IRVING, Texas – The wait is on – not just for Thursday night's preseason finale against the Texans, but for the Cowboys to cut down their roster to 53 men and begin preparations for Week 1.
While we wait, I studied my notes and put together 12 thoughts on what to expect in the next few days. These are things I'll be watching Thursday at AT&T Stadium, as well as this weekend when the cuts begin.
1)I'm hearing that Rolando McClain looked good in his return to the practice field on Tuesday. I was told that he worked with the first team defense in both the base and nickel packages. The staff was pleased with his movements and how he executed his assignments for not practicing at all this training camp.
2)There has been plenty of speculation about what direction this offensive staff might go when it comes to playing these running backs. As much as I have been pushing for Darren McFadden to get that starting nod, I have a feeling that it will be Joseph Randle to get that opportunity until he proves he cannot handle it.
3)This is going to sound funny, but I think that this staff has played Jameill Showers the right amount at quarterback in these preseason games. I believe they have an idea of what Showers can do -- so why allow these other teams around the league to gain a read on him, especially if they have plans for him other than being on the 53-man roster?
4)I am interested to see who they bring back on this practice squad between David Porter and Antwan Goodley. If you would just base it on who had the better camp in the limited practices they took part in, Porter was the better player. But Goodley has some support within the staff. It would be my belief that the other spot would likely go to Nick Harwell.
5)If it comes down to a spot between Lavar Edwards and Ben Gardner on this defensive line – I am leaning toward keeping Edwards. There is chance they might keep both due to the Greg Hardy suspension for the first four games, so that's still a possibility. I am basing my opinion on what I have seen from the two in these practices and games. I just felt like Edwards won more often than Gardner down-after-down – he was more of a factor in those pass rush situations.
6)I am curious in this Texans game with the limited numbers of defensive players available if Corey White plays more safety than corner? What has been interesting about watching him play in this training camp is that the defensive staff has played him more on the outside than in the slot. With the way this has gone for him so far, we are likely to see Joel Ross handle that role on Thursday.
7)It is likely that Efe Obada is not going to make the final 53-man roster, but I am excited to see him get some extensive playing time against the Texans to see how far he has really come along since he signed with the team. His growth as a player has been impressive considering where he started from in this journey. It will be a good sign for his future if he can put it all together in this final preseason game.
8)With Chaz Green remaining on the physically unable to perform list – I have the same hope that I had for DeMarcus Lawrence at this time last season. Green needs to work to get healthy, add strength and be ready for those final ten games if called on. There is nothing more difficult for a personnel department to do than find quality players along the offensive line in the middle of the season. Hopefully Chaz Green can take that exact path we saw from Lawrence and what he was able to do down the stretch.
9)I have a feeling that Keith Smith is going to make this 53-man roster. To his credit he has done everything, from both a physical and mental standpoint, to make the club. He worked hard in the offseason when he didn't have a job in order to have success at the chance he received in this training camp. He is a different player than the one that was on and off the roster last season. He has always been able to tackle, but he now is putting himself in better position to make more of them. Smith is not that reckless player that he once was – he plays with a purpose and it shows.
10)Keep an eye open during this Texans game to see if these coaches use Lucky Whitehead on the outside to get him more work there and put Nick Harwell in the slot. I believe they know that Whitehead can play inside, but how he functions out wide is an area that they want to continue to evaluate.
11) Geoff Swaim is starting to see more of a role as that James Hanna type of tight end – inline "Y" and point-of-attack blocker. Swaim has a ways to go before he could take on Hanna's role as a blocker, but where he is better than Hanna is catching the ball. He is more consistent in getting up the field as well.
12) It is most likely not a battle for a roster spot, but Ben Malena and Gus Johnson have something to play for on Thursday night. With only 10 practice squad spots, it is likely that the club would only carry one running back – so there is your competition. Unless the front office has its eye on another back from another club, it should come down to how well either Johnson or Malena plays for a weekly job.