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Cowboys depth players await their fate after beating Seahawks 27-26 in preseason finale

We had questions about the Cowboys going in. We still do.

NFL: AUG 26 Preseason - Seahawks at Cowboys
This was a welcome sight.
Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It was the third, final, and arguably the most meaningless preseason game as the Dallas Cowboys edged the visiting Seattle Seahawks by a 27-26 score. It was a nice way to end things up and gave Dallas a 2-1 preseason record. You shouldn’t care about that. This was much more about last chances and player evaluation that what wound up on the scoreboard.

While this game was to a great degree a long audition for players whose best hope is to make a practice squad somewhere in the NFL, there were multiple positions where the game, particularly the first half, might have provided some clarity. Unfortunately things remained more murky than we would have wished. In the wake of Tyron Smith’s injury, we really wanted to see some improvement from all the offensive line backups that were taking the field in this game.

That is four players from somewhere down the depth chart, and one potential starter playing out of his usual position. The results were generally not good - at least to start. But the local Dallas broadcast of the game was just as interested in the issues for the line, and they spent a long time looking at Josh Ball, who seems to be the current leader to be the swing tackle. At one point, former Dallas stalwart Nate Newton flat out said that Ball was not ready. However, on the touchdown scoring drive late in the first half, the isolated shots of Ball looked a good bit better. When the offense was on the sidelines, Joe Philbin was up close with Ball, and it may be that he did some successful coaching up.

This still is a perilous situation for the Cowboys as they seek someone to start week one against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That is a talented defensive line coming to town. We can only hope that they get this right, because Dak Prescott has to stay healthy, and the running game needs those big guys up front to thrive. The backups are nearly as important as the starters, as we were harshly reminded on Thursday. The team should still be looking hard at possible options from outside the current roster.

As the above tweet indicates, it looks like Rico Dowdle has won the RB3 job. There is still a chance the team could carry four. If so, Malik Davis and Aaron Shampklin both had their moments behind the mix and match line. Davis might have the edge, but either, or both, could be headed to the practice squad.

Cooper Rush also was probably tipped as QB2 as he saw a single desultory possession to start the game before yielding to Will Grier. Grier was inconsistent with some accuracy and timing problems, but he did manage to throw two touchdowns. One was a wide open route by Simi Fehoko in the back of the end zone. The second was more impressive, as he put the ball over the top of the defender to find Brandon Smith for a double toe-tapping score. We’ll know soon, but the guess is that Grier winds up going to Dallas’ practice squad as well.

Brett Maher, of course, has won the kicking competition. He had another miss, but once again it was from long range, in this case 61 yards. He hit everything else including the go ahead extra point in the fourth quarter as the Cowboys came from behind, and there is a good chance the team just rolls with him to start the season.

The defense doesn’t have nearly as many questions as the offense faces. One thing that is widely anticipated is that the Cowboys will not be able to duplicate the way they took the ball away from opponents in 2021. Well, this game didn’t exactly fit that script as the backup defensive backs came away with three interceptions of Drew Lock. Israel Mukuamu, Nahshon Wright, and Markquese Bell all got in the action. Mukuamu’s was the most impressive, a nicely timed jumping of the route. Wright’s pick was thrown right between his numbers when Lock apparently lost sight of him, and Bell got a ricochet off a Seahawk. Mukuamu and Bell both seem to be in line to make the roster, but Wright had some earlier struggles in coverage. He drew a flag and got beaten on another play. He may not have done himself enough good to avoid getting cut. However, Kelvin Joseph left the game early after what was reported as a concussion. We hope he comes back soon, but that may lead the team to go with some depth, helping Wright’s case.

Then, just as icing on the case, depth linebacker Storey Jackson recovered a fumble with 1:23 to go that almost sealed the one point win. But disaster nearly struck as Aaron Shampklin almost lost the ball at the 1:12 point. He was ruled down before the ball came loose, but was hurt on the play and helped off, and you hate to see that happen as the game was winding down. And the turnover fest was not done as Juanyeh Thomas ended the game with an interception.

A couple of other defenders who stood out were Sam Williams and DaRon Bland. Williams recorded a sack in the first quarter, although he also was flagged on another play for a blow to the head. Bland once again was solid both against the run and the pass. His worst moment came on a touchdown when he just didn’t get his head around.

Penalties were again too frequent against the Cowboys, but for once they were matched most of the way by Seattle. The first half actually ended with the Seahawks having one more than Dallas’ four.

One thing that also should be noted is that Seattle ran their starters out to start the game. (Yes, Geno Smith is projected as their QB1.) The Cowboys, especially on defense, held up pretty well under the conditions.

Now we wait for the big cutdown on Tuesday, to be followed by what could be a large number of further moves and machinations. And we will be watching with bated breath to see if they will sign any outside talent in the next few weeks. But for now, the preseason is over, and real games start in 15 days. We will keep you up to date on every development between then and now.

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