IRVING, Texas – The locker room at Valley Ranch got a little less crowded Tuesday afternoon.
The Cowboys released nine players, moved two to injured reserve and placed another on the IR/PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list on Tuesday in compliance with the first of two NFL cut deadlines.
The first round of cuts were to kicker Brett Maher, quarterback Nick Stephens, wide receivers Anthony Amos, Eric Rogers and Jared Green, tight end Colin Cochart, guard Dennis Godfrey, cornerback Brandon Underwood and linebacker Deon Lacey.
Defensive end Tyrone Crawford and guard Ryan Cook, who were lost to injury earlier in training camp, were placed on injured reserve. Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jay Ratliff was moved to the team's PUP list.
The Monday morning release of defensive tackle Jeris Pendleton give the Cowboys 10 total cuts to this point.
"It's something we take very seriously. I speak with every player who we release. I'm the person who gives them that news," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "And then whether they're an offensive player or a defensive player, they'll talk to the coordinator and the position coach and maybe the assistant position coach."
These latest roster moves give the Cowboys 75 active players, as mandated by NFL rules. The team must trim the roster down to 53 – the final number allowed for the regular season – by Saturday evening.
A cursory look through the first batch of cuts shows the Cowboys focused primarily on offense in order to reach the required 75 roster spots. Seven of the nine cuts made Tuesday were on the offensive side of the ball.
Almost all of those losses will directly impact Thursday night's preseason finale against Houston, which promises to feature almost no starters.
"You'd like to be able to keep all the guys," Garrett said. "You'd like to not have to make the cut down today and you'd like to say 'All you guys are playing Thursday night and we're going to give you a chance to show and play,' as opposed to the end of the game, where you played three plays and we're making a big evaluation on just a handful big of snaps. Unfortunately that's not how the whole thing works."
The release of Stephens gives the Cowboys just three quarterbacks heading into the game. With starter Tony Romo guaranteed to sit out, it's likely that Alex Tanney will see as much as two quarters' worth of playing time – if not more.
Three cuts at the wide receiver position also promise to give more reps to what is suddenly a much smaller group. Starting receivers Dez Bryant and Miles Austin are sure to sit against the Texans, and it's doubtful Terrance Williams or Dwayne Harris will play too long, either. [embedded_ad] That leaves plenty of game time to be split up between four remaining receivers: Cole Beasley, Anthony Armstrong, Tim Benford and Danny Coale.
Cochart finds himself as the odd man out on a team that looks likely to keep as many as four tight ends. Second-year tight end Andre Smith was retained and will have one more opportunity to prove himself after making an impressive 27-yard reception in the preseason win against Cincinnati.
Godfrey was with the team for roughly three weeks after offensive line injuries forced the Cowboys to sign him from the Arena Football League's San Jose SaberCats during their stay in Oxnard, Calif.
Lacey's dismissal drops the team's linebacker corps to nine players, which will drop even further when the starters take a seat for the Houston game. That leaves the competition for the final linebacker spots to Cameron Lawrence, Caleb McSurdy, DeVonte Holloman, Taylor Reed and Brandon Magee – assuming Magee has recovered from a concussion suffered early last week.
Underwood had brought up the tail end of the cornerback competition alongside rookie Xavier Brewer for the duration of this training camp. It's hard to say for sure, but it's interesting to note that Brewer nabbed an interception during his last onfield action before the cuts.
The release of Maher shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, but it's worth pointing out that dismissing the backup kicker likely means starter Dan Bailey will be called on for a full night of action against the Texans.