ARLINGTON, Texas. – The Cowboys rested most of their starters and key players, but a few notable players were in uniform to face the Texans.
Before the game, staff writers of DallasCowboys.com picked two players each to watch throughout the game. Here is the review following Thursday's game at AT&T Stadium.
Jameill Showers: It was the Dustin Vaughan show on Thursday night, which meant no Showers at quarterback for the first time in preseason. Head coach Jason Garrett said they hoped to get Showers a few snaps in the game but wound up sticking with Vaughan, the second-year quarterback they spent a year developing on the active roster in 2014. Showers was involved on multiple special teams units, though, including personal protector duties again on the punt team. He also made his fourth special teams stop of the preseason in the first half and threw a block in the fourth quarter that helped spring Lucky Whitehead for a 33-yard gain.
Keith Smith: Smith was active yet again at linebacker, tying for the team high with four tackles and also recovering a fumble for a touchdown that was nullified; however, the play set up a Gus Johnson 21-yard touchdown run a play later. Smith also continued working on multiple special teams units, his primary duty if he's able to grab one of the final 53-man roster spots.
Gus Johnson: He had arguably the best offensive play of the night, taking a toss off right tackle and skirting up the sideline for a 21-yard touchdown. It was a nice highlight, and it showcased Johnson's patience and footwork. That was just one carry out of 16, though, and the other 15 weren't quite as pretty. Johnson averaged just 3.1 yards per carry on his non-scoring carries, and he couldn't seem to get past the first level. That's nitpicking, since he did score a really nifty touchdown. But it wasn't as impressive a night as I was expecting.
Ben Gardner: I don't envy the people who have to make the decision between the likes of Gardner, Lavar Edwards and Ryan Russell. All three looked solid. Gardner didn't record a sack, but he was certainly disruptive with two tackles for loss, a handful of quarterback hurries and a quarterback hit. His pressure on 3rd-and-7 broke up a well-positioned screen pass and killed the Texans' first drive of the night. It's going to be an agonizing wait for the second-year pass rusher to learn his fate.
Ryan Russell:The defensive line position won't be easy to cut down, and Thursday's preseason finale didn't help matters for the decision-makers. Russell was included in that mix, and had the officials ruled the play correctly, his third-quarter sack-fumble would've resulted in a go-ahead touchdown. The Cowboys did score on the next play on offense. Russell was active on his pressure and had a couple of nice run-stops. To me, he's made the team because he's made great progress, he's got position flex and his draft status usually warrants these guys getting the benefit of the doubt. Russell got himself off the bubble in my opinion.
Geoff Swaim: The Cowboys only had two tight ends in uniform, so after Gavin Escobar played the entire first half, the rookie seventh-round pick got most of the reps in the second half. XX. Swaim was on the bubble of making this team coming into the game. Personally, I think he was on the roster and needed another fringe player to knock him off. If that happened, it wasn't that noticeable, so heading into Saturday's roster cuts, the rookie from Texas should have a good chance of making the team as the fourth tight end.
Shane McDermott: He took over in the mid-second quarter for starter Mackenzy Bernadeau and once again had a solid showing. There were several snaps where Ben Malena and Gus Johnson were able to have nice runs off blocks where he was able to secure his man along the line or on the 2nd level. I thought his pass protection was outstanding as well he when was uncovered and was asked to help across the pocket - bouncing from his left to his right as Dustin Vaughan delivered a strike down the field. There is no question that with his play this training camp that he secured a spot on this practice squad.
Lavar Edwards:Before the ball was even kicked off this evening I had Edwards on my final 53 man roster and I still believe that is the case. The question for him is whether the front office and coaches feel the same way as I do because there was some good play from Ryan Russell and Ben Gardner as well. I thought that Edwards was good in this game but I have to admit that I was expecting more from his off that edge as a rusher. He didn't win as many of the one-on-one battles that I had seen him have in practices and games. He had some nice snaps against the run but now I am curious if that is going to be enough.