As the Dallas Cowboys prepare for their first preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the team took to the practice fields in Oxnard for the final time this week. Despite being relatively healthy this summer and injured players returning to action, the Cowboys witnessed offensive lineman Chuma Edoga leave practice with a knee injury. The extent of time Edoga will miss is still being determined.
Nevertheless, the show must continue, and jobs will be earned over the next few weeks. On Thursday, a few undrafted players looking to carry the momentum of a solid practice into Saturday’s game against Jacksonville had a good day and are the undrafted stars of Thursday.
John Stephens, Tight end
Days on the series: 3
In the famous words of ESPN’s Mark Jackson, “Mama, there goes that man.” Once again, Stephens makes an appearance on this series for undrafted underdogs. Seemingly every practice, Stephens makes a play that makes you nod your head in approval. He has repeatedly shown that he can make contested catches with defenders closing in. Stephens’ size and athleticism afford him mismatches against smaller or slower defenders and allow him to separate at the top of his routes.
Let’s face it, even with an exceptional camp, Stephens is a long shot to make the cut. The Cowboys have four tight ends atop the depth chart ahead of Stephens, which makes Saturday’s game so crucial. Stephens needs a terrific performance to work his way into the possibility of making the team, despite the depth the team has at the position and forcing the Cowboys to go shorter at other areas on the roster.
Hunter Luepke, running back
Days on the Series: 1
When Hunter Luepke signed with the Cowboys following the draft, fans were instantly intrigued by the unique set of skills he brought to the table. Based on the film from his time at North Dakota State, Luepke demonstrated he could run the football as a tailback with power, be utilized as a lead blocker, and catch passes out of the backfield. The best comparison that came to mind is San Francisco 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk.
Leupke has yet to do much to separate himself from the competition and leave a lasting impression on the coaches. That is, until today. Nick Harris of dallascowboys.com had this to say:
Getting a healthy amount of carries ahead of his preseason debut, Luepke found holes, bounced off would-be tacklers and found some presence downfield. With all eyes on the running back position going into Saturday, it’ll be important for Luepke to carry that consistency onto the game field.
The last part of that statement rings especially true. As it stands, the Cowboys don’t have a power back on the roster, and Leupke could make himself valuable to the team if he can prove that he can handle short-yardage duties. Additionally, he should see time at fullback serving as a lead blocker. Take this play from yesterday as an example.
It’s fourth and 1 and Deuce Vaughn tries for the first down. pic.twitter.com/BSaNJlhXQU— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) August 10, 2023
On 4th and 1, the offense hands the ball off Deuce Vaughn, but what catches the eye is Leupke’s block on Markquese Bell. If Leupke can do that consistently, it will do wonders for his chances to make the 53-man roster.