In the fourth and final preseason game, the front office and coaches have a clear plan on what they want to accomplish. The first item is to rest as many of your frontline players as possible. The second order of business is to remain as healthy as possible. The only thing worse than losing a starter to injury is to lose a backup that you were counting on for depth. And, the final objective is to confirm how you're going to set your 53-man roster and eight practice squad spots before these games start to count.
Having been in this situation many times before, you want the plan to come together without a hitch and then move on. When I walked into my office at Valley Ranch on Wednesday morning, in my mind I had an idea of who would make up the players on this Dallas Cowboys roster, but I felt confident that I needed another game to make my final decisions.
Against the Dolphins, some actually played themselves onto the team, while others also played themselves off the team. I have to be honest. I didn't expect running back Lance Dunbar to rush for over 100 yards, return punts or even make a tackle on kickoff coverage. Was Dunbar on my 53 this morning? No, he wasn't. Was I hoping to get him to the practice squad? Yes, I was.
Now, the decision becomes a little tougher for Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett. Can this team afford to carry four running backs on the roster when you might need an extra tight end for Jason Witten or a safety for Danny McCray? With the ages of Jay Ratliff, Kenyon Coleman, Marcus Spears and Jason Hatcher, would it be wise to try and keep, say, Ben Bass or Robert Callaway in the mix?
I believe that this team is going to carry six wide receivers with Andre Holmes getting the nod over Danny Coale. This is no slap in the face at Coale, but his foot injury in OTAs cost him an opportunity to win this job outright. Holmes showed up on special teams and Coale did not. With teams around the league needing wide receivers, the front office is going to have to sweat out putting Coale on waivers to see if he makes it back to the practice squad on Saturday.
What seemed pretty clear about this roster at 8:00 a.m. Wednesday now has some real questions to be sorted out. In this league, they only let you keep 53 players on the roster and sometimes the releases are no brainers and other times you feel like you're going to get sick at your stomach. Whatever the case, there will be some players who will no longer be on this football team while others will find their way on the roster or the practice squad.
The first cut was not the problem for this front office. Now comes the tricky part because some players just found a way to make your decisions a little more difficult.