All in all, it was a successful night for the Dallas Cowboys last Thursday on the road against the San Francisco 49ers. Oddly enough coming out as losers of the matchup, the Cowboys were winners because they walked away from their first preseason game without injury to any of their main players. However, they also surpassed expectations when the first and second units were on the field.
In the first-team offense’s only series, Dak Prescott looked comfortable with his new cast of receivers, completing three of three passes for a touchdown, with the highlight play coming from a touchdown pass to Michael Gallup. With Ezekiel Elliott being held out for precautionary reasons, Bo Scarbrough played pretty well. His box score numbers were not particularly impressive with nine carries for 33 yards and a touchdown, but he displayed good vision and ran quite comfortably in the Cowboys’ scheme. Rod Smith picked up right where he left off in 2017, rushing for 32 yards on eight carries.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Cowboys’ commitment to improving their depth across the defense became apparent. Free-agent signee Joe Thomas was the star of the defense, coming away with an interception and a couple of tackles. Taco Carlton and Dorance Armstrong both had strong nights at defensive end.
With Dallas making their team younger and more versatile, they are relying on younger players like Geoff Swaim, Xavier Woods, Kavon Frazier, Chidobe Awuzie, and Jourdan Lewis to take on more meaningful roles in the upcoming season. Of course, Dallas could face their growing pains with these players, but that is the risk you take when getting younger.
Due to the number of young players on the roster and the 53-man limit on the roster, Dallas could be parting ways with a few talented players at cut-down day. As it stands now, here are three players the Cowboys may not have space for on the final roster come the end of August.
Dallas clearly likes what they have in Lenoir. Despite adding four players to the position (two via the draft and two via free agency), Lenoir really is a veteran in terms of being a Cowboy. Undrafted out of Western Illinois last year, Lenoir stuck around last year and ultimately competed for one of the Cowboys’ final receiver spots on the depth chart. He was waived in favor of players like Brice Butler and Noah Brown and ended up on the practice squad.
His lack of experience as well as the fact that the Cowboys had signed Butler to a contract and used a draft pick on Brown led to the two being higher in the pecking order than Lenoir. Regardless, Lenoir has made plays and has continuously made noise in the Cowboys’ preseason games.
While he has become a favorite within the locker room, the harsh reality is that the Cowboys invested a lot outside of the franchise to improve this position in the offseason. He will have to really show out and prove his worth as a flexible receiver to beat out free-agent acquisition Deonte Thompson and/or Brown.
Ealy has never really caught on to a team or a defensive philosophy in his NFL career. After three mediocre seasons with the Carolina Panthers, Ealy had short cups of coffee with the New England Patriots and the New York Jets. Dallas’ signing of Ealy in April was the classic low-risk, high-reward type of move the Cowboys have seemingly become infatuated with over the past couple of seasons.
Perhaps they saw Ealy as the next George Selvie, Jeremy Mincey, or even Nick Hayden. However, Ealy has been less than impressive in his short time as a Cowboy, ultimately losing playing time and reps to fourth-round rookie Dorrance Armstrong. If the Cowboys continue to give Armstrong more chances, it will only further seal the deal for Ealy and his time in Dallas regardless of if Rod Marinelli thinks he can mold the former first-round pick into something.
There seemed to be a lot of hype surrounding Tapper when the Cowboys selected him in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. At the time, the Oklahoma product was among the draft’s biggest SPARQ athletes. Unfortunately, injuries and overall lack of performance even when healthy has led to Tapper’s spot on the roster in jeopardy.
So far in the preseason, the Cowboys seemed to have a found a real commodity in rookie Dorance Armstrong. The rookie out of Kansas has been making plays in camp and has definitely helped his cause. Not to mention that the Cowboys are getting back Randy Gregory and expect Taco Charlton to transition into a bigger role in 2018.
Tapper has not done much so far and with the Cowboys’ options elsewhere at the defensive end position, it could lead to the evaluation of what is likely a failed experiment. Tapper will seriously need to pick up his game if he is to make the final 53-man roster.