the Cowboys first preseason game.

Damontre Moore

The Cowboys pass rush struggled mightily. Most noticeable was the lack of pressure from the inside. One player that didn’t struggle, however was free agent, Damontre Moore. He wouldn’t register a sack, but he was constantly applying pressure. He was the team’s best performing pass rusher. But even more than that, Moore was active in the running game. He did a good job shedding blocks and twice was able to tackle the running back behind the line of scrimmage. He even caused a Cardinal lineman to get called for holding.

His performance was impressive, but it also makes his two-game suspension sting a little more.

Rico Gathers

It was nice to see Cowboys tight end prospect Rico Gathers make some big plays. With all the usual suspects at tight end sitting out, Gathers made the most of his opportunities as he played in over 60 snaps. He had a great jump-ball touchdown catch and shoe-string catch on a bootleg pass.

Stop, drop, and roll...and then take off and run for 15 yards.

While his catches were impressive, the more comforting plays included him holding up as a blocker. Gathers was solid in the running game and looked like a player that was starting to put it together.

He did have a false start when he got caught on a hard count, but fans have to be pleased with the overall performance of Gathers.

Joseph Jones

About a month ago I would have told you that John Lotulelei would be the dark horse linebacker that could end up making the team. After what I saw on tape Thursday night, I’m switching that prediction to Joseph Jones. The undrafted free agent was all over the field. He ended up with nine tackles as he was knifing through the gaps, aggressively pursuing the ball carrier.

Three teams were interested in Jones after he went undrafted - Dallas, Seattle, and the eventual, Las Vegas Raiders. After the Cowboys didn’t draft a LB, he figured Dallas would be his best shot to make the team. He is a high-character and impressive pro day numbers (4.45 in the 40-yard dash and a 35 1/2-inch vertical jump). Keep an eye out on number 43 the rest of the month. He could be one of those sneaky roster surprises.

Alfred Morris

There is so much talk about the lack of versatility that could push Alfred Morris off the roster, but I’m not so sure it’s as important as many think. Morris’ real value comes in if Ezekiel Elliott is not able to play for some reason. It’s all about what he can do between the tackles. And if Thursday was any indication, Morris still looks like he has a lot left to offer the team.

Morris has the ability to use his choppy footwork, wait for openings, and just slither his way through the tiniest of creases. And while he doesn’t have great open field speed, he shows good bursts through those holes and knows how to churn out big runs. His spin move he had may have looked as if was doing it in slow-mo, but this guy is going all out in order to make this squad.

The Cowboys roster will be filled with great special teams candidates to where Morris’ inability to contribute in that department shouldn’t hurt his chances to make the team if he continues to run the way he did.

Taco Charlton

It’s easy to give the Cowboys first-round draft pick a pass on his first ever game action in the NFL, but there will be no passes here. Yes, he’s still learning. Yes, he’s been making progress in camp. But against the Cardinals, Charlton was not very effective. He would just get washed away on several plays. His spin move did nothing against the tackle. It wasn’t for a lack of trying, but everything he threw out there was met with resistance. He had no pressures on seven attempts to rush the passer.

Taco is still learning, but he struggled with his balance. Bryan Broaddus had this to say about Charlton’s performance:

There were too many snaps where, as he was fighting the blocker, his body position was poor and it affected his ability to disengage. He also showed bad balance on the read-option that the Cardinals ran to his side. On the play, Charlton was unblocked on his rush. Blaine Gabbert saw how far Charlton was up the field and started inside of him. If Charlton could have redirected back toward him, then he would have tackled him for no gain. Instead, Charlton lost his balance and found himself on the ground. It was a game of missed opportunities for Taco Charlton, but it wasn’t as bad as folks might have thought.

Hopefully, he will show some improvement during his next go around.

Kellen Moore

If you asked me which Cowboys quarterback played better, it would be tough for me to answer. Moore was okay at times, but he didn’t look that great at others. Having his first pass batted down at the line of scrimmage just fuels those who will complain about his size. He also threw off his back foot a lot when he was lobbing his deep passes rather than stepping into his throw.

Not only was Moore’s performance so-so, Cooper Rush looked very comfortable in the pocket. One of the best passes of the night came from when he hit Andy Jones on a slant over the middle.

It’s only one half of football, but with Rush playing solid and the recent signing of Luke McCown, I am very interested in seeing an open competition for the backup spot. The Cowboys must come away with a viable number two option and Moore is starting to bring out that uneasy feeling again. I hate that feeling.

The entire offensive line

With so many choices, it appeared like there would be at least one player that would stand out as an adequate left guard candidate to replace the departed Ron Leary. After Thursday’s performance, I’m not so sure now. It’s still early, but nobody could put together a solid game. Joe Looney was being bullied around. On one play, the defender just shoved him straight back into Darren McFadden’s running lane, resulting in a four-yard loss. Maybe playing center and coming off the snap caused him to be slow in anchoring down, but he didn’t play like anyone that should be starting.

Byron Bell was always on the ground. He struggled with his balance, sometimes just lunging at the defender.

Jonathan Cooper looked the best out of all of them. While he never pushed the defender forward, he also never got pushed back. He held his own for most of his reps.

Marquez White

While some fans are excited about the hope of Marquez White proving to be another Anthony Brown type steal of the draft, on Thursday - he played like an actual sixth-round daft pick. He didn’t close on the ball very well and on one play got himself turned around, which allowed the receiver to gain extra yards after the catch.