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Assessing the Cowboys potential 53-man roster after their first preseason game

What’s changed after seeing the ‘Boys in action?

NFL: Preseason-Jacksonville Jaguars at Dallas Cowboys Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys played a football game and delivered 60 minutes of actual real running, passing, and tackling. It was quite a pleasant treat for those of us who experienced the famine of the offseason, and it’s finally an opportunity to start getting a sense of just how good this team might be. Granted, it’s super early and what we saw only has so much value, but it’s something, and that’s all we need to fill our minds with substance that can help us get one step closer to figuring out the Cowboys' eventual 53-man roster.

Today, we’ll break down each position group and look for clues as to what the 2023 version of the Cowboys might look like.


There was no great reveal here. Cooper Rush remains the team’s primary backup. He was fine, going 10/12 for 83 yards. And Will Grier still did Will Grier things. There are times when the third-stringer shows off his playmaking ability and there are others where you cringe a bit. Nothing has changed in this area as Grier still needs to take a step forward if he’s to make the roster as QB3.


Deuce Vaughn had a nice debut and stood out as the team’s top running back in the game. It’s still a race after that. Rico Dowdle had a better showing than Malik Davis as Dowdle did more with what he had to work with. He had some nice jump cuts to get through a couple of running lanes and showed good burst around the corner for what was almost a touchdown. He did lose control of the ball and ball security was one of the knocks on him in college. The Davis/Dowdle competition is something we should continue to keep an eye on. Dowdle may have struck first blood this preseason, but this battle is not over.


Jake Ferguson had a nice game and remains atop the depth chart despite the second-round draft investment of Luke Schoonmaker. While most eyes are on the shiny new rookie, we can’t discount the possible year-two leap from Ferguson. Regardless, the tight end room looks in good shape as hybrid WR/TE John Stephens Jr. continues to impress. He actually led the team in targets, receptions, and yards, and had one of the team’s three touchdowns on the night. Stephens Jr. brings more upside to the group than the often underappreciated in-line blocking specialist TE, Sean McKeon, not to mention more player control.


Jalen Tolbert had a nice game that would’ve been even nicer if he wasn’t flagged for an offensive pass interference penalty (questionable call, in our opinion). He continues to demonstrate that he’s turned a corner. Rookie Jalen Brooks, who’s also having a nice camp, struggled to haul in a couple of passes; however, they were thrown a little off-target. While one Jalen took a step closer, the other slipped a bit. Simi Fehoko had a solid game but remains on the bubble for that last wide receiver spot. Dennis Houston played well similarly to how he did in the preseason last year, but with the improvement in the receiving room this year, it’s hard to imagine room for him on the roster this time around.


The Cowboys ran a lot of quick passes that didn’t allow us to get a good look at pass protection. There was good stuff and there was bad stuff. Rookie Asim Richards had a nice debut at left tackle and Josh Ball held firm inside. Outside of those guys, the Cowboys are still searching for viable depth pieces. (Click here for a more detailed assessment of the backup offensive line from the Jags’ game)


There was nothing that happened that moved the needle of an already stacked edge-rushing group. Second-year edge rusher Sam Williams played well as he looks to build on a solid rookie season. UDFA Isaiah Land was disruptive in the fourth quarter and now has people’s attention. The Cowboys are loaded along the edge so unless Land skyrockets, he’s most likely headed for a practice squad spot.


We got our first look at Mazi Smith as he logged quite a bit of snaps. He wasn’t at the forefront of the big plays from the defense, but he was still a key part. When he was single-blocked he reset the line of scrimmage causing ball carriers to redirect, and when he was double-teamed he chewed up blocks and allowed the linebackers free licks. Neville Gallimore and Quinton Bohanna were neither bad nor impressive against the Jags' backup defensive linemen. They continue to be on the fringe due to the excessive depth the Cowboys have along the defensive line.


Youngsters Damone Clark and DeMarvion Overshown were flying all around as the linebacking group continued its “need for speed” overhaul. Devin Harper also showed up quite a bit and looks every bit as good, if not better than third-year LB Jabril Cox. Both seem relatively safe in making the team. Malik Jefferson is on the outside looking in and almost had a remarkable interception, but showed a lot of inconsistency compared to the guys above him on the depth chart. He remains a longshot to make the team.


Rookie Eric Scott Jr. was okay but seemed to give way to too much separation in coverage. His roster spot should be safe considering the team’s investment in him. The same is not true for third-year veterans Kelvin Joseph and Nahshon Wright. Joseph made a couple of nice plays in coverage and may have a slight edge over Wright for one of the last cornerback spots.


Juanyeh Thomas is having a good training camp and kicked things off nicely with an interception on the second play from scrimmage. Markquese Bell did a good job knifing in to make tackles at the line of scrimmage. Both are still in the mix as possible candidates to snag one of the last DB spots if the team decides to go deep at safety.


Kicker Brandon Aubrey started nicely making his first couple of kicks, but then shanked an extra point in the fourth quarter. He finished 3 of 4 in kicking on Saturday. The team will continue to let him get as many opportunities to kick until they are comfortable or have had enough in which case would likely result in signing a veteran before the season begins.

As he does every year, special teams ace C.J. Goodwin remains on the fringe as a possible cut/bring-back guy unless another player somehow takes that role from him.

Here is an updated 53-man roster prediction with the players expected to make the team in blue and the fringe guys in grey. Do you agree with this list? Which players not in blue do you think sneaks on the 53?

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