IRVING, Texas - The 53-man roster has to be finalized by 5 p.m. Saturday, and Parcells, along with the rest of his coaching staff, have a lot of decisions to make over the next two days.
Many of those decisions, and maybe some of the hardest, lie within the wide receiver position.
With Terrell Owens, Terry Glenn and Patrick Crayton assured the top three spots, bubble players like Miles Austin, Terrance Copper, Skyler Green, Sam Hurd and Jamaica Rector will be holding their breath in anticipation of the final decisions.
Green, Hurd and Rector seem to be sitting atop the slipperiest part of the bubble. They could fall to either side.
With a less than spectacular showing on punt returns throughout the preseason, including a fumble Thursday night that the Vikings recovered, Green's chances look iffy even if he is the team's fourth-round draft choice. Parcells has said Green's receiving skills are underdeveloped and his best chance to make the team is as a return specialist.
Hurd and Rector led the team in receiving Thursday night. Rector had eight catches for 93 yards, and Hurd six for 110 yards.
Parcells mentioned after Saturday's game against the 49ers that he's been impressed with Rector, and that he's definitely "in the mix." The fact the Rector was back to receive the first punt of the evening may indicate Parcells was testing his versatility. Rector didn't have a chance to prove anything, however, since the punt landed out of bounds.
Hurd had several key catches during overtime, including ones for 14, 19 and 33 yards. But he also had one roll off his outstretched hands in the end zone for what could have been the game-winning catch in overtime.
"Some good, some bad," Parcells said when asked about Hurd's performance.
Crayton started the game Thursday, his first game back after rehabilitating a high right ankle sprain. He had four catches for 35 yards, with a long of 12 yards.
The Kicking Coach?
After Mike Vanderjagt missed the first of two field goals that could've won the game in overtime, this one from 33 yards, Owens walked up to the forlorn kicker to offer a bit of unexpected advice.
"He was critiquing my form," Vanderjagt said after the game. "Saying that he felt like I didn't finish. He's cool. He's just offering support. He's a lot better teammate than people make him out to be. But tonight he became the kicking coach. And he was right in what he said."
Safety Keith Davis returned after having surgery to remove the bullet from his thigh last Friday, but he still didn't start.
For the third preseason game in a row, rookie Pat Watkins was on the field with the first team at kickoff.
Davis recorded one tackle on special teams.
Deeper in the depth chart, rookie safety Abram Elam had an impressive night. Elam seemed to be all over the field and had three tackles, one sack for a two-yard loss, a quarterback hit and impressive pass defense - stats that bode well for a player who will be awaiting his fate with the Cowboys over the next couple of days.
Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells has said many times in the last month several teams around the league have expressed interest in acquiring his players.
Apparently, one of them was tight end Sean Ryan, who was traded to the Jets Thursday for a seventh-round draft pick in 2007.
Ryan was considered the fourth tight end for the Cowboys, who already have Pro Bowler Jason Witten, rookie Anthony Fasano and fifth-year pro Ryan Hannam, who was added through free agency this past spring.
First-year tight end Tony Curtis is the now fourth tight end on the current roster and has flashed some potential here in the preseason, catching two passes for 50 yards. Curtis spent last season on the practice squad, and could end up there again if he is released this weekend.
Another player in the mix is fullback Lousaka Polite, who can also play the H-back, tight-end spot in short-yardage situations. Keeping Polite would probably allow the Cowboys to retain just three true tight ends on the 53-man roster.
Ryan becomes the second player the Cowboys have traded in the last two weeks. The club sent linebacker Scott Shanle to the Saints for a seventh-round pick in 2007.
In two seasons, Ryan played just nine games, including two starts, but has not had a catch in a regular-season game.
Prior to Thursday's kickoff, the Cowboys' players and coaches attended the annual Kickoff Luncheon in Dallas, benefiting the Dallas Cowboys Courage House at Happy Hill Farm Academy Home, a residential school which serves at-risk boys and girls.
Funds raised from the Luncheon help provide food, clothing, housing, private education and vocational training for Happy Hill Farm students. On behalf of the Cowboys, owner and general manager Jerry Jones presented Happy Hill Farm with a $50,000 check.
Jones also addressed the players and thanked the audience for their support.
"I don't know how many Pro Bowlers there are sitting here, I really don't," Jones said. "And I don't know how many games we're going to win. But I will tell you that you have exhibited as high a character beginning back in the off-season as any team that I've ever been associated with in my short time in college and my 17 years with the Dallas Cowboys."
Wide receiver Terry Glenn and cornerback Terence Newman were voted the 2005 Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year, respectively. Glenn ranked first in the NFC and second in the NFL in yards per catch (18.3), and 49 of his 62 receptions picked up first downs.
Newman finished third on the team with 70 tackles and had a career-high 15 passes defensed. The Cowboys' 2003 first-round pick also tied for second with three interceptions.
- Seven players did not play Thursday night - offensive tackle Flozell Adams, wide receivers Miles Austin and Damarius Bilbo, quarterback Matt Baker, linebacker Carl-Johan Bjork, guard/center Matt Tarullo and defensive end Stephen Bowen.
- Despite playing 75 minutes, the two teams combined for just eight penalties - four each. The Cowboys were flagged for 40 yards in penalties.
- Tyson Thompson had 151 all-purpose yards Thursday night, including 56 rushing yards on 10 carries. He also caught four passes for 16 yards, including the game-tying touchdown in the final minute. Thompson also had two kickoff returns for 79 yards, with a 46-yard runback.
- With another eight catches for 93 yards, wide receiver Jamaica Rector finished the preseason with a team-high 20 catches for 245 yards. Sam Hurd had 15 receptions for 200 yards.
- Rookie Jason Hatcher recorded another half-sack Thursday night, giving him a team-high 2 ½ sacks for the preseason.
Despite the tie, Cowboys finished undefeated in the preseason for the first time since 1985, when the club went 4-0 and eventually won the NFC East . . . The Cowboys have not tied in a preseason game since 1993, when they tied Detroit, 13-13 in London . . . The Cowboys have not tied in a regular-season game since 1969 against San Francisco . . . The Cowboys had won five straight preseason finales before Thursday night's tie, dating back to the 2001 season . . . Ron Hill, a former area and regional scout for the Cowboys, was named NFL vice president of football operations Thursday. Hill started his 26-year NFL career with the Cowboys in 1979, and went on to work as a scout of player personnel executive for the Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars and Atlanta Falcons.