The Cowboys have completed their first of three preseason games, offering up the best look yet at some of the players competing for roster spots towards the bottom of the list. Many projected starters sat out this game, but that just meant more opportunities for the backups to state their case.
So who made the best argument? Here’s a stock watch for every player, sorted by position. By default, anyone who sat for the game not due to injury has a “stock up” designation, since the team clearly viewed them as too important to risk an injury. The rest, though, have varied results.
Stock up: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush
Stock down: Will Grier
Dak Prescott very likely won’t play a snap in the preseason, nor should he. That gives Cooper Rush and Will Grier plenty of time to battle it out for the top backup spot. So far, Rush is in pole position. He looked comfortable in the offense Saturday, though not perfect.
Grier, on the other hand, showed flashes of why the staff likes him; he pushed the ball down the field more often and has a lot more mobility than Rush. But while Grier has a higher ceiling than Rush, he’s also got a lower floor. At times, he held onto the ball too long and tried to force it into areas that weren’t open. Until he can refine those areas, he’ll be lagging behind Rush for this race.
Stock up: Tony Pollard, Deuce Vaughn, Hunter Luepke
Stock down: Rico Dowdle, Malik Davis, Ronald Jones
Tony Pollard is the clear-cut starter, but the battle for RB2 is interesting. Rico Dowdle had quite a few impressive moments Saturday, but his fumble at the goal line was a big hit to his stock. Ball security is everything, especially at the goal line. Meanwhile, Malik Davis couldn’t get anything going, averaging less than one yard per carry and struggling mightily in pass protection.
Deuce Vaughn only got tackled here because he got tripped— Tom Downey (@WhatGoingDowney) August 13, 2023
They have to cheat to stop himpic.twitter.com/NqAVnUjLfw
Deuce Vaughn objectively stole the show. His shiftiness was on full display, juking defenders on multiple plays and breaking off a 26-yard run before getting into the endzone just four plays later. Hunter Luepke got some good work, with 16 snaps on offense with three carries for six yards. It wasn’t enough to cement his roster spot - far from it - but Luepke showed enough to warrant more work in the next game.
Stock up: CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks, Michael Gallup, Jalen Tolbert, Simi Fehoko, KaVontae Turpin, Dennis Houston
Stock down: Jalen Brooks, Jalen Moreno-Cropper, Dontario Drummond, Tyron Johnson, Jose Barbon, David Durden
The starting three are well established by now, and Jalen Tolbert may have officially solidified himself as the WR4 of this team with his performance Saturday. Tolbert caught both targets and scored a touchdown. Not to be outdone, though, Simi Fehoko caught all four passes thrown his way, with two of them setting up second and short situations.
Elsewhere, KaVontae Turpin saw valuable work as a receiver and Dennis Houston, largely overlooked thus far in camp, caught all three of his targets while displaying some great route running skills.
Jalen Brooks has been impressive all throughout camp, but the hype wore off in this game. No receiver saw more targets Saturday than Brooks, with five, but he only managed to catch one of them. Combine that with Fehoko’s good day, and Brooks has a lot more work to do going forward. The rest of the bunch at receiver got some work late in the game (except for David Durden, who sat out with an injury) but none of them flashed enough to help their odds of sneaking onto the roster.
Stock up: Jake Ferguson, John Stephens Jr.
Stock down: Luke Schoonmaker, Peyton Hendershot, Sean McKeon, Princeton Fant, Seth Green
Jake Ferguson’s stock rose just as he rose up in the air for an impressive catch up the seam early in the game. He was the only projected starter on offense to not sit out this game, but that might change going forward with his performance. John Stephens Jr. continued his recent ascent in camp by leading the team in receiving, catching five passes for 56 yards, and scoring the final touchdown of the game. He’s a legitimate contender for the final roster.
Luke Schoonmaker’s stock drops just by virtue of Ferguson’s stock rising so much. Schoonmaker looked good in his limited action, catching his only target and doing some light work as a blocker, but it wasn’t nearly enough to keep things close with Ferguson in the race for TE1. Similarly, Peyton Hendershot (zero targets) and Sean McKeon (one target, no receptions) were easy to miss, while Princeton Fant and Seth Green hardly saw the field.
Stock up: Tyron Smith, Tyler Smith, Tyler Biadasz, Zack Martin, Terence Steele, Brock Hoffman, Earl Bostick Jr., T.J. Bass
Stock down: Asim Richards, Matt Farniok, Josh Ball, Matt Waletzko, Alec Lindstrom, Alex Taylor-Prioleau, Chuma Edoga
It was a great day for the starting offensive line in Dallas, especially Zack Martin and his leverage in contract negotiations. Brock Hoffman and Earl Bostick Jr. were solid, each giving up just one pressure, though each were credited with a sack. T.J. Bass was the only lineman to put a goose egg in the pressure column, which is impressive.
Overall, though, not a good day for the offensive line depth. Chuma Edoga was already out with an injury, and the rest of the bunch struggled mightily. Granted, they were facing the Jaguars’ starters at the beginning of the game, but it was still rough sledding for this bunch. It wouldn’t be a shock to see the Cowboys consider some veteran free agent options.
