ARLINGTON, Texas – The preseason ended in underwhelming fashion for the Cowboys' backups trying to make their final impressions Thursday at AT&T Stadium.
Not one of the players fighting for a coveted roster spot helped himself tremendously, as the backups got the work all day against a Texans team that rushed for 190 yards in a 24-6 loss in the fifth and final preseason game for the Cowboys.
"I thought they did a good job running the football on us," said head coach Jason Garrett. "It didn't seem like we were getting lined up very quickly on defense and some of that goes to a lot of young players playing and those guys responsible for making those calls and adjustments. That goes into the evaluation as well."
The thrashing doesn't mean a whole lot going forward outside of deciding final roster spots. Tackle Jermey Parnell and linebacker Ernie Sims were the only potential starters to find the field Thursday.
Just three years ago, the Cowboys played the Texans in the fourth preseason game of the year and lost by 16 points in the dress rehearsal. Dallas faced Houston again when it actually mattered in Week 3 of the regular season and won by 14, so the score of Thursday's lopsided defeated shouldn't be dwelled upon.
But the backups didn't exactly leave a lasting impression in any area of the game.
The offense managed just 219 total yards to the Texans' 427. Houston had eight more first downs than Dallas and finished with a 42 percent third-down efficiency to the Cowboys' meager 21 percent. The special teams didn't make any drastic mistakes this week and Chris Jones dropped five punts inside the 20-yard line, but the Cowboys also allowed a 29-yard punt return to the Texans.
"You want to play better than we played tonight in all three phases of our football team, but again, a lot of young guys were playing, a lot of different combinations of guys for us and for them," Garrett said. "You try to evaluate individuals as much as you evaluate the whole group."
While the game didn't mean much to the starters who were held out, it did hold significant value for the players on the bubble attempting to make the 53-man roster.
Alex Tanney threw 31 of the Cowboys' 32 passes, as he got the majority of the work throughout the day but was pressured and battered around constantly, getting sacked seven times. The Cowboys failed to score a touchdown throughout the day, despite getting into Houston territory multiple times.
Tanney finished 17-of-31 with 177 yards and an interception. Garrett and the coaching staff will take into account the barrage of defenders in his face as they assess the quarterback.
"But then you have to assess how he responds to that," Garrett said. "That's part of playing this position. It looked like he kept his composure, moved around, kept his eyes up the field, but just didn't get into much of a rhythm throughout the football game."
Some of the players entering Thursday's game knew beforehand they had a decent chance at cracking the final roster. But they know that doesn't mean their spot is completely safe.
Cole Beasley, who could hardly put weight on his injured foot a week ago, managed to heal up enough in time to make a final impression, catching two passes for 30 yards and nearly breaking enough tackles on a catch in Texans' territory to get past the defense. Beasley said he may have had enough pep in his step to break free if he wasn't injured recently, but the foot felt good enough to play through. [embedded_ad]
"Hopefully I did enough to make it, and at least I'll have another opportunity to get better and keep improving and come back and try to get a role somehow," Beasley said.
The Cowboys now have two days to make decisions on their 53-man roster. As the backups wait to hear their fate, the starters will continue to prepare for the opener against the Giants, which they've had their sights set on since training camp.
"It's what everybody wants to see," Bryant said. "Both teams are going to come in, and we want to put on a show."