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ARLINGTON, Texas — There is no such thing as a preseason dress rehearsal in the Mike McCarthy era, but that doesn't mean their final contest of August was devoid of headlines. The top one involved the decision to trade for quarterback Trey Lance, a former third-overall pick of the San Francisco 49ers, but it was of course not expected that Lance would appear against the Las Vegas Raiders only one day later.
His addition does mean the looming release of Will Grier, who will hit waivers soon, but not before a four-quarter farewell tour on Saturday evening — one that did not see Cooper Rush, the incumbent QB2, play a single snap.
And while the Cowboys say goodbye to Grier, there are many who seek to avoid the same fate as roster cuts approach next week, and the best way to do that was to leave good things on film against the Raiders.
The players below did exactly that.
Dak Prescott, OC-for-hire
How on Earth could a player shine from the sideline, you ask? Simple. When that player is calling the offensive plays for the entirety of the game, as Prescott did, and the first drive results in a touchdown to give the Cowboys an early lead and a healthy amount ofpoints on the evening (showing just how comfortable the franchise QB is in calling plays), he deserves a nod on this list, and especially when that includes going for it on fourth down … and converting.
Will Grier, QB
Grier came out ready to play, hoping to go out of Dallas on a high note. His first offensive drive was an 11-play, 75-yard drive that took less than six minutes to produce the game's first touchdown — the young QB running it into the end zone himself on a two-yard scoot (his first of two rushing TDs) after completing four of his five passes for 44 yards on the drive. He'd go on to put on a a show both in the air and on the ground (2 rushing TDs, 2 passing TDs), selling himself for a possible landing spot elsewhere in the league. Grier looked like every bit the QB the Cowboys were hoping he'd become before they moved on to Lance.
Hunter Luepke, FB
The preseason, and training camp, were dominated by Rico Dowdle and Deuce Vaughn taking the lead in the battle for the right to back up Tony Pollard but, in the August finale, it was Luepke getting plenty of opportunities to stand out. The undrafted rookie started the contest and helped Grier lead the Cowboys down the field on more than one occasion en route to being the primary ball carrier against the Raiders, and one who showed his ability as a receiver out of the backfield as well — producing 97 yards from scrimmage (35 rushing, 62 receiving) and a receiving TD … before halftime. He'd add to this tally in the second half as a true flex player.
Luke Schoonmaker, TE
The rookie second-round pick has continued to make strides after making his training camp debut in mid-August, delivering two first-down catches against the Seahawks one week ago before grabbing his first-ever preseason touchdown against the Raiders. It was a nine-yard reception from Grier early in the second quarter to give the Cowboys a 14-3 lead, and serves as a hint of what's to come from the former Wolverine.
Mazi Smith, DT
A lot has been said about the rookie having an up-and-down training camp and preseason, but one need look no further than the Raiders' first offensive drive to see what Smith can be, after the first-round pick blew up a rushing attempt on third-and-1 that became a two-yard loss and an eventual punt on fourth-and-3. It was easily his best outing thus far.
Dontario Drummond, WR
In a stacked WRs room in Dallas, Drummond has had one hell of time making a name for himself when others like Jalen Brooks and Jalen Cropper have fought it out on the bubble, while Jalen Tolbert and KaVontae Turpin join Simi Fehoko in the matchup for WR4/5. But, on Saturday, Drummond took the bull by the horns and led the team in receiving for much of the first half; and that's definitely worth something, even if that something is another go at the practice squad.
Simi Fehoko, WR
Speaking of Fehoko, he also showed up against Las Vegas. The veteran wideout is doing all he can to try and secure a roster spot in the wake of Jalen Tolbert being named WR4, and being a key focus of Grier's targets in the second quarter (three catches for 30 yards before three minutes had elapsed in the quarter) showed Fehoko can impact games as well when he's healthy, locked in and targeted heavily.
Devin Harper, LB
The loss of DeMarvion Overshown looms large over Dan Quinn's defensive plan, as far as both role and depth goes, but Harper has emerged as a candidate to help resolve the latter. Harper has come on strong in the wake of Malik Jefferson's foot injury, and his play against the Raiders helps add justification to the question of if he's done enough to earn a spot on the 53-man roster.
Brandon Aubrey, K
Aubrey missed a 59-yard field goal in the first half, but just barely, and he had the distance in his leg to make it. He'd get another opportunity in the fourth quarter and capitalized, giving the Cowboys a 31-16 lead in the process. He made all four of his extra points as well, having missed just one all preseason, and has rightfully earned the chance to start the season as the Cowboys kicker. All he has to do now is remain consistent and maybe, just maybe, the issue at kicker will finally be resolved.
Tie - Junior Fehoko (DL), Malik Davis (RB), Tyron Johnson (WR)
It's been a slow camp for Fehoko, the rookie fourth-round pick, due largely to his battle with a shoulder injury that sidelined him against the Jaguars in the preseason opener. Having worked his way back onto the practice field and into the mix against the Seahawks and now the Raiders, Fehoko's motor is picking up steam ahead of roster cuts. Fehoko challenged Harper, Scott and Jabril Cox for the most tackles against the Raiders; and showed flashes of being able to disrupt plays on occasion.
Davis found his groove against the Seahawks and, after Luepke stole the show in the first half against the Raiders, hurdled (literally) his way into the spotlight in the second half. It feels as if Davis has solidified his value as a player the Cowboys should want to keep in Dallas, even if it's on the practice squad as insurance against injury as he continues to develop behind Pollard and Dowdle (as far as comparable backs go).
Well hello there, Tyron Johnson. A name that hasn't much been uttered this summer exploded onto the stage in the final minutes of the preseason finale, with Johnson quickly adding 90 yards on five catches before the contest was all said-and-done. His play pushed Grier to more than 300 yards passing on the evening, and the 27-year-old journeyman certainly did not go quietly into the night. It's much more than a simple uphill climb for him to make the roster, but did he just enter the conversation for a possible role on the practice squad? You decide, or rather the Cowboys will.