ARLINGTON, Texas – The players the Cowboys will be counting on to beat Tampa Bay on Sept. 9 were there – albeit mostly without pads and offering only moral support.
The guys actually on the field against Jacksonville had plenty to play for – in some cases, the guys who are vying for the final roster spots.
If not that, at least one of the practice spots was up for grabs Sunday at AT&T Stadium.
So let's dissect some of those players who stood out – one way or another – at every position.
QB: Garrett Gilbert – For the first time in the preseason, Gilbert led the offense into the end zone for a touchdown. Gilbert didn't start the game, but marched the backups down the field for a 75-yard drive and a TD pass to Aaron Parker. Gilbert might have grabbed back some momentum from Cooper Rush, who started but was ineffective in his first-quarter series.
RB: Brenden Knox – Someone had to fill in for Rico Dowdle and it was Knox who got the bulk of the carries. He had 11 carries for 47 yards and also caught three more passes for seven yards. Enough to make the team as the third running back? Probably not, but practice squad is a realistic option.
WR: Malik Turner – In a close battle with fifth-round pick Simi Fehoko, Turner had a strong day with three catches for 26 yards, including a leaping 16-yard grab. He's a special teams contributor but if he showed anything Sunday, it was his ability to step in and play more receiver.
TE: Nick Eubanks – Had a team-high five targets, catching three balls for 29 yards. The Cowboys will likely use a fourth tight end on the roster with Sean McKeon out. Eubanks might have done enough to stick around, at least for a while.
OL: Matt Farniok – Stepping in at center, Farniok handled the opportunity well. He played the majority of the game in the middle and he'll give the coaching staff something to evaluate as they make the final cutdowns.
DL: Ron'Dell Carter – He made the team a year ago but it'll be a close one again if he sticks around. Carter was active in the game, with a tackle for loss. He's likely battling with Bradlee Anae, who might have the edge with being a draft pick in 2020.
LB: Luke Gifford – He led the team with 11 tackles. If the Cowboys want to go light with just five linebackers, he'll be the odd man odd. But keeping six is common and if that happens, Gifford should be safe. His game performance Sunday might lift him over the top.
DB: Israel Mukuamu – If there was a doubt the rookie safety will make it, his second-quarter interception should help. It was the only pick by the Cowboys during the preseason. He's long, rangy, and has been physical for a player that converted from cornerback. Those talents could be attractive for other teams if he's released, so getting him to the practice squad doesn't seem likely. It would seem as if Mukuamu will be on the 53.