HOUSTON, Texas – From my vantage point in the broadcast booth at NRG Stadium, here were my main impressions from the Cowboys' 14-6 loss to the Texans.
This game gave us one last look into the Cowboys' options for their 53-man roster. Here's what I'm thinking after watching it:
· I had Charvarius Ward making this squad before this game was played tonight. Now that he's been traded to the Kansas City Chiefs, that leaves an available roster spot, which I feel will now be filled by Donovan Olumba over Duke Thomas and Marquez White. His length, athletic ability and aggressiveness showed up at a time where he needed it the most.
· There have been snaps where Jihad Ward has been close to making plays in practices and games. Tonight, things came together for him and he did a nice job of attacking the pocket with his rush. He was disruptive and disciplined in his approach. I am afraid that it might have come too late, but he has given these coaches and scouts something to think about.
· The catches were there for Lance Lenoir Jr., but the yardage wasn't. Where I thought Lenoir was able to put his best foot forward was on special teams -- not so much as a returner, but what he was able to do as a cover man. His determination to cover both punts and kickoffs was impressive. He showed physical toughness and wasn't afraid to throw his body around and that got my attention.
· I was waiting for Dorance Armstrong to have that type of game where he was able to put his opponent in some poor blocking positions. It wasn't until the second half where he was able to do just that. His first step was better and he actually showed more power than any of the other games he's played this season. There were a couple snaps where I liked what I saw from him in run defense, holding the point of attack. He is going to have to continue to develop his rush techniques, but his run defense, as well, if he's going to be part of the rotation.
· Better toughness from Dalton Schultz as a blocker. I told Brad Sham during the broadcast that I liked what the coaching staff did by using him as a fullback. They forced him to have to stick his nose in there and dig out linebackers. Up until this point, I hadn't seen that Stanford toughness which scout's respected about his game.
· This front office is going to have to make a tough decision on linebackers when it comes to the final roster. The question will be whether or not Chris Covington makes this team. I believe Justin March-Lillard has made this squad as the final linebacker, especially after the way he played in this game. Covington wasn't poor, but this is a position group that's really deep. With other spots needing attention they might not be able to keep him on the roster, and in talking to folks around the club that would bother them.
· I need to study the film but just from my first impression, they will keep Jeron Johnson over Tyree Robinson and Marqueston Huff. Johnson is a veteran that knows how to play the game from a mental and physical aspect. Robinson just doesn't have that yet, but in time could develop as a player. With the situation at safety, though, this club needs a veteran player that has been through the battles at that's exactly what Johnson has done. Getting him in football shape will be important but he can do it.
· Really impressive game from Caraun Reid at defensive tackle. This is back-to-back games where he's been explosive off the ball and strong at the point of attack. I didn't remember him being this disruptive at his other stops, but he sure showed up the short time he was here. It would have been nice if Reid had been in camp the entire time because I believe he would have had a shot at a roster spot with the way he performed.
· I know there are a lot of folks down on Cooper Rush at this moment but that's really unfair. I understand that it's his job to move the team, but to be honest, the lack of protection and a dependable running game has left him trying to make throws he has no business making. His desperation has affected his judgment -- which has forced him into mistakes. There were several passes where his receivers didn't help him with drops in key situations. As frustrated as Rush might be, this coaching staff has an idea what they have in him. My evaluation is that if he had to play with the starters his body of work would be improved.
· I am sorry, but I am no closer to understanding why Bo Scarbrough or Darius Jackson should be on the final roster? Coming into the game, I liked Jackson better overall -- but not to the point where I was willing to provide him a roster spot. I thought that Scarbrough ran with better toughness, but his balance wasn't as good. I also thought he fought the ball as a receiver and that bothered me. If I were putting together this squad, I would lean toward going with two running backs and a fullback to use the extra roster spot on a player that could help me on the game day roster.
· I don't know if this front office and coaching staff is worried about Cameron Fleming but I am. I don't see the same player that was in New England. Either they did a great job of protecting him as a blocker or I misevaluated him as a player. There have been too many snaps where backup defensive linemen have pushed him around and that has me concerned at the swing tackle spot. There must be a reason that he and Chaz Green have been splitting snaps in Tyron Smith's place.
· If you had a chance to see our Cut to 53 on DallasCowboys.com, we had Rico Gathers as our last player on the roster. The more I think about keeping four tight ends, the more I struggle with it. My gut feeling is that the front office will go with only three tight ends with Gathers not being one of them and they will keep an extra player at linebacker or defensive line.