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Roster cuts just three weeks away: Everything counts for Cowboys players battling for roster spots

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It may still be the preseason, but don’t tell the Cowboys players battling for a roster spot that what they are doing “doesn’t count.”

NFL: Dallas Cowboys-Training Camp Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Many NFL fans we’re excited when the NFL kicked off week one of preseason with a bunch of games last week, if for no other reason than that football is finally back - even if that initial excitement may be tempered slightly by the fact that there are three more preseason games left to play before the regular season kicks off, which for some fans may feel like an interminably long time.

But what may feel long for football fans likely feels desperately short for players clawing and fighting for a spot on the 53-man rosters across the league: in less than three weeks, 20 days to be exact, the Cowboys and every other NFL team will cut their roster to 53 players as they start to prepare for the 2018 regular season, and it’s roster construction time again.

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 that what they are doing in pursuit of some great reward on the 53-man roster doesn’t count.

  • Wide receivers Lance Lenoir, Noah Brown, K.D. Cannon, Marchie Murdock, and Mekale McKay are working hard to secure that final receiver spot. For them, everything counts in the next few weeks.
  • Defensive ends Dorance Armstrong, Charles Tapper, Kony Ealy, Austin Larkin, and Joby Saint Fleur will try very hard to get into the current DE rotation or at least make a case that the Cowboys just can’t get enough pass rushers and keep at least five or six.
  • Nowhere is the battle for a roster spot tighter than at linebacker, where six linebackers will likely battle for the one or two open spots behind roster locks Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, Joe Thomas, Leighton Vander Esch, and Damien Wilson: Justin March-Lillard, Chris Covington, Tre’von Johnson, Kyle Queiro, Eric Pinkins, and Joel Lanning. Somebody will be asked to leave in silence.
  • The Cowboys will be looking to get the balance right at running back, where Bo Scarbrough, Darius Jackson, Jordan Chunn, and Trey Williams are trying to make a case for the third and likely final RB spot.
  • At almost every other position, it’s just a question of time until the first players are released.

20 days may sound like there is still ample time for the down-roster players to make a push for a spot on the 53-man roster, but that doesn’t leave too many opportunities to impress the coaches enough to secure a roster spot. Which means that 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.

Date Schedule
Sunday, August 12 Practice - 4:00 p.m. PT (7 p.m. ET)
Monday, August 13 Practice - 4:00 p.m. PT (7 p.m. ET)
Tuesday, August 14 Off Day
Wedesday, August 15 Practice - 4:00 p.m. PT (7 p.m. ET)
Thursday, August 16 Final practice in Oxnard - 10:30 a.m. PT (1:30 p.m. ET)
Friday, August 17 Cowboys break camp in Oxnard
Saturday, August 18 Preseason game No. 2 vs. Cincinnati Bengals. Kickoff is at 7:00 p.m. ET.
Sunday, August 19 Off Day
Monday, August 20 Open practice in Frisco - 6:30 p.m. ET
Tuesday, August 21 Open practice in Frisco - 6:30 p.m. ET
Wednesday, August 22 Off Day
Thursday, August 23 Open practice in Frisco - 12:00 p.m. ET
Friday, August 24 Open practice in Frisco - 12:00 p.m. ET
Saturday, August 25 Off Day
Sunday, August 26 Preseason game No. 3 vs. Arizona Cardinals. Kickoff is at 8:00 p.m. ET.
Monday, August 27 Off Day
Tuesday, August 28 Final open practice in Frisco - 12:00 p.m. ET
Wednesday, August 29 Off Day
Thursday, August 30 Preseason game No. 4 @ Houston Texans. Kickoff is at 8:00 p.m. ET.
Saturday, September 1 Final roster cuts: Clubs must reduce rosters to a maximum of 53 players by 4:00 p.m., New York time.
Sunday, September 2 Claiming period for players placed on waivers at the final roster reduction will expire at 12:00 p.m. ET.
Sunday, September 2 Beginning at 1:00 p.m. ET, clubs may establish a practice squad of 10 players.
Sunday, September 9 Regular Season opener: The Cowboys take on the Panthers on the road. Kickoff is at 4:25 p.m. ET.