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Cowboys vs. Texans: One roster battle to watch on offense and defense

Tonight is a big one for a few select Cowboys players.

Dallas Cowboys v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

It’s getting down to the nitty-gritty for some players on the Cowboys roster. The third preseason game is upon us and time is running out for players to make their case for the 53-man roster. The game against the Texans could be pivotal for roster battles that are happening around the team. Let’s discuss one on offense and one on defense to keep an eye on tonight.

Offense - Cedrick Wilson vs. Devin Smith vs. Noah Brown vs. roster spots allocated

This is a convoluted battle because of things off the field that are contributing to the uncertainty. For one thing, Noah Brown is hurt and there doesn’t seem to be a timeline for his return. Will he make the final roster, will he start the year on the PUP? The Cowboys love his physical ability as a wide receiver and he is a special teams guy, but is that enough to secure a roster spot? Does he have a significant role in Kellen Moore’s offense? As you can see, Brown’s status is one big question mark that makes predicting the receiver position treacherous.

In addition to Brown’s status, whether the Cowboys will keep five or six receivers is also an element of uncertainty. You can pretty much lock down the top four as Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Randall Cobb and Tavon Austin. After that, will the Cowboys carry one more or will they go long at the position with six?

On the field, the front-runners for the last spots are currently Cedrick Wilson and Devin Smith. Jon’Vea Johnson, Jalen Guyton and Reggie Davis all made early pushes for a spot, but when the games came around, they each showed their shortcomings. They would have to explode in one of the remaining games to work their way back into contention for more than the practice squad.

Wilson was having a very productive training camp and game against the 49ers before his concussion in that game. He returned to practice this week and should get a chance to show what he can do against the Texans.

Devin Smith has steadily worked his way up the ladder. His spot in last week’s game against the Rams was a promotion.

On the pregame sideline in Hawaii, WRs coach Sanjay Lal told me that Smith had “earned a promotion” to the second spot as the X receiver for that game. And it wasn’t just because of the previous game at San Francisco. Lal said Smith had two great 9 routes (“go” routes) in practice in Oxnard, catching one over his left shoulder, the other over his right shoulder. He perfectly executed those two routes/catches, gaining praise from Lal.

Smith is certainly in the conversation now. A big game tonight would be a tremendous boon to his cause.

Defense - Donovan Wilson vs. Kavon Frazier vs. George Iloka vs. Darian Thompson

Xavier Woods and Jeff Heath are your starters, but who backs them up? If the Cowboys do the usual, they will have two backup safeties on the roster. They have four guys fighting for those spots.

The leader in the clubhouse has to be rookie Donovan Wilson. Based on the fact they just spent a draft pick on him, he has an interception in the preseason, and the team gave him some first-team reps in practice when Heath was gimpy are solid signs.

Veteran Kavon Frazier adds a lot on special teams, that is his calling card, but has never been solid in the regular defense. He’s a big hitter, but the rest of his game is lacking. George Iloka once had a decent career going in Cincinnati, but his past year with the Vikings and his offseason/preseason games with Dallas have not caught the eye of anybody. He’s the one who could benefit the most from big games in the final two preseason contests.

Darian Thompson is another guy who can play special teams, but if he could put together some good reps on defense he might be able to get himself in contention. At the moment, Wilson and Frazier are probably squatting on the backup spots, but Iloka or Thompson could make it interesting by turning in quality performances this week and next.

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