Wins and losses may not matter for the Dallas Cowboys in the preseason, but individual players can certainly win and lose as they try to earn a spot on the team's 53-man roster in 2017. Their struggle doesn't just happen during these five exhibition games but also every day on the practice field and in other team functions.
After three weeks of camp and two preseason games, what three bubble players have done the most to try to earn their way onto the roster? We're not talking about a guy like Rico Gathers, who's certainly had a great preseason but was already likely to make the team. These three players had either long shots, or at least were 50/50, to survive final cuts.
QB Cooper Rush
Nobody has had a bigger stock rise so far than the undrafted quarterback out of Central Michigan. Rush looked decent in the Hall of Fame game but then really showed up on Saturday night, completing 9-of-11 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown. While veterans Kellen Moore and Luke McCown struggled, the rookie was sharp and executed with little room for complaint.
Coming out of college, Rush actually drew comparisons to current Cowboys backup Kellen Moore. If he has similar mental acumen to Kellen in a taller and more athletic body, Cooper will certainly make Dallas think twice about casting him aside. If he has another game of two like what we saw against Los Angeles, Rush may not make it to the practice squad if released.
We've seen intriguing QB prospects cut before. Dallas did not keep guys like Matt Moore, Alex Tanney, or Dustin Vaughan on the 53-man roster even after strong preseason play. With Dak Prescott firmly entrenched for years to come, there's little need to worry about a developmental player. The team's historical philosophy has been to go with just the starter and a backup unless there is some injury concern.
Last year may have led to a change in strategy. The Cowboys were down to their third quarterback when Dak Prescott became starter, having lost Tony Romo and Kellen Moore to injury. That experience could cause them to look at Cooper Rush differently than they have other QB prospects in the past.
DE Damontre Moore
The veteran free agent was hardly a lock to make the roster, especially with a two-game suspension hanging over him. Dallas has plenty of incentive to find other options at defensive end, and none greater than needing guys who can actually play in Week One. Moore has also failed to catch on in previous stints with the Giants and Seahawks, who normally get the most of defensive end talent.
However, Moore's performance so far in preseason and from camp reports has made him almost impossible to part with. With the Cowboys desperate for help in their pass rush, Damontre has been the most consistent so far in disrupting the backfield. He has not registered a sack, but you've seen him applying pressure and getting in some post-throw hits more than any other defensive lineman so far.
Not only does Moore give a pass rusher who can go up against left tackles, but he could even be used as a strong-side linebacker. This could be important if Damien Wilson ends up suspended for his assault arrest in July. Moore will only miss the first two weeks, allowing someone like Lenny Jones or Lewis Neal to make the initial 53-man roster. While both of them have had some good reports, and Jones showed up well on Saturday night, neither will likely hold that spot once Moore returns.
WR Noah Brown
After a quiet Hall of Fame game with only one target and no catches, Brown was thrown to three times on Saturday and had three catches for 41 yards. While this isn't a dazzling stat line, it was Brown's physical play and moves after the catch that were noteworthy.
Listed at 6'2" and over 220 pounds, Brown is built similarly to Dez Bryant. Noah's moves with the ball in his hand also remind you of Dez, especially how he doesn't shy away from contact. On a WR screen that went for a first down, Brown absorbed contact from a Rams defender and bullied through him for extra yardage.
Brown's biggest play was a 19-yard catch that was unfortunately ruined by a fumble. Noah certainly can't afford those blemishes, and he needs to make some more positive plays to secure his place on the team. However, he's shown excellent signs so far of being exactly what people thought during the draft; a project player with solid upside. The key now is making enough noise that the team doesn't want to risk him on the practice squad.
Free Agent WR Allen Hurns Plans to Sign With Cowboys
It looks as if the Dallas Cowboys will be adding yet another wide receiver through free agency. According to sources, Allen Hurns plans on signing with the Cowboys.
WR Allen Hurns just told me, "I'm going to sign with Dallas." #Cowboys
This is a move that seemed unlikely after the Cowboys signed Deonte Thompson a few days ago, but I know a lot of Cowboys Nation will be excited about this transaction.
While this move is exciting, it does create more confusion for the Cowboys and their wide receivers. It's difficult to imagine all of these WRs sticking to the roster, which means there will be some tough decisions that need to be made.
What will the Cowboys do with Dez Bryant?
Will Cole Beasley be cut or traded?
Are the Cowboys comfortable absorbing Terrance Williams' cap hit if traded or released?
Will this keep the Cowboys from drafting a WR early?
All of these questions and more will have to be answered eventually. But, one thing is for sure, things are definitely about to get interesting.
Of course, there is a bonus here for the Dallas Cowboys. Since Allen Hurns was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars, he doesn't count against the Cowboys compensatory picks next season.
