We are on the eve of the regular season, because tonight is the final preseason game for the Dallas Cowboys. They face off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with almost nothing at stake - at least from the overall team perspective. But this is also the last chance for bubble players to try and win their way onto the roster. There aren’t many who have a real chance, but this is also an audition for players wishing to catch on with other teams, or eligible candidates to extend their time with the Cowboys on the practice squad. For many, it is truly a last chance, as the NFL dream will likely end over the next few days when they are asked to turn in their team tablet.
So even though there will not be a lot of high-quality play, and the score doesn’t matter, there is something to watch for. Here are some names to keep an eye on.
QB Mike White
Before training camp, White was seen as in a close competition with Cooper Rush to be Dak Prescott’s backup. Many thought he was the leading candidate. Now, Rush is widely seen as the winner of that camp battle. And White is not only expected to not make the 53-man roster, given the need at other positions, he is hardly certain to get a shot at the practice squad.
He did have his best showing since joining the team against the Houston Texans, but he really needs another one to extend his career with the Cowboys. The team should treat Rush more as a starter in this game, and give White the bulk of the work. It is a big red flag for White if Rush gets extended work, though, especially if the latter comes back out in the second half. That would be about as clear a signal as possible that they have no plans for White going forward.
RB Darius Jackson
As mentioned, some players are stuck trying to generate interest from other teams, and Jackson, who has no practice squad eligibility, is one. Almost no one sees him as having a real shot at making the roster, with Jordan Chunn a surprising riser in preseason and Albert Morris a much more accomplished veteran alternative.
RB Mike Weber
He is like White. His performance since the start of camp has been unimpressive. He may have a good shot at the practice squad because Dallas hates to give up on its draft picks (which also helps White), but if Chunn doesn’t make the 53, he could replace White there. This is also a place where the Cowboys will probably be scanning the waivers to look for what the think is a better option.
WR Jalen Guyton
Jon’Vea Johnson is being penciled in by just about everyone for the practice squad, but Guyton is in a much more precarious position. Like Weber, he has not impressed in the preseason games. He needs a big night to have a shot at anybody’s practice squad.
TE Marcus Lucas
Lucas has been a legitimate surprise. Although his time knocking around the league confuses his practice squad eligibility, the Cowboys could be interested in him even if he is not a PS candidate. They keep some players on file for a call if things get dicey during the season, and Lucas could be one of those. He may actually be contending for a roster spot, with both Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz nursing injuries.
OL Mitch Hyatt
OL Brandon Knight
Basically they are in a head-to-head competition for a practice squad job.
DE Taco Charlton
Some real intrigue has sprung up around Charlton. Despite his big game against Houston, there are rumors swirling that he may be trade bait or even an outright cut. It will be interesting to see how much he plays. If he sees few or no snaps, figure his spot on the 53 is pretty safe. But if he gets extended time, it could mean he is being showcased to see what the Cowboys could entice other teams into offering for him. It also might just be wanting to get him as much work as possible, however. Still, he is the second most interesting Cowboys story going into the cuts, after that guy hanging out in Cabo.
DT Ricky Walker
He seems an excellent practice squad candidate, but he is that rare case of a player who may actually get interest from another team for their regular season roster. Although the Cowboys have paid PS members nearly the rookie rate to retain them, there is still a cachet in being on an NFL roster, even if you are buried on the depth chart.
LB Justin March
LB Justin Phillips
LB Nate Hall
If you look at a lot of roster projections for Dallas, you will notice that a lot of them have LB Luke Gifford making the team, but that is expected to be solely for the purpose of getting him to IR. That will leave at least one LB job open, given the importance of the position for special teams.
March has been most valuable to Dallas in exactly that role, but Phillips and Hall have both had strong preseason performances. Plus they are a wee bit cheaper. The team probably already has an idea how this will play out - but we don’t, so it will be worth paying attention.
CB Donovan Olumba
There is a consensus that C.J. Goodwin has moved ahead of Olumba for the fifth cornerback spot. Olumba is now playing to justify a sixth one. He would seem to have an excellent chance.
CB Michael Jackson
The fifth-round pick looks relegated to fighting for a PS offer. This is his last chance to try and challenge Olumba.
S Darian Thompson
Is he a legitimate threat to Kavon Frazier? Many think so, but he needs a good game to prove his case.
Not all of these names will still be with the Cowboys in a couple of days. Some will get a new lease on life, however, if they can perform well against the Bucs.