ARLINGTON, Texas – The regulars on the Cowboys' revamped defensive line watched Thursday's preseason finale against the Houston Texans, but the players fighting to be part of that rotation cemented what became evident in training camp:
The defensive line is the deepest area on the roster.
The Cowboys rested several projected starters and key contributors in their 21-14 win at AT&T Stadium: Tyrone Crawford, DeMarcus Lawrence, Nick Hayden, Jeremy Mincey, rookie Randy Gregory and Jack Crawford. Greg Hardy also was granted an excused absence to be with his pregnant girlfriend during labor, Garrett said.
Several other linemen gave Garrett, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and other Cowboys officials a strong final impression Thursday.
"It's a very competitive position and there are a lot of guys that seem to do a good job in this ball game and show up to make some plays against the run, some plays affecting the quarterback," Garrett said. "We'll go watch that tape and that'll definitely be one of the positions that we'll have to make some hard decisions on."
Five players had three tackles in varying amounts of playing time: defensive tackles Davon Coleman and Ken Bishop, as well as defensive ends Lavar Edwards, Ben Gardner and rookie Ryan Russell. Defensive tackle Terrell McClain had two tackles and was one of three players who registered a sack (Edwards, Russell).
Russell's sack and forced fumble set up a Gus Johnson touchdown run in the second half.
It's uncertain how many linemen the Cowboys will keep – possibly anywhere from eight to 10. They'll receive a roster exception for Hardy during his four-game NFL suspension that goes into effect Saturday at 3 p.m.
With seven or eight spots seemingly set, there isn't room for everybody.
It's a good problem for the Cowboys to have, though it's never easy trimming the roster when so many players have sacrificed for months for a chance at making the team.
"I think there's tough decisions, I really do," Marinelli said.