FRISCO, Texas – It's strange to think, but the Cowboys have now concluded their final practice before they play the Seahawks.
There will be walkthroughs and meetings and conversations before they play at CenturyLink Field on Thursday night, but they've finished with the heavy lifting until then.
With that in mind, here's a few more notes on what I'll be looking for from the third preseason game.
- We haven't seen Justin Durant play in these first two preseason games, but I wonder if that will change this week in Seattle. The staff has been very cautious in dealing with Durant due to the fact that he had no offseason program in order to get in shape. Since the team has returned from California, I am hearing that he has been getting more and more work as part of the defensive rotation and he has played well in the opportunities he has received.
- Tyrone Crawford's absence on Monday is likely to be an opportunity for Maliek Collins, who has been lining up as the under-tackle or three-technique. I expect we'll see plenty from Collins in Seattle in an effort to get him game ready for the season. Collins will be paired with Terrell McClain on the first defense and also Cedric Thornton – who is currently the backup. We haven't seen it much during camp, but at some point I expect we will see McClain lining up at that under-tackle spot to work with Thornton as well.
- It's about time for Jeff Heath to once again make an appearance -- not only on the practice field but in the defensive rotation at safety. Before his injury, Heath had been running with the second defense, which would pair him with J.J. Wilcox and also with rookie Kavon Frazier. Look for Heath to play more in the middle of the field, which would allow Wilcox to play down -- where he is better suited.
- I am looking forward to seeing DeMarcus Lawrence and Benson Mayowa rushing off the edge in Seattle. Lawrence was the starter at right end against the Dolphins last week while Mayowa sat out one more game. Given that I no longer have the opportunity to study extensive practice reps, my understanding of Mayowa's game is not where it needs to be. In asking a few questions, I have been told that his motor off the edge has been non-stop. With what we have seen from the defensive tackles getting inside pressure, Lawrence and Mayowa have the ability to squeeze that pocket and cause issues.
- With each passing day, I see Keith Smith making this roster. For the fullback position that he is currently playing Keith Smith is a better player than Rod Smith -- and that was even when Rod practicing. Keith Smith has a better feel for the position and it shows up in the way that he functions. I honestly believe that with more reps and technique work he could be an outstanding lead back. He is not afraid to stick his nose in the action, whereas I don't see that willingness from Rod Smith. There is toughness to Keith's game. Brad Sham said something interesting about Keith Smith in our broadcast last week. These defensive coaches believe that he could play a game at linebacker without any practice and not miss a beat – he's that smart of a player.
- I said on Cowboys Break, I do not believe we will see Lance Dunbar playing in Seattle, and I am not sure we will see him against Houston, either. We all know the type of player that Dunbar is and what he is capable of when on the roster. I always go back to what Jerry Jones said about Dunbar and how, as a staff, they would sit around on Monday mornings watching the tape wondering why he wasn't playing more. There was no question that Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan got the message from just how Dunbar was used during the first portion of last season and the success he enjoyed. It made Jones look smart with his observation. With this current running back position being so competitive, I am wondering if Dunbar already has a spot on the 53 regardless of whether he plays or not. If I were still in that room talking about these players – I would have a hard time putting Darius Jackson on the street and keeping Dunbar over him. What I do know is that this is going to be a long and difficult discussion on that final personnel meeting.