The fourth preseason game is never one to give you an indication how the team will play in the regular season. Just about every starter and key player will be sitting out, not even wearing pads.
But that just means there are four quarters of football for the rest of the guys that are fighting for their lives, either to make the roster, the practice squad or just to get noticed by other teams if they happen to get released.
This won’t be a big game for many players already on the roster, but could mean everything to some of the others.
Our staff writers each picked two players to watch as the Cowboys wrap up the preseason Thursday night against Tampa Bay.
Mitch Hyatt: He will likely not make the final roster even though this club could use an extra offensive tackle behind Cam Fleming. As much as a struggle it has been for Hyatt this training camp he has improved during the practices. Hyatt just isn’t strong enough to play now but that’s not to say he can’t develop some strength like Connor Williams has. Hyatt is playing against the Buccaneers tonight to finish off the preseason in a good light and get himself ready to what lies ahead whether it’s with another club or the practice squad. Hopefully for the club it’s getting him back on that practice squad.
Mike Jackson: This is a huge game for Jackson. He hasn’t played in the previous two games and he’s missed practice time as well putting him behind the other young corners namely Donovan Olumba who’s shown up big in both practice and games. There is a reason that the first office drafted Jackson so they might protect their investment in him and make him the final corner in the roster over Olumba. If that’s the case, Jackson needs to at least show up and play well to make everyone to feel better about that decision because Olumba is not going away.
Brandon Knight: At one time, it seemed like Knight had a legitimate shot to make the team, mainly because of his ability to play both tackle and guard. He’s been playing more guard lately but with the injury to Connor McGovern, maybe there’s a shot for Knight to make this team. If not, Adam Redmond could be the final O-lineman on the roster. But Knight has position flex, he’s young and plays with an intensity level that O-line coach Marc Colombo has to like.
Justin Phillips: Ever since the Cowboys cut him before camp and then brought him back a few days later, the linebacker has been making plays. He’s gotten interceptions that are highlight-reel worthy, and he’s made all kinds of tackles on defense and special teams. Depending on Luke Gifford’s injury situation, there could be a spot on the roster for Phillips if he balls out in this game. I expect that he will because that’s what he’s done all preseason.
Reggie Davis: I’m not sure there’s a lot Davis can do to make the team at this point, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to play for. We’ve seen that he has speed and hands to go get the ball downfield. His return abilities also make him versatile on special teams. That sounds like an awfully appealing practice player. If he makes a good showing tonight, I won’t be surprised if we see him make the practice squad when it’s released early next week.
Nate Hall: This has been one of the most under-the-radar guys at this entire camp. I wouldn’t say Hall has been sensational, but he has been quietly productive. I expect him to get a lot of playing time against Tampa Bay, and hopefully he has a good night. Luke Gifford could possibly be looking at an IR stint, so it’s not crazy to think Hall could earn a call-up to the 53 as the Cowboys’ last linebacker. And even if he doesn’t, I think he’s got a solid shot at the practice squad.
Taryn Christion: We’ve seen Christion, the undrafted quarterback out of South Dakota State, line up just about everywhere in camp: running back, receiver, special teams, and oh yeah, his college position. After taking a few third-team reps this past week, perhaps he gets his first extensive preseason game snaps there. It might depend on how much Cooper Rush plays. Regardless, Christion’s versatility makes him an interesting practice squad candidate if the 53-man roster is not in the cards.
Joe Jackson: I think the fifth-round draft pick has put himself in position to make the team. It also never hurts that he’s been a training camp favorite of Cowboys owner/GM Jerry Jones. The 285-pound tackle has shown power and deceptive quickness for his size at defensive end. And with Taco Charlton and Jalen Jelks banged up, it could mean more snaps for Jackson in that crowded rotation.