RLINGTON, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) — If the Cowboys came here searching for answers, they didn’t receive many,
if any, in their last preseason match at ‘AT&T Stadium ‘ on Sunday afternoon.
Not when 35 of your frontline players are almost certain to make the squad.
There are A few of those for injury considerations,
then there are two more on PUP and four more on Reserve/COVID who are all considered starters.
Many may have already gone after the Jaguars’ first-teamers defeated the Cowboys’ backups 14-0 in the
first 17:33 of the game, leaving them with more unresolved questions than they’d want.
Oh, and don’t start ‘tearing your hair out over ‘ the Cowboys’ 0-4 start to the season.
The Cowboys won the NFC East to qualify for the playoffs the previous two times this occurred, in 2018
The Cowboys will have to make those choices in two days, by 3 p.m.
Tuesday, to cut a 77-man roster to 53 players, with some massaging required.
Cut some vested veterans they plan to keep for a day – since they aren’t subject to waivers – so they may
keep certain injured players for the necessary 24
hours and then put them on recallable injured reserve for a minimum of three games.
So keep in your mind that not everything that happens by 3 p.m. Tuesday will be chiseled in stone.
“The next 48 hours are the hardest part of the job,”
more / Even though the job belongs to Cam Newton, Mac Jones is preparing as if he would be the starting quarterback.
Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy remarked although the season opener against Tampa Bay is just 11
days away and his players must rest for the next three days according to CBA regulations.
The most pressing question was finally answered on Sunday: who is the backup quarterback?
Neither Cooper Rush, who started with the rest of the offensive reserves against the Jaguars’ first-team defense nor Garrett Gilbert, the projected starter playing against the Jaguars’ second-team defense, made
a compelling argument to be the starter.
Gilbert recovered to offer his first preseason touchdown drive and a one-minute drive after the half to
allow kicker Greg Zuerlein a ’56-yard field-goal attempt ‘ that sailed wide left.
There will be reasons for both, which may compel the Cowboys to retain both on the 53-man roster
and/or scour the waiver wire for a more seasoned and competent quarterback.
Then there’s the backup swing tackle position.
Since fourth-round draught pick Terence Steele, it’s a two-man battle between ‘veteran Ty Nsekhe’ and
2nd-year ‘tackle Terence Steele’.
Josh Ball, who is currently recuperating from a ‘high ankle sprain’, seems to be a probable recallable
injured reserve candidate.
In this game, Nsekhe was one of 35 players who were rested, which speaks well for his 53-man status.
Steele played left tackle and did a good job, but neither player has performed well enough to win a
With starting guard Connor Williams still on Reserve/COVID and seventh-round draught pick Matt
Farniok is the only other viable backup center option, Williams is likely to be the guy, but not by a large
enough margin to keep Farniok on the 53-man roster.
Now it’s your turn, Malik Hooker.
He was one of the few veterans to participate in this game, which was his second since suffering an
Achilles ruptures with the Colts in Game 2 last season.
In less than a half of action, he had one aided tackle. Another difficult choice, but his $490,000 guarantee
may work in his favor.
If it comes down to Hooker or sixth-round selection Israel Mukuamu, the rookie had six tackles, an
interception, a pass defense, and a quarterback hit.
Because Hooker is a vested veteran who would not be subject to waivers, he may be released with the
understanding that he would be re-signed 24 hours later.
When you consider that presumed starter Demontae Kazee is still in Reserve/COVID, supposed starter
Donovan Wilson is out of the thigh, Jayrone Kearse is the next guy, last year’s starter Darian Thompson is
specializing in special teams, and then Hooker and Mukuamu, Also’ keep in mind’ that Keanu Neal, a
a linebacker can play safety if necessary.
In terms of the kicker,
veteran Greg Zuerlein has proven he has healed enough from his early-May back surgery following his
the first week of team exercises.
His kickoffs were excellent in this game, with two hitting’ in the end zone ‘ for touchbacks and a third
being returned from 5 yards deep ‘ in the end zone ‘ for a touchdown.
And his fifty-six-yard field-goal attempts at the half’s conclusion were long enough, but hooking too far
Zuerlein’s 8-for-9 effort in practice on Friday also likely put an end to asking if he was ready after his
initial 5-of-8 practice effort.
The most perplexing issue now is how to combine a third running back, perhaps a fullback, and retaining at least three tight ends.
The absence of Rico Dowdle (IR, hip) casts a pall over the situation.
Are JaQuan Hardy or Brenden Knox, two rookie free agents, deserving of a place on the fifty-three-man
rosters? McCarthy may prefer a fullback on the roster, and with Sewo Olonilua on injured reserve, the
Cowboys may decide to retain rookie free agent Nick Ralston.
Keanu Neal, a linebacker, can also play safety if necessary.
It may come down to who of the three can provide the greatest assistance on special teams. Or consider
what occurs at the tight end.
The Cowboys want three, but the incumbent third,
Sean McKeon, is still out with a severe ankle sprain, making him a possibility for recallable IR, perhaps
opening a place for tight end Jeremy Sprinkle, a five-year vet who may be released.
And now you see why McCarthy called this time of year “the toughest days,” not just because of the
difficult choices to make, but also because of having to tell people you’ve been coaching for four months
that there’s no space at the inn for them.
To be honest, nothing that happened here on Sunday afternoon made many of these choices any simpler.