Bubble Watch: 5 Players Who Helped Themselves

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ARLINGTON, Texas – There’s nothing left to do now but wait.

The Cowboys’ preseason is over, and they’ll start cutting their roster on Friday. They have until Saturday afternoon to trim the team to 53 players.

That leaves two whole days with nothing to do but speculate. And if Thursday’s 17-15 loss to Tampa Bay was one last chance to make an impression, there were plenty of guys who helped themselves.

Here are five guys who gave the coaches something to think about heading into cut down day.

Daniel Wise

A few years ago, the undrafted rookie out of Kansas would have been a shoo in to make this team. It’s a testament to the talent on this defensive line that Wise is still facing an uphill battle to make the team.

Wise was fantastic on Thursday night, racking up six tackles, two sacks, a tackle for loss and two quarterback hits against the Buccaneers. He sacked Tampa Bay quarterback Ryan Griffin twice within a span of about 10 minutes.

This shouldn’t be surprising, since the scouting department had a draftable grade on the guy. He’s been solid throughout training camp, flashing his potential at both tackle and end.

The only question will be: is that enough? It’s a crowded defensive line room, and there are a lot of guys ahead of him on the pecking order. If were to clear waivers, Wise would be a no-brainer for the practice squad. Maybe he convinced the coaches that’s a risk they can’t afford to take.

Jalen Guyton

The Dallas-Fort Worth native saved his best for literally the last. It has been a quiet camp for Guyton for the most part, and he has been featured near the bottom of the receiver depth chart for most of the last month.

Credit where it’s due, though. Guyton shook two different tacklers and turned a routine reception into a 69-yard touchdown. If the physicality to shake off two different defenders wasn’t impressive enough, he showed off his top end speed to outpace the Tampa Bay defense to the end zone.

To be brutally honest, it likely won’t be enough to get Guyton onto the 53-man roster. There’s too many players and too little space. But, having flashed that potential, maybe he can earn himself some consideration for the practice squad – if not another team’s roster.

Justin Phillips

If it felt like the rookie linebacker was everywhere early in this game, it’s because he was.

Phillips was in on the tackle on the first three Buccaneers snaps of the night, and he finished the game with 11 total tackles. He batted down a pass and grabbed a tackle for loss for good measure.

This performance concludes a strong preseason for the Oklahoma State standout. His acrobatic interception against the Rams was one of the highlights of this entire training camp.

Now, it’s on the coaches to decide if he’s worthy of a roster spot. The Cowboys will probably keep at least six linebackers. Leighton Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith, Sean Lee and Joe Thomas will account for four of those spots.

Has Phillips done enough to be one of the other two?

Taryn Christion

To this point in camp, we had seen Christion do everything but throw the football. On Thursday night, he got his chance.

Christion took over for Mike White late in the third quarter and promptly led the offense on an 11-play, 57-yard drive to the Tampa Bay 18-yard line. Yes, Christion then fumbled the ball on a quarterback keeper – but his response to that was impressive.

In four possessions on the night, Christion led the Cowboys at least 33 yards on three of them. The highlight was obviously the 69-yard touchdown pass to Guyton, but the Sioux Falls, S.D., native finished his night completing 11-of-17 passes for 142 yards and a touchdown. To be blunt, he sparked the offense in a far more noticeable way than White did during the first three quarters.

It seems doubtful that it will translate to a roster spot, but Christion you never know with quarterbacks. They’re too valuable to let go of if they’re good. And even if it doesn’t lead to a place on the 53, the coaches would probably love to have him on the practice squad.

Donovan Olumba

The second-year cornerback isn’t going to make this easy on the coaching staff.

Olumba might not possess the top-tier speed or the draft pedigree that coaches would prefer, but he simply shows up and makes plays. It didn’t take him long to do so against the Bucs, as he caught a batted ball and returned it 26 yards for a pick-six in the first quarter.

Olumba finished with four tackles, an interception and a pass deflection in the finale, which was just his latest strong effort this preseason. It’s the culmination of months of hard work, given that the former undrafted free agent has basically lived at the Cowboys’ facility since February.

Simply put, Olumba has worked hard enough to deserve a roster spot – but it’s not always as simple as that. There are still probably five corners ahead of him on the depth chart, and tough decisions have to be made when reducing a roster from 90 to 53.

Olumba has put in the work. Now we’ll see if the hard work pays off.

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