IRVING, Texas– Heading into Thursday's preseason finale, it's safe to assume the Cowboys have all but about a handful of roster spots locked up.
One of the question marks has to be at the third quarterback position. And it's not just a case between keeping Dustin Vaughan or Jamiell Showers, but if the Cowboys even need to keep one at all.
And if they do, maybe he's not even on the current roster. Don't forget over 700 players will be released before Saturday, meaning a few more quarterbacks should be on the wire to evaluate as well.
So while Thursday's game won't feature many of the top-line starters and/or contributors, it'll be vital for guys like Vaughan and even Showers, who has helped his cause by showing some rare special teams qualities for a quarterback.
Vaughan, who made the team last year as an undrafted rookie, spent the entire season on the 53-man roster, but was only activated for one game and never got on the field. More than anything, he was the scout-team quarterback.
While his job won't be much different if he makes it this year because both Tony Romo and Brandon Weeden are returning in their same roles, Vaughan still needs to prove that he's worthy of keeping for a second year.
When asked what the argument would be to keep three quarterbacks this year, head coach Jason Garrett was rather blunt in his answer.
"Just the value of the position and the guys we have," Garrett said. "We'll play that out here over the course of the next few days. Roster spots are valuable. That position is valuable. And we certainly value it."
Without mentioning Vaughan or Showers by name, Garrett gave an idea what they'd be looking for, and both players still fall into that criteria.
"We want to have a guy who we think we can develop to go along with the guys who are more likely to play. But, you know, you have to work it through," Garrett said. "Oftentimes, those decisions are this guy or this guy at another position. How important is it to our football team? So, we'll see. We have some hard decisions to make over the next few days to decide what's best for our team."
Vaughan has thrown 47 passes in three preseason games. In comparison, Showers (32), Weeden (10) and Romo (9) have thrown a combined 51. So the Cowboys have given the second-year quarterback plenty of chances to prove himself, and he'll likely get a lot more reps Thursday vs. Houston.
"Dustin has gotten plenty of opportunities from us," Garrett said of Vaughan, who has thrown two interceptions and has yet to toss a touchdown pass. "Taking care of the football is Line 1 in this the league. When you're a quarterback, you have to understand that. Whatever play you think you can make that jeopardizes the football is not worth making that play. The more he plays, the more he'll understand that. He's a tough kid, and we'll keep giving him chances to show that he belongs."
Showers has seen plenty of special teams reps in the first two games, but didn't get many in Saturday's dress-rehearsal game with Minnesota. Along with Romo, Showers is the only other quarterback to throw a touchdown pass in the preseason, connecting with Nick Harwell late in the San Francisco game.
"It's a big-time opportunity for me. It's kind of do-or-die for me as far as cuts" Showers said. "I try not to think too much about it. It's definitely a dream (to make the team). This is everything I've ever wanted growing up as a kid. But I have to just keep studying and when I get in there, just relax and have fun."
Time is running out on a lot of players, but expect Showers and Vaughan to at least play more Thursday night.