Please stay tuned and we will continue to keep you updated on contract details and any other news involving Allen Hurns as it becomes available.
What do you think about the Allen Hurns signing?
What Signing Thompson Means for Hurns and Cowboys WR Position
UPDATE: News of Hurns saying he will sign with the Cowboys broke as this article went live.
Free Agency began a bit late for the Dallas Cowboys, but they've already done enough to get fans discussing about the latest additions to the roster. Adding help on offense, defense and special teams in form of tier-2 free agents may not be what Cowboys Nation wants to see, but I'm certain they wouldn't have enjoyed giving Sammy Watkins a three-year $48M contract, either.
However, the Cowboys are clearly in the wide receiver market after an offensively disappointing season. They have quite a few of this year's class of wide receivers prospects scheduled to visit Dallas, and they've hosted some WR free agents as well.
This week, they even signed one.
Deonte Thompson, who started seven games for the Bills last year, is coming to Dallas on a one-year $2.5M contract. The 29-year old could be the burner receiver this offense is missing and could end up being an improved version of Brice Butler for the Cowboys in 2018.
He hasn't had a great career but last season was his best year so far. Starting three games for the Bears and seven for the Bills, Thompson was able to rack up a career-high 555 yards and two touchdowns.
His best attribute as a player is definitely the speed he brings to the table and his ability to separate down the field, which he'll be looking to do on Dak Prescott's offense this season.
But there was another wide receiver visiting Dallas this week and now we wonder whether or not the Deonte Thompson signing will keep the Cowboys from targeting former Jaguars' WR Allen Hurns.
According to Todd Archer, that won't be the case.
Told the signing of Deonte Thompson does not close the door on the Cowboys' interest in Allen Hurns, who visited the team Wednesday and had dinner. Things could get interesting in the Cowboys' wide receivers' room. https://t.co/Ivt5uk9kBN
It shouldn't be. First of all, Hurns is a much better player than Thompson and would provide this offense with a receiver who can play in the "X" or in the "Z" role. We've been talking about getting Prescott a reliable target to try to give him a "best friend." Allen Hurns could be just that.
Sure, he's had a couple of down seasons, but the talent is there to take.
Simply put, the Deonte Thompson signing shouldn't stop the Cowboys from looking at WR in the first round of the NFL Draft. Allen Hurns would.
It sure would make things interesting in the wide receiver room for Dallas. Despite what many believe, Dez Bryant will probably remain a Cowboy even if Hurns is signed. Let's say the Cowboys go out there and get the 26-year old from Jacksonville and have to decide which six receivers to keep for the season.
They'd possibly have to decide among these:
- Dez Bryant
- Terrrance Williams
- Cole Beasley
- Ryan Switzer
- Allen Hurns
- Deonte Thompson
- Noah Brown
- A drafted rookie?
This is where a lot of dilemmas start taking form. Cole Beasley and Ryan Switzer are basically the same player and if you're not going to use them both at the same time, do you keep them anyway? What about Terrance Williams? He could be the worst receiver to make the cut just because of his contract.
Noah Brown showed promise in 2017, are they ready to move on from him? And finally, a rookie could very well end up beating Deonte Thompson, who was guaranteed a million in his contract.
Wide receiver is indeed one of the top needs for the Dallas Cowboys. They could head to the 2018 NFL Draft needing one in the top rounds or they could be fine signing Hurns and taking a late-rounder receiver to compete in training camp for a spot on the roster.
As long as they're having a tough time deciding because they are all good, it should be fine.
Cowboys Sign Free Agent WR Deonte Thompson
The Dallas Cowboys added some speed to their receiver corps today by signing free agent Deonte Thompson. He played for both the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills last season.
Thompson, who turned 29 last month, went undrafted in 2012. He had a quiet to start to his career as a reserve and practice squad guy in Baltimore and Chicago, but finally got a chance to shine with seven starts last year for the Bills. He 27 catches for 430 yards and one touchdown in just 11 games.
The #Cowboys signed WR Deonte Thompson, per agent @davidcanter. He gets 1-year, $2.5M with a $1M signing bonus.
Deonte brings some much-needed speed to the Cowboys offense. He ran a 4.31 40-yard dash as a rookie, and while he's 29 now he still poses more of a vertical threat than the current Dallas receivers.
Given the low salary in this deal, Thompson may not be seen as much than a replacement for Brice Butler near the bottom of Dallas' depth chart. We also have to wait and see what happens with the draft and other moves this offseason to know where he fits into the bigger picture.
For now, though, Cowboys fans can take a little comfort in knowing the front office hasn't completely fallen asleep at the wheel.
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