For those Dallas Cowboys involved in a position battle, Wednesday night is their last opportunity.
The Dallas Cowboys’ final preseason game is the final chance for second- and third-string players to make their case for a full-time roster spot. Injuries and practice squad availability may impact how the Cowboys put together their final 53-man roster. With 22 players left to cut, Wednesday’s game against Miami is a vital opportunity for these players and they must play well.
Below we break down where the key position battles are on Wednesday night.
No. 3 Quarterback: You could make a case that with Tony Romo and Kyle Orton you don’t need a third quarterback. Whether you keep a third-string quarterback can come down to numbers at other positions and team comfort with the Nos. 1 and 2 quarterbacks. It’s hard to argue with what Dallas has in front of Stephen McGee and Rudy Carpenter.
McGee has experience in the system as he enters his fourth year. But it’s clear the Cowboys are somewhat intrigued with Carpenter, who went through camp with the Cowboys in 2009 and was in Tampa Bay for the past two years. But neither of them has really separated from the other through three games. It’s also hard to escape the notion that they’re the same type of quarterback, which is that both are decent passers with good mobility.
Each should get more than a quarter on Wednesday to make their case. I lean toward Carpenter at this point, just because I think McGee has had enough time to develop and hasn’t met expectations.
Wide Receiver: To me, the field has narrowed considerably. After last week I consider four receivers locks to make the roster – Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Kevin Ogletree and Dwayne Harris. How do you not keep Harris at this point? He’s been the most productive offensive player this preseason for Dallas. He’s even pushing Ogletree for some No. 3 work.
Cole Beasley is oh so close to being a roster lock. His numbers this preseason practically match Ogletree’s. The one thing that worries me is that we don’t know how Beasley’s talent will translate to special teams, which is something you have to keep in mind with a No. 5 receiver. He’s going to log time there, and special teams can be a tiebreaker as you assess your final roster. Problem is, if the Cowboys release him, Beasley may not be on the street very long.
Statistically, Andre Holmes would be your No. 6 receiver. But he’s certainly no lock. He still has, among others, fifth-round pick Danny Coale and Tim Binford to contend with on Wednesday. Coale is still rounding into shape after an injury and Binford has done little to convince me he’s worth a spot. It’s Holmes’ spot to lose – and that’s if the Cowboys keep six wide receivers.
No. 3 running back: Is it crazy to consider Jamize Olawale for this spot over his UNT teammate, Lance Dunbar, or even holdover Phillip Tanner? Olawale leads the team in preseason rushing, has the team’s only preseason rushing touchdown and has actually shown some life in the passing game. It’s an intriguing possibility, considering Olawale would give the Cowboys versatility as a third back and a second fullback. That’s more bang for the buck. That would mean cutting both Tanner and Dunbar, who have been fighting injuries all preseason. Chances are all three will get plenty of work against the Dolphins. But I don’t consider Olawale a fullback-only contender anymore.
Second-string outside linebacker: So who backs up DeMarcus Ware? You look at the numbers and its Alex Albright, who leads the Cowboys in tackles this preseason. But the one thing he hasn’t done, given all the time he’s had on the field in the wake of Ware’s injury, is sack the quarterback. That’s unacceptable in a 3-4 defense when you’re backing up the best pass rusher in the NFL. That’s why Adrian Hamilton is still in the mix. Hamilton registered a sack Saturday against the Rams and injected some life into the pass rush. Hamilton’s athleticism makes him an intriguing competitor for Albright, who has been just fine this preseason. But just fine doesn’t cut it behind Ware.
Secondary: First of all, Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Orlando Scandrick, Mike Jenkins, Gerald Sensabaugh and Barry Church are in. That’s four corners and two safeties, so there’s some room there for backups to make a case. There are some good ones, too. Jerry Jones loves Mario Butler, who has had a great preseason with 11 tackles and a sack. Butler’s a corner, but he’s also working out at safety. Mana Silva is making some real noise behind Church with 10 tackles. Danny McCray has done some good things behind Sensabaugh, but he’s at the point in his career where teams start to look around to see if there are better options. Injuries have slowed Matt Johnson, while Eddie Whitley has made some noise the past couple of weeks. They’re both safeties. Butler is the wild card. If he makes the team and has shown enough for Dallas to trust him at corner and safety, that allows them to keep one fewer safety, which impacts the numbers game for Silva, McCray and Johnson. One flash play by any of those guys could keep them on the team.