HOUSTON, Texas – Before we kick this game off from NRG Stadium, I wanted to take a last look at the roster battles that figure to shape up in tonight's preseason finale.
By this point, the Cowboys have probably settled on 50 of their roster spots, give or take. This game is really about making one last impression on the few remaining spots up for grabs. On top of that, you have to remember how injuries and other variables are going to play a part.
Putting a roster together is like a jigsaw puzzle, and the preseason finale is one final piece. The Cowboys will have to weigh things like injuries, special teams contributions, talent and versatility. Forty-eight hours from now, we'll know what their thought process was.
Here are a few things to consider before then:
· This will be the final chance that Lance Lenoir has to take away a roster spot from Deonte Thompson. Jason Garrett admitted that Lenoir should not have been at fault for the first muffed punt when Byron Jones accidently ran into him last week. On Lenoir's other fumble Garrett wasn't as forgiving, saying that Lenoir should have just let the ball go instead of trying to make a "Willie Mays catch" over his head. A guy to keep an eye on for a practice squad spot is Dres Anderson. Despite having limited practices he is the one guy that has shown up, and I would not be surprised if he once again played well against the Texans.
· Rico Gathers has played better than Dalton Schultz in my opinion, and if it came down to just keeping three tight ends, he'd be my selection over Schultz. I believe there is a chance that this staff will carry four tight ends on the roster, not wanting to expose Gathers or Schultz to the waiver wire. NFL general managers generally don't like to release draft picks because it looks bad and they fear for their jobs. This situation is different. The general manager here is also the owner of the team and job security is not an issue.
· Chaz Green and Cameron Fleming were splitting snaps at left tackle during practice on Tuesday. Which made me question whether Green is still in the mix for a roster spot? Fleming hasn't been great, and if you play him during the season you will need help, much like New England did. At this point I have Kadeem Edwards on the squad. His work against the Cardinals gave me some hope that we could see some further development from him, strength-wise, and he could become a dependable backup one day. This is also a group where we could see multiple waiver claims or trades for depth.
· Mike White was able to show me some things against the Cardinals. His poise and quickness of delivery were overall better. I would not be one bit surprised if he gets the entire Texans game to improve on what we saw. On a side note, Jason Garrett said that he's comfortable with Cooper Rush as his backup for the season. As much as fans don't believe him remember: it's his job on the line and not yours.
· Darius Jackson has outplayed Bo Scarbrough in my book, which means that Scarbrough will make the final roster. I haven't asked anyone in the front office where Scarbrough was on their draft board, but there is a good chance that he was higher than where he was selected. If that's the case, then I expect that they're willing to keep him on the squad and like Mike White let him develop.
· With the defensive line, I think the question is whether to carry Datone Jones on the roster and make him inactive each week during his injury. Or the Cowboys could carry him for one day, then put him on injured reserve. We're starting to see him working on the field with Britt Brown, so that's a positive sign that maybe it's not a long-term injury. A final roster spot could come down to Kony Ealy or Daniel Ross. With Ealy, you get a player with position flexibility at tackle and end. Ross is just strictly a tackle. If you ask me who I think has played better, I'd say Ross and he would get that spot in my eyes. But Ealy has performed well at various times in his career and the Cowboys might be hoping for just that.
· The final linebacker spot could come down to Chris Covington and Justin March-Lillard. During practice on Tuesday, March-Lillard took some snaps with the first defense in place of Sean Lee. We had been seeing Joe Thomas in that spot, but the coaches likely want to see how March-Lillard would react to the situation. I'd like to have believed that, if Covington had not become ill during camp, this job would be his.
· I am caught between whether they keep nine or ten defensive backs. I am leaning toward nine, with five corners and four safeties. I think those final spots coming down to Charvarius Ward, Tyree Robinson and Jeron Johnson looking to fill those spots. The reason they would keep Johnson is his familiarity with Kris Richard and the fact that he's a veteran player. Robinson got work with the first unit since Kavon Frazier missed practice on Tuesday, so they're still looking at him. Ward could make the squad, but after the cuts and the scouts have a chance to go through them his roster spot could be in discussion. All three will see a great deal of playing time against the Texans to sort this out.