FRISCO, Texas – Another week, another job audition.
As we sit here heading into the weekend, it's hard to say for sure who the Cowboys are going to play against Arizona on Sunday. What we can say, though, is that whoever goes out on that field will be in a fight to impress this coaching staff.
Here's my preview of this weekend's game, as we try to narrow down the roster battles the Cowboys are working through going into the final week of the preseason.
· Cole Beasley and Deonte Thompson returned to practice this week. Both started out well in the Oxnard portion of practice but missed time in the last half. Beasley is a solid make on the final 53-man roster, with Thompson's spot more up in the air. Lance Lenoir has been the steadiest of the young guys trying to make the squad, and in my book he currently holds final spot. Mekale McKay is a different body type of the other receivers and at times has practiced well but not to the level of Lenoir. Noah Brown is likely in danger of losing his roster spot -- not because of his ability but a lack of practice time and the emergence of Lenoir.
· Rico Gathers continues to put good practices together in order to earn a roster spot. Gathers' ability to catch the ball has never been in question, but his understanding of assignments has. Gathers has made improvements in that area from what I have noticed while studying practice. There are far less plays where he is blocking air and more times where he has his body on the right man, taking him out of the play. I expect that we will see the coaching staff taxing Gathers these next two games with plenty of snaps to see if he has in fact improved mentally.
· This is a big game for Kadeem Edwards. Like Joe Looney last week against the Bengals, I see Edwards playing the majority of this game against the Cardinals. If Zack Martin were to miss the Panthers contest, I would have been careful of how much to play Edwards. But with Martin coming out and saying he's not missing that game, it means I can get a great look at Edwards these next two weeks. I am getting closer to believing that Edwards has earned a roster spot, but that's without the benefit of knowing what the league landscape looks like. Hopefully Edwards' play will keep me from having to move on from him.
· One of the better weeks of practice for Mike White, who is still behind Cooper Rush for the backup quarterback spot. I had always believed that this staff was going to keep White on the roster, but with some questions about the availability of some players, that might be up for discussion. I would be shocked if White wasn't on the roster -- just because you protect quarterbacks for different reasons. Dane Brugler said it the best: they're like lottery tickets in that if you hit on one, it can make your team rich. There are other positions where front offices are more willing to move on, but not from a quarterback -- especially with all the effort that went into drafting Mike White.
· Bo Scarbrough and Darius Jackson are still in a battle for that third running back spot. Last week, Jackson was able to close the ground on Scarbrough with a solid game against the Bengals when not much was going right for the offense. Scarbrough got nicked up in the game but has since returned to practice and should play these next two weeks. Like quarterback, keep an eye on this position as one they may go light with two running backs and one fullback in order to save a roster spot. This is a position that's hard to call at this moment.
· I would like to see Randy Gregory get a few pass rushes at defensive end, but with the amount of work that he's been receiving, I am okay with his progress. On the other hand, I'd like to see more from Taco Charlton, Dorance Armstrong and Charles Tapper. Charlton is in this group because I want to see if he can put back-to-back productive games together. There has been a history where he's played well, then fallen off the map for a couple of games. I would like to see more consistency from him, as well as build his confidence for the upcoming season. At this point, Tapper is the odd man out but some quality snaps could help his value to the squad or another team.
· It's a shame that Leighton Vander Esch is missing these practices and game action, because as a group, these linebackers are shining. This will be a big game for Chris Covington after missing practices during the Oxnard portion of camp. Since his return, Covington has been playing at the strong side and hasn't looked bad. Covington is going to get plenty of chances these next two games, but where he's going to need to prove his value is on special teams. With Damien Wilson and Joe Thomas on the roster, the SAM linebacker appears to be in good shape. Covington will need to force himself onto this roster by playing with speed, finishing on the ball and not making mental mistakes. He has shown the ability to make plays when given the opportunity but time is becoming short.
· It appears that there still is a battle for both cornerback and safety spots on this roster. The front office brought in Jeron Johnson and Dominick Sanders to help at safety with Tyree Robinson and Kam Kelly. Johnson played for Kris Richard in Seattle and got a look just on that reason alone. Robinson played well against the Bengals and practiced well this week. It would make sense to have him on the roster over the veteran from a cap purpose, but the front office might not agree with me on that. Duke Thomas, Donovan Olumba and Charvarius Ward are still in the mix, and I am still waiting for one of them to take ahold of a job -- but that just hasn't been the case. This is a position where one or two of these players will cut themselves if performances don't improve.