Interior defensive line
Stock up: Osa Odighizuwa, Neville Gallimore, Johnathan Hankins,
Stock down: Mazi Smith, Chauncey Golston, Quinton Bohanna, Viliami Fehoko, Isaac Alarcón
Johnathan Hankins was the only interior defender to have the night off, which is a good sign for him. Osa Odighizuwa played the fewest snaps of any defender for Dallas, and he had a couple splash plays in the limited action. Neville Gallimore, considered by many a lock to be cut, had the kind of game he needed to. Gallimore tallied four pressures and was a presence in run support, too.
The rest of the group, though, was underwhelming. Mazi Smith’s debut was a mixed bag, showing some flashes but nothing exciting like what he’s done in practices. Chauncey Golston and Quinton Bohanna went largely unnoticed, while Isaac Alarcón looked every bit like someone playing the position for the first time ever. Rookie Viliami Fehoko sat out with an injury.
Stock up: Micah Parsons, DeMarcus Lawrence, Dorance Armstrong, Sam Williams, Isaiah Land, Tyrus Wheat, Durrell Johnson
Stock down: Dante Fowler, Ben Banogu
Dorance Armstrong got to join Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence in taking the night off, a good sign for the veteran. Sam Williams once again flashed his incredible burst and physicality. Rookies Isaiah Land, Tyrus Wheat, and Durrell Johnson affirmed just how deep this position is; Land led the team with five pressures, while Wheat and Johnson weren’t too far behind with three apiece.
Dante Fowler wasn’t necessarily bad, but his stock is down largely for not flashing much when so many other edge players did in this game. Ben Banogu was in a similar situation, playing the most of any edge rusher but doing less with more by contrast.
Stock up: Leighton Vander Esch, DeMarvion Overshown, Damone Clark, Devin Harper, Jabril Cox
Stock down: Malik Jefferson
Leighton Vander Esch was the only linebacker to get the night off, but the entire group had a great night. DeMarvion Overshown was all over the field making plays, while Damone Clark and Devin Harper also found the ball often. Jabril Cox had an especially great rep blitzing up the middle that forced the quarterback to throw it away early.
Malik Jefferson ended up being the odd man out. He got caught out of position on a Jaguars quarterback keeper play that resulted in six points, and then had to leave the game early with an injury. Combine that everyone else in his position group balling out, and it wasn’t the best night for him after a quietly impressive camp thus far.
Stock up: Trevon Diggs, Stephon Gilmore, DaRon Bland, Kelvin Joseph, Josh Butler
Stock down: Nahshon Wright, Eric Scott Jr., Myles Brooks, DeAngelo Mandell, Jourdan Lewis
As with the receiver room, the starting three here are set. But Kelvin Joseph came out of nowhere to have a great night. Joseph was targeted three times and gave up zero completions, even recording a pass breakup on one of them. Josh Butler, another USFL signing on the team, also played well. His four targets were the most of any Cowboys corner, and he allowed just two completions. It’s a crowded room for him to break into, but Butler put his best foot forward Saturday.
Nahshon Wright and Eric Scott Jr. saw their stock drop mostly because they were trending well ahead of Joseph coming into this game and didn’t do anything to maintain that gap, even as Joseph showed up to play. Rookies Myles Brooks and DeAngelo Mandell failed to separate themselves from the crowd, while Jourdan Lewis remains in limbo as he is still on the PUP list.
Stock up: Jayron Kearse, Malik Hooker, Donovan Wilson, Israel Mukuamu, Markquese Bell, Juanyeh Thomas
Stock down: Tyler Coyle, Sheldrick Redwine
The safety position is absolutely stacked. The three starters are known and all had the night off. That allowed for the three immediate backups to shine, and shine they did. Israel Mukuamu had a great pass breakup on a two-point conversion; Markquese Bell was all over the field and led the team in tackles with 10; and Juanyeh Thomas kept his momentum going with two pass breakups and an interception.
Going up against the trio of Mukuamu, Bell, and Thomas is almost unfair. Tyler Coyle and Sheldrick Redwine were both fine in the game, but they were ultimately unremarkable in a game where three other safeties played remarkably well.
Stock up: Bryan Anger, Trent Sieg, C.J. Goodwin
Stock down: KaVontae Turpin, Brandon Aubrey
Bryan Anger and Trent Sieg showed no signs for concern, and C.J. Goodwin got a good mix of special teams work to remind everyone how good he is. But there are concerns elsewhere. KaVontae Turpin isn’t in danger of losing his job, but fumbling a punt is certainly not good news for him.
And there’s Brandon Aubrey, who entered this game as the only kicker on the roster. Things were going good, as Aubrey made his lone field goal attempt from 29 yards out, but then he missed an extra point. There may not be anyone on the roster to challenge Aubrey right now, but Robbie Gould and Mason Crosby are still on the free agent market. And so long as Aubrey keeps missing kicks, nobody will be forgetting about Gould and Crosby any time soon.