ARLINGTON, Texas – For just about every key player on the Cowboys roster, Thursday's game with the Texans will be nothing more than a front-row seat to the preseason finale.
Neither team will likely play any of its starters. Still, it's an important game for several backup and reserve players who are still trying to solidify a spot on the roster or their role on the team.
Once again, the staff of DallasCowboys.com will focus on two players each to evaluate throughout the game, followed by a review of their performances afterward.
Let's check out the staff writers will be following closely in Thursday's game with the Texans.
Cole Beasley – This should be the first game action for Beasley since he suffered the foot sprain against Oakland earlier in the preseason. That night against the Raiders, Beasley was nearly unstoppable making several plays from the slot including an adjusting, high ball catch from Kyle Orton in the red zone. Beasley begin to work his way back into practice on Monday, then on Tuesday received a full load to once again get him into the flow. In my view, as he sits on the roster, he is the fifth receiver with Anthony Armstrong trying to grab that final spot from him. With the injuries to this team and the possibility of having to go long at a position or two, I am not sure how they would be able to carry six receivers on the active roster. Another situation that you also have to factor in is how Garrett uses his "12" personnel package. With Jason Witten, James Hanna and Gavin Escobar, all three of these guys can play out of the slot which means less reasons for them to have to carry the extra receiver.
Micah Pellerin – I might be totally off base here but I don't believe so but Micah Pellerin is fighting for a roster spot on this club and how he plays on Thursday night will sway that decision one way or another. Nick Eatman and I have discussed this through our work on DallasCowboys.com that Pellerin's play through the last three weeks has put him in a position where he could make this roster as a free agent. His skill in coverage along with his physical style of play has got him noticed by the front office and this coaching staff. Where Pellerin has made the most improvement in his game throughout the training camp is with his technique and you can truly tell that by working with Jerome Henderson and Joe Baker, he has become a much better player from what I had observed in the Spring. He is doing a much better job of staying in position defending the route but what I have also noticed that he has done a much better job of finishing the play. He is a highly competitive kid and you can see that he hates to get beat. He did struggle some in the Miami game but since then, he has been in nice form.
Anthony Armstrong, WR:Having covered this guy when he was just a rookie with the Dallas Desperados, I have no problems admitting that I'm rooting for him to make this team. Not only did we go to the same high school (albeit 7-8 years apart) and share a few Arena League stories, but to me, Armstrong absolutely goes about his business the right way. He works extremely hard to improve. He understands the game and the business side of it. But he never stops smiling and keeps the perfect attitude throughout this grueling process. Right now, Armstrong is definitely on the bubble. He needs to either be better than Cole Beasley or prove to the coaches that he simply can't be cut. Armstrong needs a great game on special teams and a long pass on offense to showcase his speed surely wouldn't hurt.
Jeff Heath:When the rookie safety blasted the ballcarrier last week to force a fumble against the Bengals, a consensus feeling trickled through the press box last Saturday night: Jeff Heath just made the team. And I still think that's the case. Now, I'm going to watch him Thursday night to see if he's got a chance to make the 46. Forget the 53, Heath made it. Now we need to see if he's good enough to actually suit up and play come Sept. 8 against the Giants. I want to see how the Cowboys use Heath on special teams. I want to see how he does in extended time at safety. I think the team feels good enough about his potential to keep him around. But now we need to see if he's ready to contribute right away.
Alex Tanney, QB: I thought the Cowboys might have wanted to use him sparingly Thursday to avoid other teams from seeing him, but with Nick Stephens released, it appears there might be a heavy dose of Tanney on Thursday. The Cowboys will have a difficult decision to make on the 53-man roster if Tanney plays exceptionally well. I want to see if he can play his way onto this roster.
Sterling Moore, CB: Moore was one of the most physical corners during training camp, but he hasn't stood out as much during the game. I'd be surprised to see him left off the 53-man roster, but he needs to make some more plays on the ball and demonstrate that same physicality in the games to ensure he's safe from the cuts, with other corners behind him playing well.
Danny Coale, WR:If ever there was a time for Coale to show his stuff, this would be it. It's a given that Dez Bryant and Miles Austin are going to sit against Houston, and Terrance Williams and Dwayne Harris probably won't spend much time on the field, either. Coale said Tuesday that he's finally getting back into some sort of comfort level after soreness in his knee sidelined him during training camp, and hopefully that shows in the game. Cole Beasley has probably already solidified his spot on the roster, and Anthony Armstrong is right behind him if the team decides to keep six wide receivers. A big night from Coale might be the only thing that saves him from the roster spot chopping block. [embedded_ad]
Cameron Lawrence, LB:Same logic applies. We've seen Lawrence on special teams and in some playing time, but the Texans game promises to be a much bigger audition. We know that Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Ernie Sims and Justin Durant have secured roster spots. DeVonte Holloman is a safe bet, given his fantastic preseason. That leaves probably one roster spot to fight for between Lawrence, Taylor Reed , Caleb McSurdy and Brandon Magee – if the Cowboys keep any of them at all. Thursday night would be a good time to show what all Lawrence can bring to the table.