The regular season is less than two weeks away, but that doesn’t mean the offseason is over yet. For a lot of players, this next week of practice and preseason game could win or lose someone a job. For rotational, and bottom of the depth chart players, this week may by the most important week of their lives to make the 2018 Dallas Cowboys roster. These five players have the most to prove in their final week of the Cowboys offseason. Will they take advantage of it? Or will they find themselves looking for a job on September 1st?
Jihad Ward - Defensive Tackle
On Monday we learned that Ryan Switzer was traded from the Oakland Raiders to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Cowboys traded Ryan Switzer to the Oakland Raiders during the NFL Draft for Jihad Ward. When Ward arrived in Dallas, he was a hot commodity. Through mini-camp and OTA’s many thought Ward was on his way to winning a starting job due to the injuries at the position, and the way Ward was playing in those practices and walkthroughs.
Unfortunately for Jihad Ward, that success did not carry over into training camp and the preseason. Ward has plummeted down the depth chart since the start of the preseason and has yet to make any sort of positive impact in the three preseason games we’ve seen so far. Ward struggled to show up in Oakland, and has struggled to do the same in Dallas. With lack of talent at the position, the former-second round pick should be a lock to make the 53-man roster, but that is not the case. Ward has the ideal size, and has shown flashes of being a good player, but has yet to show up consistently in the middle of the Cowboys defensive line. This week is huge for Jihad Ward, and his future with the Dallas Cowboys.
Chaz Green - Offensive Tackle
I know what you’re thinking... yes, Chaz Green has been really bad this offseason. Yes, Chaz Green is not shown anything to keep him on the roster. But the reality is, the Cowboys still keep throwing him out there, and hoping he turns it around. The fourth-year player started off his career as a average backup offensive lineman who had some versatility to hold down a roster spot. Unfortunately, we saw in 2017 that having Green in the lineup is a dangerous proposition.
Chaz Green’s struggles started first with injury in 2017, but quickly bled over onto the field when he was awarded the starting job in Atlanta after a Tyron Smith injury. As we all know, Green was absolutely atrocious that game, and it has yet to get better since. In the three preseason games, Green has been by far the worst offensive tackle on the field. So why would the Cowboys keep him around you ask? Familiarity. The Cowboys know Chaz Green, and we could argue that they like him enough to give him one last shot due to him being the only other offensive tackle on the roster not named Tyron Smith, La’el Collins, or Cameron Fleming. Green has not been good over the last two seasons, but if he does have a good showing in practices and against the Texans, don’t be surprised if he ends up being one of the last offensive lineman on the roster.
Rico Gathers - Tight End
Rico Gathers has had a roller coaster of an offseason. At times, Rico has looked like the best tight end on the roster. At other times, Rico has looked like a peewee basketball player playing professional football. Gathers has all the tools to be a great tight end in the NFL. He has the size and the athletic ability to be a mismatch nightmare for opposing defenses. Gathers at 6’6”, 285-lbs has by far the best physical traits out of every other tight end on the Cowboys roster, where Rico Gathers struggles is with the mental side of things, and blocking.
Gathers has shown in multiple games that he’s still unsure where to be, and that’s something you cannot do at this level. Gathers is still obviously learning, but after three years with the team you’d think he would have a better understanding than what he’s shown. If Gathers can show up in practice, and have another nice game against the Texans he will make the Dallas Cowboys front office think twice about cutting him, or trying again to sneak him on the practice squad.
Charles Tapper - Defensive End
Charles Tapper professional football career has been derailed by injury. This offseason, Tapper has stayed healthy and has been battling for one of the last spots at defensive end. Tapper came into the league as a fourth-round pick who showed off elite speed at the NFL combine. Tapper played out of scheme at Oklahoma and was hoping to find a home as a defensive end in a 4-3, one-gapping scheme.
This offseason Charles Tapper has struggled to get anything going in the opportunities he’s received in training camp and the preseason. Tapper, who has been around the team for three years now, has only seen action in two games since being drafted in the fourth-round of the 2014 NFL Draft, and was hoping to get some playing time in 2017 before suffering a foot injury that sidelined him for the rest of the 2017 season. He is still in consideration for one of the last roster spots at defensive end, but will likely have to impress this week to stick around.
Darius Jackson - Running Back
The running back room is very crowded, and believe it or not, there’s a lot of talent in that room. With Ezekiel Elliott the clear-cut starter, and Rod Smith’s roster spot as safe as can be, Bo Scarbrough and Darius Jackson are battling it out for the final spot on the 53-man roster. Jackson entered the league in sixth-round of the 2016 NFL Draft. The Cowboys really liked Jackson coming out of Eastern Michigan, and actually kept him on the roster for most of the season before waiving him to add Darren McFadden. The Cowboys were hoping to sneak Jackson onto the practice squad but the Cleveland Browns swooped in for the steal.
The Cowboys got a second opportunity at Jackson this offseason when he was waived/injured from the Browns roster. Jackson has looked good this offseason running the football but all of his reps have come after Bo Scarbrough in the preseason games. The Cowboys may be more likely to keep Scarbrough over Jackson due to the fact that Bo was a draft pick in 2018, unless Jackson can significantly outplay Scarbrough this week. The coaches seem to like Jackson, due to his ability to run the ball, catch the ball out of the backfield, pass protect, and play a valuable role on special teams. Jackson will need to have a really nice week in order to win himself a roster spot, we’ll see if he’s up for it.